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Smart homeowners looking for savings this year may have netted the $8,000 tax credit, but trends show they won’t be nearly as wise to insurance discounts that could cut their home insurance rates- this year and next. And those discounts are surviving even the toughest of times, despite rising costs across the insurance industry.

Industry & Consumer Trends: Survey shows many homeowners aren’t accessing eligible discounts

Unfortunately, homeowners living on the tightest of budgets could benefit the most from insurance discounts but they aren’t maximizing discounts. And many of these homeowners aren’t aware that discounts exist. In fact, a recent survey found that “nearly 38% of respondents with a household income of less than $25,000 said they weren’t taking advantage of all possible homeowners discounts or said they didn’t know” that discounts can be used to reduce their overall home and car insurance costs.

The 2009 national survey, reported by industry association Trusted Choice, also found that 53 million household respondents “admitted they are probably not taking advantage of all homeowners insurance discounts or said that they simply didn’t know” about policyholder discounts they likely qualify for.

While nickels and dimes make good cents for homeowners, the survey numbers just don’t make sense in today’s economy where every penny counts. There’s a range of insurance discounts available — even for coastal policyholders — and these can mean savings on rates ranging from 15 percent to as much as 30 percent.

So why don’t homeowners take advantage of insurance savings?

Many homeowners just don’t know much about their insurance, and discounts, or don’t act on all discounts that they do know, whether it’s a new policy on the first-time buyer’s starter home…or the fellow who needs extended coverage on a $3 million beachfront luxury. Survey statistics support this finding:

“The survey also found that the largest percentage of respondents, about 26%, estimated they save 6-10% on their insurance premiums by using discounts. In reality, many consumers could be saving significantly more – as much as 30%.” — Trusted Choice

Shopping for competitive rates and the resulting discounts is a learning process, one that takes time and awareness. It starts with a review of the home insurance policy and the carrier discounts and should extend to the condition of the home, as well as the situation of the homeowners. Policyholders should also explore home insurance options, competitive rates and seek discounts available across the range of providers or home insurance carriers.

But the process and language can confuse homeowners — especially those who are inexperienced or shop without the help of an insurance agent. After all, the industry jargon of your homeowner policy isn’t written for pleasure reading and agents accustomed to the policy process can help make sense of the lingo, as well as make recommendations on discounts, criteria and savings.

An independent insurance agent is a good learning guide for any policyholder, but new homebuyers and homeowners usually benefit the most. Their awareness is limited by experience, and they’re often unfamiliar with insurance terms, the extent or limitations of coverage. Many new policyholders aren’t even aware of how much the home insurance actually costs from year to year.

Moreover, new homeowners in newly built homes may have found the smart savings of the super $8,000 tax credit. But many are missing out on extended savings — the insurance discounts applicable to new wiring, smoke alarms…even credit score and marital status can net lower rates on home insurance costs.

Likewise, the inexperienced often believe that home insurance rates are standard or standardly managed by their mortgage company. They’re not aware that there’s industry competition or that they can change carriers if they choose.

FYI: Competition in the industry can also evolve discounts, even for homeowners ‘at-risk.’

Currently, there are fewer choices for coastal homeowners, yet new carriers have moved into some geographic markets opened since the withdrawal of big insurance carriers–these carriers cancelled policies because they no longer want to cover homes vulnerable to weather risk. So even the most experienced home insurance policyholders — perhaps living in their retirement dream homes — may find choices after all, along with lower rates and discounts.

While there’s a lot that homeowners don’t know about their home insurance, competition and industry trends, the best way to get educated is to ask — for guidance and for recommendations on discounts that lead to savings, plus the tips for capturing those savings year after year.

Lessons to Learn

Get smart — know your home insurance policy and ask for expert guidance if needed.

Explore options with a wise insurance guide — Independent insurance agents can help homeowners explore all the options – these agents aren’t attached to one company, and can shop quotes across the industry range.

Request home insurance quotes – be sure to cover all competitive rates and sources.

Compare rates sensibly – make sure the comparison is apples to apples, and includes a review of coverage and discounts. Ensure coverage is also aligned with the mortgage requirements.

Apply discounts… leverage savings.

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