What is Homeowners insurance?
Homeowners insurance provides financial protection against disasters. A standard policy insures the home itself and the things you keep in it.
Homeowners insurance is a package policy. This means that it covers both damage to your property and your liability or legal responsibility for any injuries and property damage you or members of your family cause to other people. This includes damage caused by household pets.
Damage caused by most disasters is covered but there are exceptions. The most significant are damage caused by floods, earthquakes and poor maintenance. You must buy two separate policies for flood and earthquake coverage. Maintenance-related problems are the homeowners' responsibility.
Why do you need homeowners insurance?
It is really all about protecting yourself financially if something unexpected happens to your home or possessions. That's important because chances are your home is likely one of your largest investments.
- If your home was destroyed by fire or damaged by a natural disaster, you'd need money to repair or replace it.
- If a guest in your home is injured, liability protection and medical coverage help pay expenses.
- If you are a victim of theft and vandalism, it can reimburse you for your loss or pay for repairs.
- If you are still paying for your home, your lender will require insurance.
- It is important to know that homeowners insurance is meant to cover unexpected damage, not routine maintenance. Ask your agent to talk about what is covered and be sure to read your policy so you know exactly what's included and what is not.
Things to consider and questions to ask your agent
Here are a few things to discuss with your agent that will influence your decisions.
- How much will it cost to rebuild my house and replace my belongings if they are damaged or destroyed? (Ask your agent to talk you through your home's features and the things you own so you can make an informed decision about coverage.)
- Does the insurance company have a good reputation for customer service? Is it known for paying claims fairly and promptly?
- What discounts are available? (Ask about multiple policy, security system and fire resistance discounts.)
- What's the process for filing and settling a claim? (Ask who to call and what happens after you file a claim.)