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How much homeowners insurance do I need?

You need enough insurance to cover the following:

  • The structure of your home.
  • Your personal possessions.
  • The cost of additional living expenses if your home is damaged and you have to live elsewhere during repairs.
  • Your liability to others.

The structure

You need enough insurance to cover the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs. Don't include the cost of the land. And don't base your rebuilding costs on the price you paid for your home. The cost of rebuilding could be more or less than the price you paid or could sell it for today.

Some banks require you to buy homeowners insurance to cover the amount of your mortgage. If the limit of your insurance policy is based on your mortgage, make sure it's enough to cover the cost of rebuilding. (If your mortgage is paid off, don't cancel your homeowners policy. Homeowners insurance protects your investment in your home.)

For a quick estimate of the amount of insurance you need, multiply the total square footage of your home by local building costs per square foot. To find out construction costs in your community, call your local real estate agent, builders association or insurance agent.

Factors that will determine the cost of rebuilding your home:

  • Local construction costs
  • The square footage of the structure
  • The type of exterior wall construction–frame, masonry (brick or stone) or veneer
  • The style of the house (ranch, colonial)
  • The number of bathrooms and other rooms
  • The type of roof and materials used
  • Other structures on the premises such as garages, sheds
  • Fireplaces, exterior trim and other special features like arched windows
  • Whether the house, or parts of it like the kitchen, was custom built
  • Improvement to your home–adding a second bathroom, enlarging the kitchen or other additions that have added value to your home

Standard homeowners policies provide coverage for disasters such as damage due to fire, lightning, hail, explosions and theft. They do not cover floods, earthquakes or damage caused by lack of routine maintenance.

Flood insurance is available from the Federal Insurance Administration and earthquake coverage is available from private insurance companies or, in California, also through the California Earthquake Authority.

Replacement cost policies
Most policies cover replacement cost for damage to the structure. A replacement cost policy pays for the repair or replacement of damaged property with materials of similar kind and quality. There is no deduction for depreciation–the decrease in value due to age, wear and tear, and other factors.

If you purchase a flood insurance policy, coverage for the structure is available on a replacement cost basis.

Guaranteed or extended replacement cost coverage
After a major hurricane or a tornado, building materials and construction workers are often in great demand. This can push rebuilding costs above homeowners policy limits, leaving you without enough money to cover the bill. To protect against such a situation, you can buy a policy that pays more than the policy limits.

An extended replacement cost policy will pay an extra 20 percent or more above the limits, depending on the insurance company. A guaranteed replacement cost policy will pay whatever it costs to rebuild your home as it was before the fire or other disaster.

Building codes
Building codes are updated periodically and may have changed significantly since your home was built. If your home is badly damaged, you may be required to rebuild your home to meet new building codes. Generally, homeowners insurance policies (even a guaranteed replacement cost policy) wo

 
 
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