Homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance is a necessity; it covers you for unexpected occurrences ranging from robberies to fires.
However, when it comes to assessing whether or not you have adequate coverage, the devil is in the details. For example, did you know that the majority of these plans do not cover floods or earthquakes or that some cover fire damage but not wildfire damage? With more and more extreme cases of weather and natural disasters, it is more important than ever to review your coverage and be certain that you have the best level of protection you can get given your budget constraints.
Here are 5 tips for getting your home insurance organized.
1. Watch What You Claim
Did you know that if you keep making small claims over and over, you may exhaust your insurance funds more quickly than you anticipated or be dropped from the plan? It may also cause your premiums significantly increase, in which case paying for that roof repair out of your pocket may be smarter financially. Look carefully at your plan before you make a claim or talk to your agent to find out all of the nitty gritty details on small claims and their effect on your coverage.
2. Take Inventory
Do you know exactly what is in your home? First of all, write down from memory everything of value in your living room from electronics to DVDs. Now take that list to the living room. Did you remember it all? Now imagine doing that for your entire home after a fire rips through your home. Everyone has valuables; they are so much more than just artwork or televisions. Think about your CD’s, iPods, clothing, outerwear, golf clubs, Corningware, picture frames. They are all valuable and worth something. Get organized and go through your home and take an inventory of everything in your house room by room. Take photos, keep the proofs of purchase for anything in your home over $200, get appraisals done on all luxury items like jewelry, and keep it all in an easy to grab binder that you can take with you at a moment’s notice. The other reason this step is important is you may find that you are carrying insurance for $25,000 worth of goods in your home, but actually have close to $50,000 worth of items in the house. You can also hire an insurance appraiser to go through your home after you take inventory if you would like. At the bare minimum, however, having the inventory log of the valuables in your home will get you a lot more in reimbursement if the worst does occur.
3. Determine Exactly What IS Covered
Insurance packets and their corresponding websites are not written for the layperson. They can be highly confusing, full of legal mumbo-jumbo, and contain asterisked scenarios such as “If your home is damaged in a fire you are covered for X amount of dollars.”* The small print under the asterisk then clarifies along the lines of *Note: Unless you own a red car, a monkey, or have ever eaten at Dale’s Deli.” These papers can be overwhelming, so schedule an appointment with your agent and discuss the ins and outs of your current coverage. To make the conversation easier, bring your valuables binder to talk about your home inventory, and discuss events that aren’t covered by your current plan, like sewage, hurricane, flood, earthquake, etc.
4. Equip and Prepare
Owning Insurance is one piece of the puzzle, but you can also take insurance into your own hands with proper emergency planning and preparation. For example, if you live in an area that has frequent wildfires, you should clear the brush around your property on a regular basis. You may also want to consider applying a coat or two of fire deterrent paint. If you live in a hurricane prone area, do you have proper roofing reinforcements and windows installed? Even if you don’t live in an area with extreme weather, simply having an alarm system means fire departments will be quickly alerted of flames and police of burglaries. These safety defenses also have an added bonus: they can lower your insurance rates dramatically.
5. Have an Insurance Assessor on Deck:
Keep the contact information of a trusted insurance assessor who is not affiliated with your insurance provider in your valuables inventory log. If you ever need to file a claim, have that third party assess your damage immediately. Cover your bases and fight back by having another professional document the claim and cost so you get what you rightfully deserve. Your home is your safe haven, your livelihood. You should do everything you can to protect those assets by planning ahead