There are three main components to homeowners insurance: 1) Structure, 2) Belongings and 3) Liability. Whether you already own a home or plan to buy one soon, it’s important to know what your policy covers, as well as what it doesn’t cover.
Bryan Baker, Long & Foster Insurance regional manager of the Baltimore region, helped us break down each part.
In the event that your home is damaged, your insurance policy covers the replacement value of the structure, including the cost of materials, labor and internal systems like HVAC, plumbing and electric.
Often, people mistakenly use the sale price or the appraised value of their home to determine their coverage amount but those numbers aren’t always accurate or reliable, says Baker. They include the value of the land, which doesn’t need coverage, while ignoring things like current construction costs. This could result in paying for more coverage than necessary or not having enough coverage.
If you’re not sure how much the structure of your home should be insured for, your insurance representative has access to tools and estimators that can help you pinpoint it.
Belongings include all the items that you fill your house with, from furniture and clothing to electronics and appliances.
“The rule of thumb that we use is: if you could pick your house up, flip it upside down and shake it, everything that falls out is personal property,” Baker said.
If you need to file a claim for belongings, having a home inventory is the best way to provide documentation of what you lost, especially since many people undervalue items like clothes, says Baker. Take photos of each room in your home – your closets, electronics, as much as possible. Make sure the photos are available via cloud-based storage that you can access even if you were to lose your home.
Personal injury and liability are included as part of most policies and may cover more than you think. In addition to providing coverage for a visitor slipping and falling at your home, the coverage may also help protect you in the event that you are personally sued for something unrelated to your property. An umbrella insurance policy would provide further coverage.
So What Isn’t Covered
Your coverage probably includes caps for certain types of personal property. Art, jewelry, sports memorabilia and items of high value may need a rider or endorsement to be fully covered. For example, your policy may only cover an engagement ring up to $5,000, even if the ring is valued much higher.
Most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover flooding. Instead, coverage is available through the National Flood Insurance Program and through a few private insurers.
Additionally, damage from water/sewer backups, including sump pump malfunction, isn’t typically covered, though you may be able to purchase an endorsement for it. Baker said the endorsement is inexpensive, and is something Long & Foster Insurance offers to every client.