How to Choose a Florida Homeowner Insurance Company: 10 Tips
Homeowner insurance is part of the great American Dream. It is a requirement imposed by your mortgage company and something you should carry even if your home is fully paid for. Finding the right Florida homeowner insurance company can make this requirement easier and more affordable. Keep reading to learn more about shopping for a homeowner’s insurance policy in Florida.
Why Your Insurance Company Matters
In the event that you have to call your insurance company, you will truly understand why having the right one matters. You want an agent you are comfortable with, who listens to your concerns, and who answers your questions. When disaster strikes, the last thing you need is the additional strain of dealing with a company that isn’t looking out for your best interests.
10 Tips to Help You Choose the Right Florida Homeowner Insurance Company
1. Know Your Zones
Every home is located in reference to geographic zones. Hazard risks may be higher or lower for certain types of damages depending on those zones. Take time before you start shopping to learn exactly what hazards pose the biggest risk to your home’s safety. Here’s an idea of what types of zones to look out for:
If your home is in or adjacent to a flood zone, you should expect to pay a premium for flood coverage. Keep in mind that flood zones do change periodically and that climate change has caused higher water levels in many coastal areas.
Damage from flooding, whether as a result of natural disaster or sewer backups, are generally not covered under a standard homeowner policy. If you are interested in this coverage, or your home is in an area where it is required, be sure to ask agents about how to include it. Look for a company that is upfront and honest about the risks for flooding, and that offers the coverage you are looking for.
There are pretty specific building codes in relation to the wind in Florida. That’s because the state is susceptible to high winds from tropical storms and hurricanes. Older homes are not subject to those codes unless they undergo a major renovation or rebuilding project, so they can be more likely to sustain damage in a storm. Wind coverage should be included in the standard portion of your homeowner policy.
Some areas are more prone to violent storms like tornados. Although Florida is more known for its large rain-maker storms, certain parts of the state also receive their fair share of tornado-producing ones. Damage to property and possessions should be covered under your policy. Coverage may also help with the cost of temporary shelter while repairs are made.
Neighborhoods with higher crime rates will generally have higher homeowner insurance premiums. This is directly linked to the greater chance of a crime happening on the insured property that will result in a claim.
When you are shopping for a home, take time to check the crime rate in prospective neighborhoods, and see how that impacts your insurance premium.
2. Understand Types of Coverage
Homeowner insurance isn’t a one size fits all product. Each policy has many components that can be adjusted and tailored to fit your needs. Taking the time to learn about the different types of coverage and what each one is for will help you find an insurance company that offers what you are looking for.
This is what most people think of as their property insurance. If your house is damaged by a natural disaster, fire, or theft, this is the portion of your insurance that pays to repair or replace it.
Coverage won’t kick in until the cost of the repair is equal to or greater than you deductible. The amount that you are insured for may also vary from one policy to the next, so be sure to check coverage amounts.
This covers you in case someone is injured on your property. It can pay for their medical expenses as well as legal fees or settlements if you are sued as a result of the injury.
Personal Property Insurance
This is the coverage for all of your stuff. From furniture and collectibles to the food in your pantry, personal property insurance can help replace it in the event of a disaster or theft. If you have any valuables, you may want to have them appraised and insured separately to make sure they are covered.
If you are forced to live in temporary housing while your home is repaired or rebuilt, this coverage will be useful. It pays the cost of additional living expenses that you incur during the reconstruction process.
3. Remember Cheap Doesn’t Always Mean Good Value
Not all homeowner policies are the same. You want to deal with secure companies that have high ratings. Just because a policy is cheaper than another one doesn’t mean it is the better deal. Take time to compare coverage levels, exclusions, riders, and the deductible to make sure you are really getting a good deal.
4. Negotiate Your Rate
Your premium will be based on, among other things, the coverage types and amounts you select. Much like when you purchase auto insurance, you can opt for more or less coverage in most situations. If the listed value of your home on the policy seems unusually high, ask the agent to go through the house room by room to explain where the amount comes from.
Your personal possessions are generally a percentage of the value of your home, as are outbuildings. If you don’t want or need that much coverage, ask about reducing those amounts. These moves might be able to shave the cost of your premium so that it fits a little easier into your overall budget.
5. Double Check Your Comfort With Your Deductible
While you are shaving, you may be tempted to set your deductible at a high amount. Keep in mind that you will need to pay that much out of pocket before the insurance company makes any payments.
Avoid a deductible that is so high you wouldn’t be able to cover it in the event of a loss. Instead of saving you money, you may end up paying high interest rates on a loan or credit card just to cover a deductible of several thousand dollars. If you don’t keep that much in the bank and readily available to you, then don’t set your deductible that high.
6. Choose Local Agents Who Know the Area
An online presence is important when you are shopping around for coverage. However, having an agent in the area can also be a huge help. They know the neighborhoods and town, can tell you what hazards you are most likely to face, and can give you an accurate estimate for replacement coverage.
Look for a Florida Homeowner Insurance Company that offers both a strong virtual space as well as offices within the state. This gives you the best of both worlds as you’ll have access to information and services on their website while also knowing they are familiar with the hazards that are unique to life in Florida.
7. Be Honest With a Prospective Agent
Insurance agents sometimes get a bad rap, but trust needs to be built with mutual honesty. And when dealing with financial and real estate transactions, honesty really is the best policy. Some things that you will want to be completely upfront and honest about include:
- Aggressive breed dogs
- Livestock on the property
- Pools, especially with diving boards or slides
- Types and heights of fencing on the property
- Trampolines and enclosures around them
8. Check and Repair Your Credit Before You Apply
A credit check will be run when you fill out an insurance application. It is best to know where you stand before you contact a Florida homeowner insurance company.
Take time to run your credit report yourself at least a couple of months before switching carriers. You can request a copy from each of the major reporting bureaus once per year, so there is no cost for this other than your time. Check the report for accuracy. If you notice any inquiries or new accounts that seem unfamiliar, call and inquire about them. Look for loans, credit card balances, or liens that should not be listed, too.
This is something that you should be doing at least once per year, anyway. Sometimes the simple task of taking the time to look for errors, and clearing them up can raise your credit score enough to affect your insurance premium. It might help lower your interest on other accounts, too, so it’s definitely worth doing.
9. Get an Explanation About Extra Coverage Options
In addition to the main components of a homeowner policy, you may choose to add additional coverage options known as riders to the policy. Take some time to discuss what is covered by your primary plan, and what other risks you might want to insure against. A reputable insurance company will be happy to explain all these options and help you decide which ones you actually need to have. Here are some common additions you may want to look at placing onto your policy.
Additional structure coverage pays for sheds, detached garages, and barns that are located on your property. So, if a tree falls on your barn, your animals won’t have to stand out in the cold, waiting for a new place to stay. Or, if your she-shed is flooded in a storm, you’ll be able to replace it and all of the comforts inside without delay.
You may be required to have flood coverage depending on where your home is located. It is usually mandated for homes that fall within specially designated Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs). These are areas that are particularly susceptible to flooding events.
A review of your mortgage documents can tell you whether flood insurance is required for your home. Even if it’s not, or if your home is fully paid for, you may still want to consider adding it. An increase in major storms in recent years has really brought attention to the need for flood insurance in Florida.
This doesn’t really require much explanation. Damage from sewage entering your home is usually not covered under the main portion of your policy. If the idea of cleaning this up and trying to recover your belongings from under inches of waste isn’t appealing, ask about sewage backup coverage.
Natural disasters seem to be on the rise and, although Florida is not known for its earthquakes, you might be interested in learning more about this coverage.
Termite Infestation and Damage
Termites love moisture, and Florida has an abundance of it. There are special riders that can cover damage from, and treatment for, infestations of wood-destroying pests like termites.
Mold damage is often not covered under a standard homeowner policy. Yet, having it actively growing within your home is linked to serious health complications and an increase of allergies and breathing issues. Ask about mold coverage to make sure you don’t end up with a problem you can’t afford to remedy.
10. Ask Your Insurance Company About Available Discounts
There are discounts for all sorts of things. Maybe you are part of a trade or business association that has an arrangement with insurers. Your Florida homeowner insurance company may offer discounts if you attended certain colleges or are a member of an academic honor society. It doesn’t hurt to ask about discounts and what, if any, may apply to your policy.
Make Sure Your Home and Belongings Are Covered
Don’t wait until a disaster strikes to find out if your home is covered. Take action now to protect yourself and avoid the cost of rebuilding and repairs or replacing your belongings. Get in touch with an agent at Absolute Choice Insurance to learn more about homeowner insurance policies and coverage for your situation.
South Florida Phone: 305-275-1777
Central Florida Phone: 407-344-4444