A recent issue of a Consumer Reports official publication revealed several disturbing trends in homeowners’ insurance rates. Below are a few of these developments and some effective counter strategies to avoid being left with less coverage and higher costs:
- Coastal regions have been especially hard-hit
Overall, renters and homeowners insurance premiums rose an average of 3.2 percent in 2009. Costs increased much more in coastal states, however. For example, average Louisiana premiums rose 11.4 percent between 2006 and 2007.
Counter strategy: Shop around for better rates. A 2008 Consumer Reports survey revealed that over half of homeowners reaped substantial premium savings after switching to a new insurance carrier. Before making a final selection, research a prospective carrier’s financial rankings, however.
- More common percentage-based deductibles
In a growing number of states, homeowners may choose between flat-dollar and percentage deductibles. Typically, one deductible type is chosen for primary coverage and another for high-risk hazards such as hurricanes. Currently, Florida policyholders whose homes are valued at or above $100,000 must accept a
2 percent deductible.
Counter strategy: If you must accept a percentage-based deductible, establish an emergency reserve fund to offset catastrophic losses. Or, switch to a higher flat-dollar deductible to lower your premiums over the long run.
- Beware of novel policy addons
In response to new security concerns created by high-tech innovations, insurers are increasingly offering “low-cost” riders for identity theft or malicious computer comprise.
Counter strategy: You can do just as well or better for yourself with free or low-cost measures. These include credit report monitoring, regular password changes, diligent account statement reconciliations, and routine scans with free or inexpensive anti-virus software.
- Insure for slightly less than replacement value
Insuring for 75 to 85 percent of replacement cost for the fire coverage portion of your homeowners policy is usually a prudent strategy. The vast majority of fires are extinguished long before a home is totally destroyed. In addition, many major components of your home’s construction are indestructible. These include concrete slab foundations and plumbing contained therein.