The more you know and understand about home insurance, the better you can insure yourself, your family and your home and possessions in case of loss.
The best way to prepare for meeting with your agent is to read your policy and look for the exclusions. If you don’t understand or have questions about something, ask your agent.
WHN TIP – Question Everything: Ask your insurance agent the following ‘starter’ questions to understand the types and extent of coverage you have. Always ask your agent what possible rate increase or decreases implications are for each scenario. You’ll probably think of more questions as you go through this.
Coverage, Exclusions and Riders
- What is included in my homeowner’s policy (structural, contents, liability coverage, additional living expenses)?
- Explain the difference between these types of coverage: actual cash value (ACV), replacement cost coverage (RCV), and guaranteed or extended replacement cost. Which type of coverage applies to my home? To my possessions? Do I have a choice of which one to choose?
- Can I raise the amount of coverage for certain areas in my policy? How often?
- What is excluded from my policy? What areas have limited coverage?
- Do I need a separate policy to include exterior structures (garages, sheds, gazebos, pools, etc.)?
- What ‘perils’ am I insured for (theft, vandalism, home fires, etc.)?
- What is an umbrella policy? Under what circumstances would it apply?
- Am I covered in events of water damage (i.e. frozen pipes, burst pipes, leaky appliances, sewer back-up, rainwater, seepage and leaks, flash flooding)? For which events am I covered or not covered?
- What is your definition of ‘flooding’ and when would I be covered?
- Do I need sewer back-up insurance?
- Will my policy cover repairs and/or replacement of the appliances in my home?
- Am I covered for liability? Will guests’ injuries and medical expenses be covered if injured on my property?
- If my home is under remodeling or construction do I need extra riders or coverage (liability, theft, damage, etc.)?
- Do I need separate insurance for animals and their possessions in my home?
- Do you offer any protection against identity theft?
- What kind of riders or floaters do you offer? May I see a list of all types of riders/floaters you have available? Do I need separate riders for valuable items or house items such as:_____________?
WHN TIP – Riders and Floaters: Not sure what a rider or floater policy is or if you need one? Read our Insurance Riders: 3 Reasons You May Need Them article for more information.
Coverage for Home-Based Businesses
- Do I need separate insurance for my home-based business (liability, structural, possessions)? What types are available?
- Is this attached or separate from my homeowner’s insurance?
- Am I covered for liability? Will customers’ or workers’ injuries and medical expenses be covered if they are injured on my property?
Coverage for Natural Disasters
- What natural disasters am I insured for (wildfires, tornado, etc.)?
- Do I need a separate flood insurance policy? In the event of a flood what would be covered?
- Do I need a separate earthquake insurance policy?
- Does my policy include a separate deductible for risks like hurricane or hail?
- Do I need separate insurance for coverage of possessions damaged as a result of a natural disaster?
WHN TIP – Understanding Flood Insurance: Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). For more information, read our Purchasing Flood Insurance article.
Replacement Cost Estimates
- What would it cost to rebuild my home?
- What would it cost to replace the items in my home?
WHN TIP – Know Your Home’s Replacement Value: Don’t guess what it would cost to rebuild your home. Read our 3 Steps to Estimate Your Home’s Value article for useful information.
- When will a claims adjuster come out after I file a claim?
- How long can I wait before filing a claim after an event or loss? How do I file a claim? How does the claim process work?
- How can I check the status of my claim?
- How does the payment process work? How long after I file a claim will I expect to receive a check?
- How do you determine the settlement amount?
- Will I receive monies at today’s rebuilding or replacement value (replacement cost policy) or at the value at the time of purchase (actual cash policy)? For which items (structure, possessions, exterior, etc.) do I have a replacement cost policy and which items have an actual cash policy?
- Do you offer a ‘guaranteed’ replacement cost policy (a policy that pays whatever it costs to rebuild your home as it was before the disaster)?
- After receiving a check, how soon can I begin repairs?
- Do you offer home repair programs? What benefits can I receive if I choose to use your program?
- If I’m unhappy with settling my claim, with whom can I talk to about the process?
WHN TIP – You Have Rights: If you’re not happy with what your insurance company is offering as compensation, you can appeal. Read our 3 Steps to Appealing an Insurance Settlement article for advice.
Policy Costs and Discounts
- Could the home’s previous claims history be affecting my premiums? Are my own previous home claims affecting the premium price for my current home?
- Could my credit report score be affecting my premiums? How can I raise my score?
- Will my rates climb after I file a claim? How much?
- How many claims can I file before my policy is canceled?
- What kind of discounts can I receive if I purchase a home security system or make upgrades to my heating, plumbing or electrical systems (locks, alarms, detectors, fire extinguishers, etc.)? What kind of products and materials will count towards lowering my premiums?
- What kind of discounts can I receive if I install disaster-resistant items or make home improvements (shatter-proof windows, shutters, earthquake proofing, roofing reinforcements, etc.)? What types of materials or products can help me save on my premiums?
- Do you offer premium discounts if I stay with your company for a certain number of years?
- Do you offer discounts if I also have an auto or life policy with your company?
- Do you offer discounts if I make my payments electronically or online?
- Do you offer discounts if my home is inspected?
- Do you offer discounts if I am a non-smoker?
- Do you offer discounts if I am of a certain age (i.e. 50+)?
- What other discounts are available?
Procedures and Payment Options
- What is your cancellation policy?
- What is your non-renewal policy?
- What is your renewal policy?
- When and how often can I raise my deductible?
- How long will it take for my insurance to go into effect?
- What are my payment options? Where do I send my payments? What will happen if I can’t make a payment?
- Has the company made any changes in coverage since I last renewed my policy?
WHN TIP – Document Now! Don’t wait until you have to file a claim to start trying to remember what you owned. Use our 4 Things to Know About Creating a Home Inventory List article as a guide for creating documentation of your possessions. Our Sample Home Inventory Lists: Helpful Reminders has downloadable pdfs to make it all easier!
For More Information
INSURE U – Get Smart About Insurance
INSURE U is a public education program created by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to assist consumers with information about insurance issues.
Insure U is designed to help insurance consumers as their lives and needs change, and to educate them about how to avoid being scammed. The program also reminds consumers of the tools and resources provided by state insurance regulators.
Since its 2006 launch, Insure U has featured public service announcements (PSA), consumer alerts, news releases, mobile apps and games, along with integrated social media campaigns, in order to help consumers understand difficult topics. Its Life Stage Quizzes cover insurance needs for all life stages and situations.
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