While a standard homeowner’s insurance policy covers the gamut of bad luck scenarios, such as theft, disasters or accidents, there is a limit to the amount of financial protection it can provide.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, most standard homeowner’s policies cover four essential types of coverage: the structure of your home, your personal belongings, liability protection and additional living expenses.
Coverage for the structure of your home, also referred to as dwelling coverage, is that which would cover the cost to repair or rebuild your home and anything attached to it, such as a garage, deck or front porch, should it be damaged or completely destroyed.
How much dwelling coverage should you have? Agents for Troxell, an independent insurance agency based in Springfield, begin by explaining to their clients the difference between market value and replacement cost, which is what it would cost to rebuild the home from top to bottom. Troxell agents recommend insuring a home for replacement cost, which includes the cost of debris removal prior to rebuilding.
State Farm agent Dalton Kaisner also recommends replacement coverage to his clients and says, “You want your insurance company to replace your home, roof, siding, contents, etc. with brand new like-kind and quality products. A lot of companies depreciate certain things after so many years, but you won’t know unless you ask or read the policy.”
Flood and earthquake coverage are just two categories not included in a standard homeowner’s insurance policy, although if your home is purchased with a mortgage, your financial institution will let you know if you need earthquake or flood coverage.
There are other categories of insurance protection that a homeowner may need, depending on the perils that accompany a particular geographic location. Homeowners in and around Springfield are often surprised to learn they need coverage for mine subsidence and back-up of sewers and drains.
Kaisner said, “Surprisingly, not all properties in Sangamon County need mine subsidence coverage, but most do. We also check the mine maps online for addresses that are in mined areas. Back-up of sewer and drain is an optional endorsement that not all companies offer. This is coverage for outside water or waste coming into the home via the drain system or the sump pump.”
Coverage for the contents of your home includes items such as furniture, appliances, clothing, sports equipment, electronics and even food in your refrigerator. Personal property coverage insures your belongings if they are destroyed, vandalized or stolen. A standard policy will not cover all belongings at 100% and therefore, additional coverage may be needed.
Troxell agents emphasize the importance of looking at how your personal items are covered and if there is a need for specialty coverage for items such as jewelry or collectibles.
Liability protection is the portion of homeowner’s insurance that protects you financially if someone were to accidentally slip on your stairs and break a hip, or a child fell off the swing and broke an arm. The medical bills and potential lawsuit costs from these accidents would be covered under your liability protection, should you have enough to cover such misfortune.
Kaisner recommends getting plenty of liability insurance because it is inexpensive and yet “a liability lawsuit could destroy a retirement plan, so don’t let it. For about $35 per year, you should be able to get one million dollars of liability coverage.”
Troxell recommends protecting your investment with a liability umbrella, extra liability insurance coverage that goes beyond the limits of the insured’s home, auto or watercraft insurance.
Coverage for additional living expenses are those expenses such as living in a hotel and eating out while your home is being repaired or rebuilt after a fire, for example. If you have a large family, you may need more coverage than your standard homeowner’s policy provides.
Agents agree that the most common mistake people make when it comes to their homeowner’s insurance policy is being underinsured. It takes time and effort to determine the right amount of insurance needed for your coverage, but the cost of being underinsured truly does come out of your pocket. A homeowner’s insurance premium that provides you the best possible protection in the event of a full loss can seem like a costly monthly expense; however, rebuilding your home and getting life back to normal and having your insurance company pay for it is priceless.
Holly Whisler is a freelance writer who lives in Springfield. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.