Think Your Home Is Covered? | 3 Checks For Homeowner’s Insurance With Special Guest Roger Heighton
A lot of people are so focused on finding the right home or property, they forget to think about things like home insurance. It’s a big part of the equation, whether you’re in the market for a new property, or thinking about making changes to your existing home or property.
It’s important to find a home and property insurance agent you can trust to help protect some of your most valuable possessions. Roger Heighton is a Farmers Insurance Agent based out of Burlingame. Not only is he my own personal insurance agent, but he’s also my friend. I refer a lot of my clients to Roger because he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to insurance. He has solid advice for homeowners and prospective homebuyers.
High fire risk zones
Recently, Roger and I discussed several important insurance-related topics, including “high fire risk zones”. Over the past several years, California’s seen a lot of wildfires. Roger says he’s noticed, especially over the past year or so, people buying in “fire risk areas”. He says many of the big insurers aren’t willing to offer insurance in those areas, so they’re having to tap into secondary markets. People are usually still able to get home insurance, but the cost is steep. Oftentimes, they end up spending more money on home insurance than they, or their lender, were expecting.
This is a good point. I don’t want my clients to put in an offer on a home, have it accepted, then learn they could be on the hook for much higher insurance rates than they were expecting. Whether a property is in a high fire risk zone, a flood zone, on the border, or even just close enough, I want clients to know. It’s important to reach out to your insurer, run the address of the property and see what the rates truly are. Talk to your lender, too. It’s better to have all the information upfront.
Roger and I also discussed short-term rentals, and what they mean for homeowner’s insurance. There are a lot of Airbnb’s and vrbo’s right now. People are either renting out a condo they own on the side or even part of their home. If you have a general homeowner’s policy, you may think you’re covered. Roger says that’s not always true.
He says it’s critical you let your insurance agent know if you’re considering operating a short-term rental. That’s because, he says, insurance companies look at your property differently if its owner-occupied than they do with rentals. It’s not even the same if you rent it out short-term versus long-term. I agree when Roger says you need to communicate with your insurance company. I suggest reaching out every few months, or after you make any type of major life change.
Roger says his office encourages people to have an insurance review at least once per year. It may only be a quick check, but it could save you down the road. As Roger says, if you don’t have the proper insurance and there’s a claim, that claim, could be denied, and you could be on the hook for a lot of money.
One other big topic Roger and I discussed had to do with home remodel projects. If you’re just doing something simple like redoing your floors or painting, you’re probably okay. However, if you’re doing a major remodel like tearing down walls or adding on to your home, you’ll want to talk to your insurance agent. Roger says one reason has to do with what’s called “builder’s risk”. You need to know who’s covering the work on your home. You may not need extra coverage, but it’s always good to ask.
Roger says another good reason to check with your insurance agent is that you’re probably increasing the value of your home. If something should happen, you need to make sure everything you own is fully covered and insured. Sure, you could end up paying a few extra dollars a month in insurance but consider the alternative if your entire home isn’t insured and something happens. You’d be much better off spending a little bit more now than getting stuck with a huge mess and a huge bill later.
If you have any questions about any of this, call your insurance agent, call Roger, or call my office and I’ll do what I can to help you understand what you need to know about the importance of homeowner’s insurance.