Guest blogger: Carrie Van Brunt-Wiley, editor of the HomeInsurance.com Blog. The HomeInsurance.com blog serves as a resource center for insurance consumers and homebuyers across the country.
One of the first stages during the hunt for a new home is crunching the numbers to figure out your budget. And no matter how high or low that budget may be, prospective homebuyers should take into consideration the cost of insuring the home.
It’s easy to overlook insurance, especially since you may be more worried about the number of bedrooms, the school district, or the size of the backyard. But before you can close on the purchase, your lender will require you to line up homeowners insurance. You may be hit with some sticker shock if the home you are about to buy ends up being a high risk- and therefore high cost- home to insure.
Once you’ve got a few homes in your sight, you should get some preliminary home insurance quotes on each property. Just as you will compare asking price and property taxes- figure your insurance costs into the equation as well. Even homes of similar size and style can vary greatly in terms of cost to insure.
Here are a few lesser known home features that affect insurance costs:
Location- The location of a home will have a huge impact on the insurance premiums due to the proximity to a fire station, the fire station ratings and the flood zone it’s located in.
When you shop for homeowners insurance you will be asked how close the home is to a fire hydrant and to a fire station. In the event of a fire, the quicker the fire department can respond to the home, the less damage will be incurred. The average claim for a residential fire exceeds $33,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Therefore insurers typically charge lower premiums for homes within a close proximity of each.
Fire stations in each community each have a specific fire protection class rating which also affects the home insurance premiums on a home.
Last but certainly not least, the specific type of flood plain that a home is located in may require you to carry a separate flood insurance policy in order to obtain a mortgage. Flood insurance is recommended for all properties, however, in certain high-risk flood plains a flood insurance policy is not only required- but the coverage could double your annual insurance spend.
Roofing- Ask your realtor about the home’s roof. You’ll want to know how old it is and the material it’s made of. Roofs that are 20 or more years old can be considered high risk and may be expensive to insure. Replacing a roof also can be costly so you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons. Newer roofs, built with impact-resistant material, are ideal. These roofs are made to withstand nature’s harshest elements, and they can also qualify homeowners for more preferred home insurance policies.
Swimming Pool- You might be looking specifically for a house with a pool but you should know swimming pools can drive up your insurance premiums. Accidents frequently happen in and around pools so insurance companies see them as a high-risk home feature. Remember, you can be held liable even if a trespasser has an accident at your pool. For this reason, homes with swimming pools located on the property should meet all local safety codes and carry high limits of liability coverage.
Age- The age of the home can also affect your premium. Typically older homes have outdated electrical wiring and plumbing systems, which can lead to fires or water damage. If you are considering an older home, ask your realtor the age of the plumbing, HVAC and electrical systems. If they have been updated in recent years, this is important to note with your insurance agent. If not, make sure you know what this may cost you in additional premiums and to upgrade in the future.
Security equipment- Security equipment is a plus for obvious reasons- items such as burglar alarms, deadbolt locks, and smoke alarms can make your home a safer environment. In addition, insurance providers offer discounts for homes featuring these items. In fact, you could save 10% or more on your premium. Take note of the types of safety devices in the homes you are comparing so you can get accurate discounts figured into your insurance rates.
You likely won’t make a decision on a house because of insurance factors alone. But it’s best to have an idea of where you stand as you consider your options. Start by checking out average home insurance rates in your state. Then work with an agent you can trust to compare quotes on various properties. An educated search can help you find the home of your dreams and home insurance premiums that won’t break the bank.