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Home Insurance Questions

Q. Will filing a single claim cause my home insurance rates to go up?

A. Probably not, although the answer depends on the nature of your claim. If you expose an on-property liability –such as a dangerous trampoline or swimming pool –or if you make frequent claims, your rates could be negatively affected. Your insurer will look a factor called “loss experience.” This measures the frequency and severity of losses, and it takes into account any issues with your property that could lead to future claims.

Q. How often should I reevaluate my home insurance coverage?

A. At least once a year. However, you might want to reevaluate more often to keep your policy optimized. After all, even minor-seeming improvements to your profile –raising your credit score, installing storm proof windows or a burglar alarm, etc –can add up to significant savings on your annual premium. You may also find that items you once wanted covered –such as a fur coat –may have devalued to the point that you no longer need to include them on your policy.

Q. What are some tactics I can use to get my rates down?

A. For one, consider raising your deductible. This is the amount of money that you pay on a claim prior to getting help from your insurer. Raise your deductible from $500 to $1,000, for instance, and you can save up to 25%. Also, insure your home and automobile on the same policy, seek out discounts if you are a retired senior age 55 or above), and strive to stay with the same insurance company over the long haul, as this may net you a savings of 5% to 10%, depending on how long you’ve remained loyal.

Q. I heard that paying off my mortgage might help lower my rates? Is this true? And if so, why?

A. It is often true. Homeowners who own more of their homes can be rewarded with better insurance rates. The reason is that insurance companies believe that the homeowners who have more invested in their properties will take better care of the premises and guard against risks.

Q. What is guaranteed replacement value insurance, and do I need it?

A. Almost all homeowners should consider tacking on guaranteed replacement value insurance. This coverage guarantees that your insurance company will rebuild your home — even if your home has appreciated in value significantly since you bought your policy. Without this coverage, if something happens to your home, and you need to rebuild it, you may not get adequate funds to cover the increased costs.

Q. How can I plan ahead to be prepared to file a homeowners claim?

A. Few of us enjoy envisioning catastrophe. But as the Boy Scouts tell us, it helps to be prepared, especially when your home and cherished possessions are on the line. Take photographs and even video of your valuables. Go through all your major possessions. Include a written document that describes what each possession is and how much it’s worth up to a point here. Obviously, you don’t need to document every spoon and bowl in your cupboard). Store all this evidence in a fireproof box in your home or in a safety deposit box. Having this info at the ready if disaster strikes can make the claims process go much faster and be much less annoying.

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