Insurance 101 for First-Time Homeowners
If you're thinking of becoming a homeowner, you've likely spent time budgeting for additional expenses – property taxes, lawn care, a big-screen TV to fill up that extra space…you get the idea. But have you factored in protection for your new home?
While you're crunching numbers, remember to include homeowners insurance. A standard policy will cover exterior and interior damage from incidents like vandalism, fire, wind and lightning. It also covers loss of use expenses, damage to structures like sheds or gazebos, and liability and medical costs if someone is injured on your property. Personal property is covered, too – good news if you really do have your eye on that big-screen TV.
Still, standard policies aren't comprehensive. To help you estimate how much you'll spend on insurance, keep these points in mind:
Standard policy coverage can be for the cash value of your home and possessions (which may depreciate over time), repair or rebuilding costs based on the original value of the home, or replacement costs that exceed your limit if necessary. Coverage does not equal the sale price of your home.
Projects like building a porch or another bathroom can add significant value, so you may need to adjust your policy if you're planning to renovate your new home. Upgrades (like a new roof) can lead to discounts if they mitigate risks, but potentially hazardous features (like a pool) may require up to $500,000 in coverage.
Ninety percent of natural disasters result in some form of flooding – that's a risk insurers just don't want to take. Even if your home isn't in a flood area, you may want coverage anyway if you have a finished basement. You can obtain a separate flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). And don't delay – it takes 30 days for new policies to go into effect.
Residents in earthquake-prone areas might also want to supplement their standard policy, which doesn't cover damage directly resulting from seismic activity. However, if a quake leads to further damage, such as a burst gas line causing a fire, your standard policy will cover it.
It may seem costly, but protecting what's likely the largest investment you'll make in your lifetime is worth it – and peace of mind is priceless.