Friends, family, the phone book and the Internet are some of the sources you can use to find homeowners insurers. Get a wide range of prices from several companies. But don’t consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer both a fair price and excellent service. Quality service may cost a bit more, but you buy insurance in case you need to make a claim, so it’s important to get a company with a good reputation. Talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they give. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs. Check the financial ratings of the companies with AM Best or Standard and Poor’s.
Raise your deductible
A deductible is the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company takes over and pays the rest. Deductibles on homeowners policies typically start at $250. Increase your deductible to $500 to save up to 12 percent on your premium; $1,000 to save up to 24 percent; $2,500 to save up to 30 percent; $5,000 to save up to 37 percent.
Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer
Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them.
When you buy a home…
Consider how much insuring it will cost. A new home’s electrical, heating and plumbing systems and overall structure are likely to be in better shape than those in an older home. Insurers may offer you a discount of 8 to 15 percent if your house is new. Check the home’s construction: In the East brick is better, because of its resistance to wind damage, and in the West frame is better, because of its resistance to earthquake damage. Choosing wisely could cut your premium by 5 to 15 percent. Avoiding areas that are prone to floods can save you about $400 a year for flood insurance. Homeowners insurance does not cover flood-related damage. The closer your house is to firefighters and their equipment, the lower your premium will be.
Insure your house, not the land
The land under your house isn’t at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your homeowner’s policy. So don’t include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. If you do, you’ll pay a higher premium than you should.
Improve your home security and safety
You can usually get discounts of at least 5 percent for a smoke detector, burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks. Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police station or other monitoring facility. These systems aren’t cheap and not every system qualifies for the discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind your insurer recommends and how much the device would cost and how much you’d save on premiums.
Smoking accounts for more than 23,000 residential fires a year. That’s why some insurers offer to reduce premiums if all the residents in a house don’t smoke.
Seek out discounts for seniors
Retired people stay at home more and spot fires sooner than working people, and they have more time for maintaining their homes. If you’re at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies.
See if you can get group coverage
Alumni and business associations often work out an insurance package with an insurance company, which includes a discount for association members. Ask your association’s director if an insurer is offering a discount on homeowners insurance to you and your fellow graduates or colleagues.
Stay with an insurer
If you’ve kept your coverage with a company for several years, you may receive special consideration. Several insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for 3 to 5 years; some slash premiums by 10 percent if you remain a policy holder for 6 years or more.
Compare the limits in your policy to the value of your possessions at least once a year
You want your policy to cover any major purchases or additions to your home. But you don’t want to spend money for coverage you don’t need.
Look for private insurance first
If you live in a high-risk area, one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms, fires, or crime, and have been buying your homeowners insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or company representative. You may find that there are steps you can take that would allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.
by Marci Yankelov
Special to The Baltimore Guide