Have you completed your annual property insurance checkup?
Five things responsible homeowners are doing to prepare their property for the new year
If 2023 is the year you’re making resolutions — exercise, eat right, meditate, save for emergencies, help those less fortunate, read a book a month, save the whales — don’t forget an audit of your homeowners insurance policy.
Unless you grew up with an insurance agent for a parent, thinking about your homeowners coverage after you purchase your policy probably is not how you spend your leisure time.
But, if you were an insurance agent, if you understood the expectations of you as a homeowner from your insurance carrier, what would you do to ensure your home and insurance policy were always in tip-top shape? The start of a new year is the perfect time to think about putting things in order. Here’s how to prepare and protect your most valuable asset for the year ahead.
- Review your current coverage
When you purchase your homeowners insurance policy, it’s effective for a year from the time you make the first payment until you or the insurance company cancels the policy, or it renews. Typically, policies renew annually during the month of your purchase. Each year, it’s a good idea to take inventory of the coverages you purchased and whether they still meet your needs. The declarations page of your policy provides a coverage summary and is a good place to start. If you’re working with an insurance representative, they can help you evaluate your policy.
Do you still have the right protection to restore your home in case of a loss? If you’ve made any changes to your home, like replacing your roof, remodeling a kitchen or adding a pool or trampoline, your policy will need to be updated. These things can all impact the coverage you need and affect your premium. It’s also wise to review your deductibles. Do you have more available cash? If so, you could increase your deductible, which can sometimes lower your premium. Life changes and your homeowners insurance policy might need to be adjusted to stay current. These are some of the things to consider annually.
- Determine if you need additional coverage
Standard homeowners policies provide just that, standard coverage. If you want additional protection, you’ll have to purchase separate policies or add riders to your existing policy. For instance, flood coverage is not part of most homeowners coverage, and flooding is becoming more common outside designated flood zones. You may want to consider protecting your home with a flood policy. A rider to protect your expensive jewelry or collections might be something you want to have and equipment breakdown or service line coverage can be lifesavers when life’s worst moments happen.
- Know how to access your insurance documents
Most homeowners insurance companies provide online access to documents, but since insurance is something most of us only think about when we need to file a claim, it’s a good idea to revisit how to access your records. Familiarize yourself with logging in and where to obtain information about your policy before you need to file a claim. If you prefer to keep paper records, store a copy in a safe place — ideally somewhere that you can quickly access and take it with you, if you need to evacuate your home in the event of a wildfire or hurricane.
You may be wondering: How long should I keep my insurance documents? Because policies renew annually, each year when you review your policy, it’s a good time to replace the old policy documents with the new ones.
- Update your home inventory
At the start of a new year, but especially after a holiday — like a birthday or Christmas — when you might have received an expensive gift (or purchased one for yourself or your home) is a good time to review and update your home inventory. A home inventory is a document that outlines the items you own and assigns a financial value to them. If you experienced a loss and need to file a claim, this document would help you outline what items may be lost, missing or damaged for your insurance company. You can use an app to help you or simply go room-by-room in your house and itemize your belongings. Be sure to include a description of the item and item specs, such as make, model or serial number, the date of purchase (include a receipt if you have it), a photo of the item and an estimated replacement price if you purchased it new today.
- Take care of your home
Take time to evaluate your home and determine what areas need routine maintenance. Your home insurance company expects you to care for and perform regular maintenance on your home. Homeowners insurance does not protect against loss from neglect or disregard. Annually, it’s a good idea to evaluate things like your roof, siding and windows to determine if they are adequately protecting your home from mother nature. Are your gutters and downspouts in good working order to move water away from your home? Assess your trees and other vegetation around your home. Do you have branches hanging over your home, or dead trees or branches that need to be removed? Are there vines or other areas of vegetation that have become overgrown and are posing a problem for your home? Broken handrails and cracked sidewalks also need to be addressed.
You might also want to consider installing smart home devices. Security systems and water main monitoring devices can help detect problems before they become losses or claims.
Few of us think about our insurance coverage regularly or wonder if we’re acting like responsible homeowners. Working with an insurance specialist will help ensure your home is protected. Once your insurance policy is in place, it’s a good idea to evaluate your coverage every year. Then make sure you’re maintaining every aspect of your home. With these tips, you’ll not only be a responsible homeowner, you’ll be keeping your home in good condition and protecting your most valuable asset.