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How home insurance can help.

Before you decide on a home insurance carrier and policy, learn the basics. Learn how to select a carrier, what your plan should cover, and how to make sure your protection is complete.

What to Look for in a Policy

Here are some guidelines to steer you in the right direction when shopping for a home insurance plan.

  • Sufficient coverage for your home. If your home were completely obliterated, you want your agreement to give your dwelling enough protection to where you could rebuild the exact same house in the same location. Often, this will be more than what you actually paid for your house because it includes things like upgrades, renovations, etc. Remember to include the cost of constructing a new house in your area to allow for that in your plan.
  • Sufficient protection for your belongings. The key phrase to look for in potential policies is "replacement value coverage." This means that your provider will pay to buy you new versions of your belongings instead of reimbursing you for "fair market value." Look through your policy to determine things like how much time you have to buy replacement possessions and how the company reimburses you for items lost that you do not want to replace.
  • Watch your deductibles. If you would like the lowest premiums possible, then you'll have to raise your deductibles. Figure out how much you could afford to pay if your home were damaged or destroyed, and set your deductible accordingly. If you would like to raise your deductible, a good idea is to first establish a savings account to take care of expenses in the event of a disaster.
  • Liability insurance. This takes care of damage or injury done to another party by you or members of your family. For example, if you have someone slip and fall on an object in your home or yard, you are liable. The liability portion of your plan protects you financially from lawsuits that might ensue and covers the person's expenses to repair the damages or treat the injury. If you have assets that are worth a considerable amount, you might consider supplementing your home with an umbrella policy.
  • Additional living expenses. If your home were unusable during covered repairs or while being rebuilt, your plan should take care of your living expenses in the interim. This means they would pay for a motel, rental, etc. until your home was ready. Make sure you know when this applies, how much the company will pay, and for how long.

Make Your Protection Complete

Normal home policies come with exclusions that may leave you unprotected in certain situations. For example, most regular policies exclude floods and earthquakes. If you are concerned about excluded disasters, you will need to request supplemental coverages from your company or, if they do not offer them, from another. Further, if you have any high-dollar items, be aware that some companies impose a ceiling on the amount for which they will reimburse you. To cover your high-value possessions, you will need to take out a special policy called a "rider" or an "endorsement." Items you might want to cover include any collections you might have, valuable jewelry, antiques, art, china, etc.

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