Determining Coverage Levels




Insuring your home
Homeowners insurance provides three basic coverages. 

  • First, the policy covers damage to your home--the dwelling itself.
  • Second, it provides coverage for the contents of your home.
  • Third, it provides a level of liability protection for claims arising from the actions of you and your family.

Two methods to determine value
Insurance companies use one of two methods to determine the value of property:

  • Replacement cost--pays you the cost of replacing damaged property, with no deduction for depreciation.
  • Actual Cash Value--pays you an amount equal to the replacement value of damaged property minus a depreciation allowance.

Unless a policy specifically states that property is covered for its replacement value, coverage is for the lower, actual cash value. If you are not sure which type you have, first check your policy, or ask your insurance agent or representative if you are not sure what level of coverage you have.

Assessing your need
Certain factors can affect the appropriate level of homeowners coverage. If, in the event your house is destroyed, you want to rebuild your home with materials of like kind and quality, and replace the contents, you should insure your home for an amount which may be considerably larger than your mortgage balance. On the other hand, if you just want to be able to pay off your mortgage and walk away, then your level of coverage should match the balance of your mortgage. Be careful, however, because this is where some consumers slip up by thinking that "cheaper" is "better".  Without sufficient insurance coverage, the insurance company may pay only a portion of the cost to replace or repair your home and its contents.

In most cases, policy holders want to insure their possessions for replacement values. But make no assumptions.  The replacement value is probably different than the market value of your home and the depreciated cash value of its contents.

Determining your level of coverage--the building
If you have a mortgage, your lender may require you to maintain a certain level of insurance, and the lender will be named on your policy as an insured party or copayee. While the level of coverage required by the lender may be enough to cover its exposure, that actual level may not be sufficient to fully protect you.  The reason for this is easy to explain... Lenders want to know that the mortgage balance will be paid if the home is destroyed.  They have no specific interest in seeing that your home is built back to its former level of glory.

To decide how much homeowners coverage you should have, determine the cost to rebuild your home. As a licensed independent agent we can help you calculate the current cost of construction for a house like yours, or you can hire a professional appraiser. You may or may not be surprised to discover that it would could cost more today to rebuild your home than the price you initially paid for it. This is not something you want to discover after your home has been destroyed and you need to rebuild it.

Often, consumers mistake market value or taxable value for the amount at which they should be insuring their home, but this could result in being horribly underinsured. For example, assume your home is a 2,000-square-foot-home, has a taxable value of $75,000, and would cost $45 per square foot to rebuild. The total cost to rebuild this home would be $90,000. If you were insured for the taxable value, you would be trying to rebuild a your home while facing a $20,000 deficit. Plus you don't want include the value of the land your home is on when calculating your coverage; land is not at risk from theft, fire, windstorm, and other perils covered in your homeowners policy.

Determining your level of coverage--your home's contents
In a standard policy, possessions are usually covered at stated percentage of the value of the structure coverage, and there are listed limits for certain items. This level may not be sufficient to cover the replacement of all your property. To determine how much property insurance coverage you need, make an inventory of all your home's contents. Don't forget to include furniture, appliances, draperies, jewelry, artwork, and the contents of your closets, cabinets and the toy chest. When possible, list the serial number, date and cost of purchase. Include receipts if possible. An easy way to inventory your possessions is to use a video camera or take photos. When using a video camera, you can talk about the specific items, their cost, and when you bought them. Ideally, you would want enough insurance coverage to replace your possessions if they were destroyed. If the value of your possessions is larger than the stated percentage of your structural coverage, don't panic--you can buy additional coverage for your possessions.

Keep a copy of your inventory in a location away from your home--like a safety deposit box, or with a trusted friend or family member. This way, if your home is destroyed, your inventory list will be safe at another location. When you make major purchases, remember to add them to your inventory and check your policy--you may need to increase your coverage levels.

Determining your level of coverage--liability protection
The standard amount of liability coverage in a homeowners policy is $100,000, which covers personal liability, medical payments, and property damage for damage, or personal injury caused to others. If you feel you need more coverage, talk to us about the availability of a higher level of coverage or the possibility of purchasing a separate liability umbrella policy.

Periodically review your existing coverage
At least once a year, review your homeowners coverage to make sure it is keeping pace with any major purchases or additions to your home. In addition, if you fear inflation will decrease the value of your policy, an inflation guard endorsement, which is built-in to many homeowners policies these days, ensures that your coverage amount increases a bit every year to keep up with inflation.  What this means, for example, is if your house increases in value next year by 5% your policy's replacement limit will also increase, according to some predetermined index of local home values.

Learn More...

Overview | Understanding The Basics | Types Of Insurance | Coverage Amounts
Choosing A Policy | Filing A Claim | Other Types Of Insurance | Home Safety Tips
Planning Concerns | Home Glossary

Please Note: The information contained in this Web site is provided solely as a source of general  information and resource.  It is a not a statement of contract and coverage may not apply in all areas or circumstances.  For a complete description of coverages, always read the insurance policy, including all endorsements.