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The www.FedPrimeRate.com Personal Finance Blog and Magazine

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Is Your Home Insurance Policy Disaster-Ready?

With the hurricane / tornado / fire seasons almost upon us, you may have asked yourself, "is my home insurance policy disaster-ready?"

The good folks at Answer Financial have just released a set of tips that you'll probably find useful. For more, here's a snippet from today's press release:

"Answer Financial alerts homeowners that time is running out to get insurance policies disaster-ready, with tornado season in full swing in the Midwest, and hurricanes getting ready to roar along the coasts. Although property values are up, home insurance coverage is down. Ironically, 80 percent of homeowners do not have enough coverage to withstand a potential disaster, cautions Answer Financial CEO Alan Snyder. This year, homeowners should get educated and take a second look at their insurance plans.

Answer Financial, the nation's leading independent insurance agency, offers these top five tips to ensure homeowners are ready for disaster:

  • Be sure to have adequate coverage for your home. With property values significantly up across the country, make sure your home's replacement value has been updated on your policy since the time of purchase. Particularly with significant structural home-improvement changes, you must notify your insurer to update the home's value. Because insurance policies cover a home's replacement cost rather than its market value, consumers also should not confuse purchase price or assessed value with rebuilding costs.

  • Annually review the replacement value of your home's contents. For many families, a home is their largest investment and most valuable asset. In actuality, the home's contents are usually more difficult to replace. Items like jewelry, art, antiques, furs and other valuables require a separate rider
    for insurance. Homeowners can visit AnswerCenter.com to find out exactly what 'replacement value' means and how much coverage is necessary. Because homeowners' insurance needs are not static, ignoring your coverage limits will present a problem when disaster strikes. Aside from contents, also
    take into account the cost of remodeling, new construction or upgrades to fixtures, appliances or furnishings.

  • Plan accordingly for a separate policy. Certain risks may not be covered by standard homeowners insurance. The more common types of disaster, such as earthquake, floods and hurricane/windstorm, may need a separate policy. Different states run insurance pools to offer policies for particular disasters -- for example, in California, most policies are sold through the California Earthquake Authority (CEA), in New York and Georgia, wind/hail coverage is available through the Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR), and the federal government runs the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Insurance rates have skyrocketed in regions affected by floods, and some carriers will no longer write policies in states like Florida and Mississippi. And many homeowners discovered too late that their private insurance policies did not cover the extensive water damage caused by these natural disasters.

  • Update your auto insurance policies, too. Disaster survivors also suffered major property losses with their automobiles, which were either swept away in floods or deemed totaled due to the extensive weather damage. Auto insurance holders often will forgo optional coverage items such as collision or comprehensive to save on monthly premiums. However, for disaster-prone areas, comprehensive coverage is the only way to insure losses to your vehicle caused by windstorm, hail, flood or earthquake disasters. Without it, you could be left making payments on a car that is not even drivable. Compare comprehensive coverage, and if making car payments, ask your lender about payment requirements during special circumstances such as these.

  • Do your homework first and consider ways to reduce overall costs. Like car insurance, raising your deductible can save money on premiums. Most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500, while a deductible of $1,000 can save you up to 25 percent of premium costs. Another way to save is to get discounts by making your home more resistant to natural disasters likely in your area. For example, you can save on premium by adding storm shutters, reinforcing your roof or retrofitting for earthquakes. Or by bundling auto and home insurance coverage together with the same carrier, premiums can be cut by 5 to 15 percent. Do extensive shopping before choosing homeowners insurance. Get quotes from different carriers. Since rates can vary, make sure you compare coverage on an apples-to-apples basis so you can realize when a lower price really represents less coverage.

About Answer Financial Inc.

Answer Financial (www.answerfinancial.com) is one of the nation's largest independent insurance agencies, providing consumers with comparative quotes and custom policies from 400 top-rated insurance companies. Since pioneering its automated shopping engine in 1998, the Insurance Answer Center, Answer has delivered more than 20 million quotes for auto, home, life, health, dental and specialty insurance products in all 50 states. Consumers can consult with one of Answer's 400 licensed Insurance Agents by calling 1(800) 233-3028, or they can visit www.answerfinancial.com to receive secure, real-time insurance quotes and buy their insurance policy Online. The Insurance Answer Center is also offered as a voluntary benefit program or cross-selling platform to hundreds of financial institutions, large employers and affinity groups serving millions of American families."


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