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If you’re a homeowner, you’ll need homeowners insurance. It protects your investment and ensures that your finances aren’t ruined if something happens to your property.  If you’re currently renting and thinking about home ownership, you won’t want to miss the next article that discusses the best renters insurance companies.

What does homeowners insurance cover?

Dwelling coverage

This is the part of your policy that helps pay to repair or rebuild your home if damage is the result of a covered loss. Critical home components like plumbing, electrical wiring, or your HVAC system fall into this category.

Liability insurance

This insurance protects your assets and covers costs associated with a lawsuit when you or a family member are responsible for injuring another person, or if someone is injured on your property (for example, if your dog bites your neighbor). It also provides coverage if you or a family member causes damage to another person’s property. $100,000 is a good benchmark for liability coverage, but this will vary depending on the size of your home and the assets you need to protect.

Other structures:

This type covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding detached garages, sheds and other similar structures.

Personal property coverage

This covers your clothing, electronics, furniture, and other personal property that is damaged or destroyed by a cause that’s covered by your insurance. Most top insurance companies provide checklists, personal property calculators, or other resources to help you document your belongings. For example, Liberty Mutual provides a mobile app where you can upload pictures and receipts.

Loss of use

If your home is damaged to a degree that you have to temporarily move out while it’s being repaired, loss of use will help pay your housing and living expenses.

Guest medical coverage

This provides coverage for medical bills and related expenses when someone is injured on your property, but they do not want to sue you. $1,000 per person is a common level of coverage, though some homeowners choose to take out an extension for added protection.

Most of the top homeowners insurance carriers offer similar types of coverage. The best way to find the right homeowners insurance package is by comparing rates and coverage options through an online quote tool like ours.

Which factors determine homeowners insurance rates?

There are many factors that influence how much you’ll pay for a homeowners insurance policy, some of which are out of your control. Fortunately, you can take steps and make adjustments in coverage to help ensure you get the most affordable home insurance coverage possible.

The most common factors that can influence your homeowners insurance premium include:

Home’s age and type of construction

If your home is older, there’s a higher chance there will be problems with major components like plumbing, electrical wiring and HVAC systems. New homes are less susceptible to these major problems and thus individuals buying a newly-built home will pay less.

Location

 While the average annual home insurance premium nationwide was $1,173 in the III’s most recent study, that ranged dramatically from place to place — from a low of $643 a year in Oregon to a high of $1,993 in Florida. If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, with a relatively high crime rate or located far from emergency services, you can expect to pay even more for your policy.

Even if you did your research when home shopping and chose a neighborhood with low or non-existent crime rates, you can never prevent all crime. Your home is stationary, but criminals aren’t. However, simple steps like adding an alarm system or deadbolts will not only make your home safer, it may also make it cheaper to insure.

You can control your personal claim history to some extent, but there’s less you can do about your location claim history. As seen on our interactive map, insurers charge a higher rate in states that are regularly victims of weather disasters. The same is also true of areas frequented by burglars.

Claims history

If you file several claims a year, you are more likely to pay a higher premium. If you’ve had a lot of accidents with previous insurers, chances are you’ll be filing a claim at some point with the new one. You can expect a higher premium. You can try to reduce this risk by being a responsible homeowner. Preventative maintenance and proper safety measures can go a long way toward minimizing your claims and your premiums.

Risk factors

If your home has a swimming pool, aggressive dog, trampoline or other characteristic deemed risky, you’ll likely pay a higher premium.

Because of the drowning risks both to your family and anyone visiting your property, a pool will significantly increase your home insurance premium. Securing your pool with its own fence, installing self-locking gates and having safety equipment readily accessible may be enough to lower your risk in the eyes of an insurance company.

However, the best way to avoid the higher premiums is avoid installing a pool at all. The money saved on the insurance may even be enough for a gym or private pool membership, a place where someone else assumes all of the financial risk.

Along with pools, trampolines make up what insurance companies refer to as “attractive nuisances.” They’re fun, but the risks involved make them a headache to insure. You can reduce your personal injury risk by installing a net around your trampoline, but it won’t be enough to lower your premium. The easiest way to do that is to not get one in the first place or invest in safer recreational yard equipment instead.

Credit score

Just as a poor credit score results in a higher interest rate on loans, it can also influence your home insurance premiums. Many states let insurers use your credit score when determining a premium. That credit score is a number that reflects your bill payment history, current amount of debt, and other measures of financial responsibility. It’s a quick way for a bank to determine how risky an investment you are.

The insurance industry is also a financial one. If you appear to be a risky customer with a history of missing payments, you could see that reflected in your premiums. The easiest way to avoid that is by taking the necessary steps to raise your credit rating: pay your bills on time every time, keep credit card balances low and eliminate debt.

Deductible

The level of deductible you choose plays a role in the price of your coverage. If you choose a high deductible, that means you have to pay more out of pocket if an incident does occur. The trade-off is a lower premium. We recommend sticking with a deductible you’re comfortable with. If your home is damaged, coming up with $1,000 is probably manageable. Coming up with $2,500 or $5,000 is probably going to be more difficult for most of us. Remember, your insurance won’t kick in until after the deductible is met.

Coverage amount

The amount of coverage you select will play a role in the price of your insurance.

Fire Protection

All areas have a fire protection rating based on how far it is from a water source and the distance to a responding fire department. If a fire were to break out in your home, a poor fire protection rating increases the chances of total property loss, which in turn increases your insurance premiums. Fire protection systems wouldn’t be sufficient to decrease your premiums in that case, but installing a sprinkler system could. It’s a costly solution, but one that could pay off in the long run.

You can’t control some of these factors. But by minimizing the risks that are within your power to control, you can help keep your home insurance premiums down.

Find the Best Home Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

Important things to keep in mind

As you compare quotes and shop for the best home insurance policy, remember these tips.

You might be under-insured

Most people concerned about the scope of their insurance coverage try to protect themselves against all possibilities by adding extra endorsements to their existing policies. However, even someone who’s completely “covered” could still be underinsured — in fact, about half of homeowners are. Most are insured for repairs, but in the event of catastrophic damage, it might be necessary to rebuild.

Rebuilds are a part of your policy’s dwelling coverage. However, that coverage has limits. When purchasing a home insurance policy, most people choose a coverage limit equal to the cost of their home because most home insurance policies are bought as a requirement for mortgage approval. Most lenders only require the minimum dwelling coverage, which is the selling price of the home. Their only concern is recovering their investment in the event of a total loss.

However, there are a number of factors that could make a rebuild more expensive than the original purchase price or tax assessment of your home. For example, the cost of building materials has increased significantly in recent years. Also, depending on what caused the damage, specialized workers may be needed for a rebuild in order to prevent further damage to the property. And there’s always the possibility that building codes may have changed since your home was built, requiring new, costly features that you didn’t have before. It’s important to make sure that you have enough dwelling coverage to cover the full cost of a rebuild.

Some valuable items need their own endorsements

Your personal property coverage reimburses you for the cost of replacing the valuable items in your home should they become lost or damaged in a covered event.

However, that coverage does have a specific dollar limit. What that limit is depends on your policy, but for valuable, high-priced items (like an expensive engagement ring), you’ll need to purchase a special endorsement for the official appraised value to ensure that you’re fully reimbursed.

Home insurance covers damage; a home warranty covers mechanical breakdowns

Most people wouldn’t expect their home insurance policy to cover the cost of a broken-down dishwasher or mini-fridge, but many mistakenly assume that large, vital systems, such as furnaces or water heaters are covered. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Home insurance does not cover mechanical breakdowns. Those systems fall under the umbrella of general maintenance. However, a home warranty does cover those systems, as well as important appliances. It also covers many of those “routine maintenance” areas that home insurance doesn’t, such as electrical systems, plumbing, garage doors, and even some roof replacement.

The Bottom Line

If you do own a home and want to make sure you have the best homeowners insurance for your needs, the tools and information on this page should be helpful to your cause. Compare several companies in terms of their pricing, ratings and homeowners insurance offerings before moving forward with a policy. With advanced research, you can get a high-quality homeowners insurance policy that fits your budget and needs.

Find the Best Home Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.