A beginner’s guide to home insurance

Your home is probably your biggest investment and one of your biggest responsibilities, so protecting it should be a priority. Homeowners insurance does just that and will help you rebuild your home and life in the event of a total loss.

The cost of a home insurance policy takes many factors into account, including the size, type and location of your home, and will also consider things like whether you have a home security system installed. But to get an estimate of what you should expect to pay, take the value of your home, divide it by 1,000, and then multiply that number by $3.50. In the US, the average cost of a new home is around $300,000, so your policy would be around $1,050 per year.

So what comes with the pricetag? Homeowner’s insurance provides coverage for four areas: the home’s structure, your belongings, liability protection and additional living expenses if you’re unable to live in your home after a disaster.

Coverage for your home

For most policies, coverage for your home means you’ll get money to repair or rebuild your home if it’s damaged or destroyed by natural disasters or by vandalism. The Insurance Information Institute has a complete list of what types of disasters home insurance policies cover.

If you live in an area prone to floods and earthquakes, you’ll need a separate policy–those disasters are not covered by homeowner’s insurance. The average cost for flood insurance is around $700 per year, and for earthquakes, you can expect to pay an additional $300 a year on average. But San Francisco residents, beware! You’ll pay between $2,000 to $5,000 per year to protect your home from earthquake damage.

Protecting a house.

Other things that aren’t covered? Replacing old appliances like your boiler or air conditioner and potential health hazards like asbestos and mold.

Your Belongings

Your policy can help you replace furniture, clothes, and other personal items if they’re stolen or destroyed. To estimate how much your policy will cover for your belongings, it’s typically 50-70% of what your home’s structure is insured for. So if your policy covers the structure of your home for $300,000, your items would be valued at approximately  $150,000 to $245,000 in replacement costs.

While a standard policy does include coverage for valuables, you should consider adding a floater policy for expensive belongings that would be difficult to replace if stolen or destroyed, like an engagement ring or a valuable piece of art. Since many home insurance policies will only replace valuables up to $1,500, the floater policy will ensure you receive enough money to replace the full monetary value of your item. You will need an individual floater policy for each additional item you want to insure. A floater policy usually costs an additional $50-$100 per year.

Liability

Liability coverage will protect you against lawsuits and medical expenses related to injuries and property damage you or your family can be held legally responsible for. So if someone falls down the stairs in your home, or a tree falls on your neighbor’s roof, it will cover the medical and legal fees associated with the incident. Most policies will cover a minimum of $100,000, but you can increase this up to $500,000 in coverage.

Remember, read your policy so you know exactly what is covered under liability insurance. There are many situations that won’t be covered by liability insurance, so it’s important to understand what’s covered and what you would be responsible for in the event of an accident.

 

Additional Living Expenses

If you can’t live in your home because of damage from a disaster, Additional Living Expenses (ALEs) will reimburse the costs of living outside your home while it’s being repaired, or until you find another permanent residence. You’ll get reimbursed for things like hotel stays and meals. This money is separate from the money your insurance company will give you to rebuild your home, so even if you reach your limit on ALE coverage, you’ll still receive coverage to rebuild and replace your home and belongings.

Remember, read your policy carefully so you know what’s covered, what the limits and exceptions are, and what to expect if an unexpected disaster happens. And when it comes to home insurance, you can say, Now I Get It!

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