5 Things To Know About Severe Weather And Homeowners Insurance

5 Things To Know About Severe Weather And Homeowners InsuranceThe average homeowner feels secure knowing they have insurance in the event of a severe weather calamity. Most people believe that no matter what happens, they have paid for protection against disaster.

Unfortunately, not every homeowners insurance policy provides full reimbursement from severe weather losses. Hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and other rare catastrophes may not be covered under your current policy.

Consider the impact of these extreme events and whether you are fully insured for the subsequent losses.

1: Hurricane Damage May Not Be Fully Covered

The recent national mobilization to deal with the fallout from Hurricane Florence highlights just how catastrophic severe weather can be to people and property. That being said, homeowners generally anticipate calling their insurance carrier to file a claim after returning home and assessing the damage.

It may come as a surprise, but many policies limit reimbursement to damage attributed to high winds. For example, a tree falls on a garage or vehicle and the insurance outfit writes a check.

But damage attributed to water can be tricky. Many policies do not cover flood insurance. That could mean that water backed up in the street or a stream, lake or pond overflowing into your home might not be covered. That’s why homeowners are advised to clarify water-related coverage.

2: Floods May Not Be Covered

People living near bodies of water may be required to carry flood insurance when applying for a mortgage. Flooding represents a high risk that can result in a total loss. Lenders are often apprehensive about approving mortgages for properties in so-called “floodplains.”

FEMA offers coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program. Homeowners living just outside a flood zone may not be required to buy additional coverage. However, you are taking a significant risk.

If your policy does not cover flooding, you could be on the hook for the full cost of the home’s repair or replacement. Considering the average flood insurance policy runs about $700, it may be worth the expense to protect your investment.

3: Tornado Insurance Coverage Can Be Murky

Although most policies cover damage from tornados, premiums can run higher in regions prone to these severe weather storms. But, like hurricanes, tornados that additionally bring about flooding can pose a problem for homeowners who make a claim. A carrier may conclude that the high wind and impact damage enjoys coverage. Water, however, can be a very gray area. 

4: Earthquakes Often Not Covered

Like people who live in flood plains, earthquake riders may be required in certain areas of the country. Without additional coverage, the destruction caused by these catastrophic events may not be reimbursed. It’s imperative that people living in or around regions prone to earthquakes carry specific coverage. Imagine losing your home and still owing a monthly mortgage payment.

The important thing to glean from this overview about severe weather claims is that homeowners are wise to dig deep into their policies and have a clear, concise understanding about coverage. Keep in mind that water damage from flooding, rain and even sewer back-ups pose a significant threat to your home. For a few dollars more, enhanced severe weather insurance may be worth every penny.

Homeowner’s insurance is a requirement for most home loans. It’s important to note that some properties at high risk may not qualify for financing or you may find that insurance for high risk properties adds too much to your bottom line. Consult your trusted home mortgage professional to find out what specific insurance is necessary to finance your new home.

Rebuilding Costs: Rethinking How Much Homeowners Insurance You Really Need

Rebuilding Costs Rethinking How Much Homeowners Insurance You Really NeedBuying a home comes with numerous financial planning obligations. It’s far from a turn-key operation and one of the significant challenges involves developing a working knowledge about things often outside your area of expertise.

For example, working as an educator, police officer, investment banker or office staffer does not necessarily make you an expert about home repairs or insurance coverage. Yet, the average homeowner is tasked with carrying a certain level of homeowners insurance coverage without a strong working knowledge.

Many homeowners just purchase enough insurance to cover the purchase price or take the advice of others. Both of those methods could prove wildly deficient.

Rethinking Total Replacement Costs

A distinct difference exists between a home’s purchase price, assessed value and total replacement costs. Let that idea sink in a minute. What you paid for your home and it’s assessed value have zero to do with what it would cost to rebuild in the event of a total loss!

If you based your homeowners coverage on purchase price or estimated value, the word that comes to mind is “Yikes.” Here’s why.

Construction costs are based on prevailing market prices that include building materials and labor costs. These vary from region to region and can pique do to materials shortages and shifting prevailing wages. National home-building averages run anywhere from $117 to $125 per square foot. But, even as you read this article, that could change.

Beyond the fundamentals of calculating home construction costs on a square-foot basis, consider that rebuilding your home means that some type of catastrophe occurred. Whether that was a hurricane, tornado, flooding, fire or another disaster, there will likely be cleanup costs.

Before starting new construction, the damaged property will likely need to be razed and damaged materials removed. That comes at a cost.

Building permits and licenses will come at an additional cost. An architectural blueprint and design may need to be secured and that also comes at a cost. The permitting process can be challenging and that could result in you having to rent a temporary residence while your home is rebuilt. Obviously, there are plenty of unforeseen expenses.

Specialty Building Costs

Although average building costs per square foot are a viable standard measure, many homes enjoy specialty items.

Consider that you own a home built decades ago. The high-quality building materials used in construction may be considered specialty items today. They may inevitably be far more expensive than common building materials. If you want the home fully restored, that could cost more than the estimated average.

Accents such as rounded archways or plank-board floors are also more expensive to replace than many average materials. Those are all considerations that need to be tallied when insuring a home.

How To Recalculate Homeowners Insurance

Take the time to calculate the square footage of your home against average construction costs in your area. Factor in specialty items, permitting, razing and other potential hidden costs. Add 10-20 percent. According to some insurance experts, the average home is underinsured by upwards of 22 percent. After the carrier has paid out the coverage limit, overages could become out-of-pocket expenses.

Don’t hesitate to consult with a reputable home builder or insurance expert. Full coverage means accurately accounting for all of the rebuilding costs. 

Contact your trusted mortgage professional to inquire about current rates for home construction loans, referrals to an insurance agent and more.

How To Maintain Adequate Homeowners Insurance Coverage

Maintain adequate homeowners insurance coverageIn the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, stories have emerged of homeowners whose hazard insurance coverage was too low to cover the damage to their respective properties. 

Unfortunately, this scenario is common among U.S. homeowners, and is not just limited to damage from natural disasters. Homeowners in Asheville and nationwide are often woefully under-insured against catastrophe in its many forms.

Whether you’re buying a home, or own one already, revisit your hazard insurance policy choices and be sure that your bases are covered.

Here are four common components of a homeowners insurance policy :

Dwelling/Building Coverage 
Look for the amount listed under this section and divide it by the square footage of your home. Talk to your insurance agent, your real estate agent and perhaps even your contractor to determine whether your current coverage is sufficient. Be sure to consider lot size and building materials.

Liability Protection
What if a person is injured on your property and decides to sue? Whether your dog bit someone’s hand or a guest slipped on a wet floor, lawsuits can be expensive. Most liability policies start at $100,000.

Valuable Add-Ons
Few homeowners policies cover valuables such as art, jewelry, antiques, gold, or wine collections. However, you can usually add coverage for these items for a small annual fee. Appraisals are sometimes required.

Condominium Stipulations
When you live in a condominium or a co-op, the building often has coverage for the “walls out”. Everything inside a unit remains the responsibility of the homeowner. To be sure, however, prior to purchasing coverage for a condo or co-op, show your insurance agent the homeowners association hazard policy for recommendations.

A little bit of insurance coverage goes a long way when it comes to unforeseen disasters — but only if you maintain proper coverage. Speak with your insurance agent regularly to make sure you’ve never under-insured. Accidents, after all, are unexpected by definition.

Simple Real Estate Definitions : Tax And Insurance Escrow

Escrow taxes and insuranceAs a homeowner , your fiscal responsibility extends beyond just making mortgage payments. You must also pay your home’s real estate taxes as they come due, as well as your homeowners insurance policy premiums.

Failure to pay real estate taxes can result in foreclosure. Failure to insure your home is a breach of your mortgage loan terms.

There are two methods by which you can pay your real estate tax and homeowners insurance bills.

The first method is to pay your taxes and insurance as the bills come due, usually semi-annually. Depending on your home’s tax bill size and the cost to insure your home, these payments can feel quite large — especially if you’ve failed to budget for them properly.

The second method of paying your taxes and insurance is to give your lender the right to pay them on your behalf, a process known as “escrowing for taxes and insurance”.

When you escrow your real estate taxes and homeowners insurance, you pay a portion of your annual obligation to your lender each month, which your lender then holds in a special account for you, and disperses to your taxing entities and insurance company as needed. Lenders prefer that homeowners escrow taxes and insurance because, in doing so, the lender is assured that tax bills remain current and that homes stay insured.

Want a discount on your next mortgage rate? Tell your lender that you’re willing to escrow.

To help calculate your monthly escrow payment to your lender, do the following :

  1. Find your home’s annual real estate tax bill
  2. Find your home’s annual homeowners insurance premium
  3. Add the two figures and divide by 12 months in a year

The quotient is your monthly “escrow”; the extra payment you’ll make to your lender each month along with your regularly scheduled principal + interest payment. Then, when your tax bills and insurance premiums come due, your lender will make sure the payments are made on your behalf.

If you’re unsure whether escrowing is right for you, talk to your loan officer and/or financial planner. There are valid reasons to choose either path.