Homeowners Insurance and House Buying

Shopping for your dream house? There are many considerations when looking at real estate, like property taxes, school district, the appeal of the neighborhood—and, of course, the bottom line. Don’t overlook the financial implications of homeowners insurance as part of your overall investment.

While house hunting
As you search for your new home, remember that the physical characteristics of the house—its size, location, construction and overall condition—can affect the cost, choice and availability of home insurance. In some cases, desirable features—like ornate plasterwork or proximity to the coastline—can make insuring a home costlier or more difficult. Some factors to consider when shopping for a home are:

Proximity to the coastline

Houses located on or near the coast will generally cost more to insure than those further inland. They will also likely require a separate hurricane or windstorm deductible. In some coastal communities, private homeowners insurance coverage may not be readily available. Instead, you may need to purchase insurance through a state-run insurance program.

Age of the home

A stately, older home can be quite beautiful but ornate features like plaster walls, ceiling molding and wooden floors may be costly to replace and can raise the cost of insurance. And plumbing and electrical systems can become unsafe with age and lack of maintenance. If you are considering buying an older home find out how much it will cost to update these features and factor that into the cost of ownership.

Condition of the roof

A new roof matters to insurers and keeps you and your family safer. Make sure to check the roof’s condition. Depending on the type of roof and whether or not it’s made with fire and/or hail resistant materials, you may even qualify for an insurance discount.

Quality of construction

Find out whether the house has been updated to comply with current building codes. Homes well built by careful craftsmen and those constructed to meet modern engineering-based building codes are likely to better withstand natural disasters.

Risk of flooding

Damage from flooding is NOT covered by standard home insurance policies. If you are buying a home in an area at risk from flooding, you will need to purchase separate flood insurance policy, which is available from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and from a few specialty insurers.

Possibility of earthquakes

While earthquakes are most frequently associated with California, they occur in the majority of states and are not covered under standard home insurance policies. Earthquake insurance is available from private insurers as an endorsement to a homeowners policy.

Swimming pool or other special feature

If the house has a swimming pool, hot tub or other special feature, you will likely need more liability insurance. You may also want to consider purchasing an umbrella policy to provide added protection in the event someone gets injured on your property and decides to sue you.

Call your insurance professional
Don’t wait until the last minute to think about homeowners insurance and don’t be shy about asking for estimates on more than one house. Ask if the house will qualify, and get an estimate of the premium. The sooner you speak with your insurance professional, the smoother the process will be. If you’re uncomfortable with the cost of insuring a particular house, look for one that better fits your financial situation.