What you need to know about selecting a home deductible.

When looking at insurance quotes our eyes automatically drift to the bottom line premium quoted. But what about all the stuff above it? Not all home quotes and/or policies are created equal. One of the key parts of a home quote and/or policy is the deductible. Below is a list of things to keep in mind as you consider a home quote and/or policy.

  • Some deductibles are flat and some deductibles are percentages. Percentages are typically used in coastal areas where there is a higher probability of wind, hurricane, etc. A percentage deductible is based on the dwelling value listed in the policy. If the dwelling value increases the deductible increases as well.
  • Some deductibles are specific to a type of coverage; Water Back-Up, Water Damage, Hurricane, Tropical Cyclone, Named Storm, Wind/Hail, etc. You may also see the term All Other Peril which means where a specific deductible is not identified the All Other Peril deductible applies.
  • A home policy can have multiple deductibles which can be a problem if a claim triggers more than one deductible. Understanding how each deductible applies at the time of a claim is important.
  • Some deductibles are dictated or required by the insurance company. This decision can be based on where the home is located, such as coastal. One insurance company may require a higher deductible than another insurance company.
  • Some home policies waive the deductible for large claims or a total loss claim. Knowing when a deductible waiver applies is important. This can be beneficial in deciding on a high deductible.
  • Some companies offer a reducing deductible if you remain claim free.

It is important when you are reviewing a home quote that you be aware of the deductibles. While a high deductible will reduce the policy premium, a high deductible can be detrimental if you can not afford the deductible at the time of a claim or the losses that occur are below the deductible. An insurance agent can help you review all the deductibles applicable to a quote and/or policy. An agent can also help you select a deductible that fits your financial situation while providing you the most advantageous premium.

National Insurance Awareness Day, June 28th

This Friday, June 28th is National Insurance Awareness. The day was created to encourage everyone across the nation to review their insurance policies.

Below are some tips to help you observe the day:

Home:

  • Review the home value. The value of the home should be based on current construction costs, not market value. You should review the home value every 3 to 5 years.
    • Review the home credits. If you have installed an alarm or have turned your alarm service off you should update the home policy accordingly.
    • Review the deductible. The higher the deductible the lower the premium. Also a higher deductible will discourage you from filing small claims which can impact your ability to obtain coverage in the future.
    • Review the endorsements included in the policy. If you have switched insurance companies recently a coverage may have been dropped during the process.

Auto:

  • Review drivers listed on the policy. All licensed drivers residing in your home should be listed on the auto policy. Failure to do so could result in a denied claim for unlisted drivers.
    • Review ownership of the vehicle. If the loan or lease agreement has been satisfied update the policy. This will prevent delays in payment at claim time. Any change in titled ownership should also be reflected on the policy or a new policy purchased for the vehicle.
    • Review deductibles. Insurance companies continually increase the price breaks for higher deductibles. As with the home insurance a higher deductible will save you premium and discourage you from filing small claims.
    • Review usage of each vehicle. Vehicles used for Uber or Lyft services do not have coverage while being used for this purpose. Vehicles used for business purposes may also not have coverage if used for business at the time of a claim.

Schedule:

  • Update items to be listed along with values. Appraisals should be completed every 3 to 5 years to keep up with market values. Use an inventory such as Collectify to manage your collection easily.

Umbrella:

  • Update properties, vehicles, drivers, recreational vehicles, boats, etc. at each renewal. Failure to update could result in no coverage under the umbrella.
  • Make sure the underlying insurance policies for each of the above meets the minimum liability requirements to avoid a coverage gap.
  • If you do not have coverage for the underlying insurance policy for each of the above obtain it at your earliest convenience.

With the help of a Trusted Insurance Advisors they can help you review your policies at any time, not just this Friday or at renewal. A Trusted Insurance Advisor is there to help you every step of the way. Call your agent today!

Insurance for Your Investment Property

Recently I had a client purchase a new investment property. He had valid concerns regarding the coverages for that investment property. Below are coverages to consider for maintaining the profitability of your investment property.

  • Contents – Many owners of investment properties forgo coverage for contents or personal property kept at the investment property. They assume the tenant will provide all coverage for the tenant’s contents. What if the property owner has to re-carpet the home or puts new appliances in the home? These types of items can be considered contents by the insurance company. What if the property owner uses the basement or attic for storage? These are considered contents. Contents coverage is not automatically included in all investment property policies. You must request it and indicate a limit needed to cover all contents of the property owner.
  • Fair Rental Value – If the property owner is unable to rent the property due to a covered loss the property owner will not be able to generate a profit from the property. Depending on what the cost of rent is will dictate the limit for Fair Rental Value. You should aim for 6 months of rent or more after a covered loss, which can also be impacted by time of year or location of the home.
  • Water Back-Up – This is a very hot topic when it comes to home insurance but many property owners overlook it when owning an investment property. An investment property has the same exposure to water back-up as a primary home; sump pump, back-up generators, toilets, tubs, sinks, etc. To make matters worse not all insurance companies offer water back-up on investment properties. Make sure to ask for it or your insurance agent may overlook it during the quoting process.
  • Ordnance or Law – In some cases especially with older homes there may be a need for additional money for updating an investment property to meet new codes or compliance requirements, such as sprinklers, smoke detectors, elevation, safety glass, etc. Not all policies are created equal. You may have 10% of the dwelling value which may or may not be enough depending on the property. An increase in the limit may be necessary for homes that are coastal, older, located in the city, etc.
  • Loss Assessment – Some investment properties are located in communities that have a Homeowners Association (HOA). As a home owner in the community the association has the right to assess fees back to home owners. Not all investment property policies provide Loss Assessment and if they do it may not be enough. It is best to understand what the HOA can assess for and how much they can assess. Once this information is known you can adjust the insurance policy accordingly.

Ultimately the plan for owning an investment property is to generate a profit or a return on your investment. Without the appropriate insurance you could lose money due to unexpected issues.  A full assessment at the beginning of your endeavor reduces the chances of problems down the road. Talk to your independent insurance agent today about your investment property insurance needs.

Why is my credit score used when buying insurance?

This is a common question with clients and it is never an easy conversation. Like many of my clients my gut goes sour when I need to discuss or request information regarding credit reporting. There are a few things to know.

  • State of Maryland has approved the use of credit as a rating factor for auto insurance. Credit is not used for home insurance in Maryland. Almost all insurance companies doing business in Maryland will want to obtain a credit report in order to provide an auto insurance quote. There is only 1 or 2 insurance companies in Maryland that do not.
  • Your insurance agent will never see a credit score or credit report when quoting your auto insurance. For this reason your insurance agent will also not be able to provide specifics about what was contained in the report, and will direct you back to the insurance company quoted to obtain more information.
  • Your insurance agent will not know specifically how your credit impacted your auto quote. Insurance companies have rating structures based on hundreds of rating factors. As information is entered into an insurance company’s quoting system the rate changes. Credit score is only one factor for rating.
  • The process of obtaining your credit report will not impact your credit score. Unlike when you are applying for a loan or line of credit, we are not looking to confirm if you are a good applicant. For this reason you can not be turned down for auto insurance based solely on your credit score.

While the thought of your credit score being run for an auto insurance quote has you sick to your stomach, your insurance agent is doing their best to meet your insurance needs. Your insurance agent will not pry into your financial situation but will guide you on the best auto quote for you. Maintain an open dialogue with your insurance agent and voice your concerns to help settle your nerves.

Call your independent insurance agent for more information on the auto insurance quote process.

Why you should shop your insurance.

Previously I gave reasons why you should not shop your insurance. My goal is not to discourage people from shopping their insurance but to help people be smart about managing their insurance. There below are valid reasons for shopping your account.

  • Major lifestyle changes are a valid reason. Marriage, divorce, a child getting licensed, a child moving out, starting a new business, retirement, etc. Your current insurance company may not have the most competitive pricing once these changes are applied to your account.
  • Purchasing a new home, condo, etc. Selling your home and renting. Again the current insurance company may not be the most competitive based on your new home situation.
  • Change in net-worth or value of your assets. If your net-worth has increased significantly the current insurance company many not be providing you the broad coverage you now need. They may also not be able to provide you the coverage or policy limits your financial advisor, attorney, or accountant are now recommending.
  • Change in the coverages desired. If you now want full glass coverage or GAP coverage or Agreed Value on your vehicle you may need to change insurance company. If you need workers compensation insurance you may need to change insurance companies. If you sit on boards or volunteer your time to associations or committees you may need a different insurance company.
  • Bad claim experience. If you find that your insurance company was uncooperative, lacking in communication, difficult to work with or any other reason and your insurance agent could not help you work through it there is no reason you should torture yourself again in the future.

Ultimately you should not shop your insurance frequently or even every year. You will lose out on valuable coverages, benefits, features, etc. Your program should be reviewed annually but only shopped every 3 to 5 years. If you feel your need your program shopped talk to your insurance agent about why you should or should not shop your insurance program. Your agent will have a good sense what you can do with your current program and if having your program shopped is warranted.

 

Why You Shouldn’t Shop Your Insurance

 

Now that the New Year has begun many individuals and families have resolved to improve their finances. This includes reducing their debt, reducing monthly expenses, saving more money, or saving more for retirement. This plan almost always leads people to shop their insurance policies. I do not encourage this decision 100% of the time. Below are reasons not to shop your policies.

  • Before you shop your policies you should look to save premium on the policy you already have. The insurance company you are with will have a different opinion of you then the company you are looking to switch to. A new company has stricter guidelines for new customers than for existing policyholders. If you have driving history or are a bad pay history you may not qualify for the new company.
  • If you do qualify for the new company you may pay more premium. All reports the insurance company uses will be run for a quote. This includes credit history if your state allows credit history as a rating factor. Also Motor Vehicle Records (MVR) for tickets, citations, violations, and license status. A Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) report will also be run to disclose accidents, driver and vehicles in the household, and claim payments made by prior insurance companies. If your credit history has declined you may not be eligible for the best priced tier. Based on your overall driving history you will be tiered with the new company. Your current insurance company may not have a violation or accident rated due to failing to verify reports or possibly violation/accident forgiveness.
  • You may be receiving a longevity credit with the current insurance which you will not get automatically with a new company. Also if you have little to no tenure with your prior insurance company you may lose out on valuable credits on the new policy.
  • You may lose a violation or accident forgiveness benefit if you switch your insurance company. For some companies you need to be with them 3, 5, or even 6 years to gain this benefit and you may be giving it up if you have a major accident after switching insurance companies.
  • Not all insurance policies are created equal. Each policy and insurance company has a different insurance contract. When you switch insurance companies you may be losing valuable insurance coverage or policy language. Although limits and deductibles may be identical on the policy declaration page it does not mean all the same benefits and features are in the new policy.

If you must shop your policy you should not shop your policy more than every 3 to 5 years. Insurance companies make major changes to their insurance products and pricing in this range. When you do receive a quote make sure you complete a through comparison of your policy against the quote.

Always use an insurance professional for this process. Insurance professionals know the policies they sell better than anyone else. They also will know if the product you are looking to switch to will provide you similar coverage as your current program and the tricks to getting your best price. An insurance professional can also help you review your current policies to save money so as to avoid losing valuable coverages and benefits by shopping your policies.

What is water back-up coverage?

Recently I had a conversation with a client regarding water back-up. They recently purchased home insurance and in reviewing their home policy I noted that they only had $5,000 for water back-up.

The standard home policy does not provide coverage for water back-up. In fact you will see an exclusion for water back-up. Water back-up is considering water that backs up into your home from a drainage system. It could be a sump pump that fails. It could be a toilet that overflows. It could be a shower drain that backflows. It could be a hot water heater that breaks. The easy way to think about it is water back-up is any drainage system to your home that could back-up or overflow.

Water back-up is not flooding. Flooding is water from the outside your home coming in through the foundations, windows, doors, etc.

Why is water back-up so important? It is one of the top causes of homeowner claims across the country. Every homeowner will experience at least one water back-up loss in their lifetime. 

Secondly, the average water back-up claim is $20,000. Think about it… you clean up the free flowing water, you need water mitigation to dry out the floors, the walls, and the room to reduce the chance of mold. You may need to replace the flooring and the walls. And possiby some furnishings. And you may still have mold after all.

In some cases a water back-up loss could mean a total loss of your home. Think of sewage back flowing into your home.

Kind of scary stuff.

So what do I recommend? I recommend full water back-up coverage. This doesn’t mean up to the total value of the stuff in your basement or the basic limit for water back-up. Water back-up should be up to the dwelling, other structures, personal property, and loss of use policy limits.

Yes, water back-up can be expensive but is it more expensive then the cost of the average water back-up loss? Water back-up coverage has gotten more expensive of the years because of the frequency of such claims and the average cost of a claim.

If your insurance company doesn’t provide full water back-up coverage as we insurance professionals call it then find another insurance company. This applies to rental and investment properties.

Have your insurance agent review your policy today to determine if and how much water back-up coverage you have.