In today’s economy, many homeowners are juggling higher bills on less earnings — facing tightened family budgets in the wake of rising costs, credit limits or even job loss. Yet there’s no need to struggle with the cost of home insurance. Despite industry increases, homeowners may be able to reduce their insurance rates by as much as 30 percent.
Nevertheless, many homeowners aren’t using insurance discounts to lower rates — even those who apply discounts may qualify for more savings than they’re getting. And lowered rates are still possible, even in today’s economy.
Consider the findings reported by independent insurance agent association, Trusted Choice, in a 2009 national survey:
“53 million household respondents ‘admitted they are probably not taking advantage of all homeowners insurance discounts or said that they simply didn’t know’ about policyholder discounts they likely qualify for.”
The survey also found that the largest percentage of respondents, about 26%, estimated they save 6-10% on their insurance premiums by using discounts. In fact, many insurance consumers could be saving significantly more-as much as 30%, according to independent insurance agencies, which often shop on behalf of consumers and help them find discounts and compare rates.
Homeowners are usually aware of the more common discounts — such as a multiple policy discount to insure both home and auto under one carrier. But there are other discounts and savings they miss.
How savvy are you as a homeowner and insurance consumer?
Find out using this quick list to explore or measure your potential for insurance discounts. It’s also the knowledge you and your insurance agent need to reduce rates for savings:
Dual duty — Don’t overlook the most common discount available: multiple policy discounts. When the same company insures your home and car, you can probably reduce your overall insurance costs by 10 to 15 percent.
New home, new homeowner? The same criteria used to qualify your home for a specific mortgage is often the same that qualifies your policy for discounts.
Living in a gated community? Then you may be eligible for discounts. Be sure to ask about auto insurance discounts if your car is equally ‘protected’ to boot.
Rooftop savings — Some insurance companies offer hail resistant roof discounts for Class 4 roofs — naturally these credits may vary with locale. Moreover, be sure to ask your insurer about potential discounts before putting a new roof on your house — you’ll probably want to capture savings if available and a flat roof without roof warranty may disqualify you from your current coverage altogether.
Be a new policyholder — You may find additional savings extended to new customers based on new rating models that offer a ‘sign up’ discount. If your insurer extends this discount, your insurance agent might be able to capture it by applying for a new policy with the same company.
Your track record counts — make sure you explore discounts for home insurance customers who have a claim-free track record… when was the last time you filed a home insurance claim? A 10-year history usually qualifies you for this discount; if you’ve never filed a claim, you may save as much as 20 percent.
Risk reductions — Ask your agent to identify risk reduction discounts addressing a range of interior and exterior factors: fire and smoke alarms, electrical wiring, fireplace / chimney safety, heating apparatus, burglar alarms, curb and gutter system and landscaping elements. Proximity to a fire hydrant and your community’s fire department also applies.
Preventive maintenance and home security – Make sure your insurance agent is aware of any alarm systems or preventive measures you take to secure property and to keep your home safe. Though discount criteria varies, you may be able to get a savings of 10 to 15 percent for a combined system that may include two or more measures: deadbolt locks, lockable garages and storage buildings, fire alarms, fire sprinklers, fire extinguishers, a burglar alarm or home security system.
Good breeding gone bad — Like it or not, some pets have a reputation. You may adore your family pet but if Fido is a dog breed considered bite-happy or dangerous, your insurance rating may be affected or your coverage in jeopardy. Choose your pet wisely — be aware of the little issues that can turn your insurance into a big issue.
Score card — Expect your credit score to impact your home insurances rates. If married, you may be able to reduce your rate by listing the top scorer as the first named on the insurer’s application. Plus, if you’ve had a less-than credit score and recently improved your numbers, let your insurance agent know. You may be able to get a policy adjustment: a lower insurance rate is still possible without the need to write a new policy.
Raise the limit — consider the difference a deductible makes. You can probably lower your rate by raising your deductible — $2,500 is the standard deductible and you can expect a lower rate if you raise it to $5,000.
Agent vs. agent and the extended marketplace — Is your insurance agent an independent who can tap a broad product range? Or an agent affiliated with a name-brand company? Know the difference. Independent agents can shop around — explore options across the marketplace. Brand agents don’t usually have the same agility — they’re usually confined to the company practice or limited to brand products. Loyalty counts. Still, if you’re committed to one company brand you may be just as limited as the insurance agent who is equally missing rate reductions, discounts and savings offered by the brand’s competition.
‘Home pride’ and stewardship are vital — Even many insurance agents don’t understand the role that stewardship plays in harnessing the broadest range of discounts possible. Why? The better care you take of your home, the more attractive you’ll look to insurance carriers. And the best way to harness discounts is to identify as many discounts as possible — it stands to reason that more companies mean more potential for discounts.
So, you’ll want to make sure your home qualifies for coverage from every company that offers coverage in your locale since increased competition generally decreases rates and opens your access to discounts.
In a nutshell, homeowners applying the discounts above will soon realize the many ways they can save on their home insurance — even when times are tough.
Get started on discounts for savings….
Shop around to compare insurance company providers and rates — what companies provide home insurance in your community?
Get guidance on the details — an independent insurance agent isn’t tied to one brand, so these agents can help you see the whole marketplace and get the apples-to-apples lens you need to compare products, coverage and rates.
Identify discounts — make sure you identify the common discounts most homeowners hit, along with other discounts that frequently miss.
Do the ‘homework’ — the work at home that demonstrates stewardship makes you eligible to select from the broadest insurance product range possible.
Optimize selection, and then maximize discounts to benefit from reduced raters and savings.
Insurance veteran and author Don Bullard is a new online writer whose articles extend from consumer education materials developed for his insurance clients in coastal North Carolina. The articles evolved from 15-minute bullet-point overviews he first developed to educate new home insurance policyholders, whose rates and coverage have been subject to shifts in the insurance industry, the housing market and coastal weather events.
Don discovered equal need for education across the range of insurance consumers, as well as among his in-house agency colleagues who represent a diverse range of companies as independent insurance agents. In the wake of industry change, both agent and policyholder needed more information than their time available for annual insurance rate and coverage reviews, especially business and commercial clients addressing high-stakes insurance needs and demands.
In addition to his focus on consumer education and advocacy online and in the office, Don manages Don Bullard Insurance. Founded in 1972 and headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina, Don Bullard Insurance is an independent insurance agency, serving the auto, home, life and health insurance needs of residents, businesses and commercial interests across the Cape Fear Region and in South Carolina.