Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Historic Homes: Review your Homeowners Insurance

Spring is just around the corner and like most of us you may be planning this summer's "Big Project". Maybe you are updating a kitchen or adding a carriage house. Chances are you may be hiring help this summer on projects.

Now is the perfect time to take 10 minutes and pull that insurance policy out and take a look at it. Insurance is a necessity of life and as most Historic Homeowners will tell you , often hard to find. Insurance companies don't like to insure those big old houses and often the premiums are high.

Now is the time to look at your coverage. If you have been having your insurance automatically updated you might be "over-insured". Property values have dropped dramatically as well as labor costs for repairs. Some parts of the country have lost 20-40 percent of value. See just how much your home is insured for. One thing to remember, If you have a claim it is often very expensive to repair. For example a slate or tile roof can run 50-75 thousand or more to replace. Make sure you coverage is adequate to cover that worst case scenario and if something catastrophic happened that you would have enough funds to repair or find another similar home in the event of a total loss. Also look at the size of your deductible and review to See if its too high or too low.

Most Historic Homeowners also collect antiques. Do you have riders for valuable items such as pianos or rare art? Review you policy carefully. Now is the time to take that video camera or digital camera and take photos of every room in your house. Save a copy of this off site or online in a password protected secure site. If someone steals your home computer there goes your proof.

Many homes now have security systems and if you have added one you may qualify for a discount. Also if you insure your car with the same insurer you may also qualify for a discount.

THE FINE PRINT: If you are planning on hiring a contractor see what the liability of your insurance is in event of a problem. Any contractor you hire MUST be licenced, bonded and have liability insurance and Workman's comp. Permits area necessity and often an insurer might deny a claim IF permits were not pulled and the work was not inspected. Adding a bathroom or a major remodel such as a kitchen should be reviewed by you agent as your home value may have increased and you may need more coverage. Events caused by your negligence may not be covered. For example of you take a blowtorch to remove paint on the outside of your house and you cause the fire you may not be covered! Do you have fireplace or added a woodburning stove? You may not be covered in case of a chimney fire? Check the fine print. Own a dog? Many companies now have clauses on Pitbulls,Rottweilers and other "attack dogs" and may not cover you if you own one of these breeds. If your municipality has passed laws against keeping these breeds your insurance company can deny your claim! Do NOT assume you have dog bite coverage.

Also look at infrastructure. Has the city added a fire hydrant near you or maybe built a new fire station or police station closer to your home? Those can affect your rate. Also if crime has significantly decreased in your zip code you may qualify for discount.

Do you have flood insurance or earthquake insurance? Now is time to review that and if you do not have it what are the costs of adding it. have you added more smoke detectors or now have a wired in system, or a sprinkler system, then often can get you a discount.

AVOIDING A PROBLEM: Do a Inspection of your home. Have any old trees that might be a problem? If so cut them down NOW, Don't wait for a problem later. Now is good time to inspect your windows and doors and the overall security of your home. Do you have adequate lighting on the outside. Are trees and bushes providing a possible place for an intruder to hide. If you do not have neighborhood crime watch talk to you local crime watch coordinator about starting a crime watch for your block.

A little review, a little planning and some common sense can make sure both your home and your family are safe and protected.

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