Last week, my 70-year old father in law came to us to purchase a landlord policy and his auto policy. The house that he is renting out is the home that my husband grew up in; the home that my father in law had lived in for over 30 years. The home that he had lovingly and painstakingly taken care of throughout the years.
He likes things “HIS” way. Kind of like my own 70-year old father!
The quote for the landlord policy went great. We were able to raise his coverage on his detached garage/art studio from his previous carriers $9,000 replacement cost to over $20,000- much needed if the structure were to burn down or have a tornado hit it- because $9,000 would never cover building a new one. (FYI- your “other structures” part of your homeowners policy covers detached garages, sheds, other detached buildings, fences, swimming pools, and your driveway- so this coverage needs to be enough to fix all of that at the same time if there is a covered loss).
We are going along, finalizing the policy, when we start to talk about inspection. My carrier (and pretty much almost every other carrier I know) does home inspections prior to finalizing a policy. This is where an inspector comes to your home to inspect the outside of your home- to look for things that might add risk. Remember, insurance companies don’t like risk- so the more risky your situation is, the more money they will make you pay to cover that risk. They also do the inspection to double check the agents work in coming up with an accurate replacement cost for your home.
What do they look for?
The inspector is going to first and foremost, measure the house to make sure that the square footage that is on your application is the correct square footage. Being even a little off on square footage can cause a large rate fluctuation! They will also check how many patios, porches, decks, and detached structures that you have. They will look at your windows to make sure they are accurately stated on the application. They will look at your roof to estimate the age, wear, and tear.
A couple of things to watch out for, or to let your agent know when they are finalizing your homeowner’s insurance policy sale would include if you have clawed, curled, or damaged shingles on your roof, broken steps, balcony railings that are too far apart, siding that is missing, or even plants that might be growing out of the gutters. All of these things increase the risk for a homeowners claim, so if you know that one of these things pertains to you, you can take care of it before inspection.
With my father-in-law, he was concerned about the decorative ivy that they have growing on one side of the house. My father-in-law mentioned that when he switched a year or two ago to his most recent homeowners insurance carrier- they had given him “problems” about the ivy and he ended up taking it down (for the time being). He was frustrated that the “insurance company” could dictate to him whether he could grow Ivy on the side of his house and that the carrier he had been with three carriers ago- the one that he had for decades, never cared about the Ivy.
In this case, we were able to explain to him that in this case, the Ivy, could be viewed as a detriment or a risk to the home because sometimes Ivy becomes so dense that it traps moisture in the walls- which can result in “rotten wood, deteriorated softer masonry, and failing mortar joints”. The teeny tiny roots and tendrils of your Ivy could penetrate the gaps in even tiny cracks in your wall. Vines and Ivy also are home to all sorts of insects. None of these sound like good things for a home. (Source: www.oldhouseweb.com). He didn’t like our explanation, because the man really, really loves that Ivy, but I think he is taking it down just in case!
My own parents were the same way- I am trying to move them from their previous carrier, who they had been with for 30 years or more. This will trigger an inspection, which would undoubtedly uncover a balcony on the back that my dad has been “fixing” for the last decade and a chain link fence around the pool that is toppling over (it’s in the back yard- up against a thick forest, so no one really sees it… but rules are that you have to have a fence around your pool!). Bottom line there, we are waiting until dad gets around to fixing those before I write that policy!
As to why their previous insurance carriers “didn’t care” about these “risks”… well, think about it. You get a homeowners inspection when you buy your insurance policy. If my parents bought their insurance policy 30 years ago, when they bought their home- it was likely inspected then. The condition of the home today is not the same as the condition of the home when they purchased the house. Their previous carrier “didn’t care” about the risks simply because they didn’t know.
Changing homeowners policies is easy
Changing your homeowner’s insurance policy is actually an easy process. Personally, my office takes care of most of the work for you. We help you cancel your previous insurance, therefore avoiding any awkward “break up” confrontations. We make sure your mortgage is listed on the policy and the evidence of insurance is sent to them. And our company and your mortgage company work out the payment details, if you are paying via escrow account. If you are paying with your escrow account, you don’t have to pay a dime when you purchase.
The ONLY thing that anyone could possibly say is difficult about changing homeowners insurance is getting through inspection. For people who like things the way they are, this can be a hurdle- if there are risks associated with your home.
For the most part, if you keep up with regular home maintenance, your house should pass inspection without any issues. If there is a problem, we have a certain amount of time where we can work with you to get the problem solved and your house re-inspected (for instance, if you had to put a new roof on your house, fix some steps, or pull the plants out of your gutters). Inspection time is a good time to catch up on any major issues your home has that perhaps you have let go “out of sight, out of mind”.
After all, everyone involved wants your house to be as safe as possible.
If you are interested in a homeowners quote (or condo, renters, auto, motorcycle, boat, or life)- please don’t hesitate to give us a call so that we can help you. Just warn us about that trick step on your front porch, so if we come to visit you, we don’t fall through!