How Does a Home Makeover Affect Your Homeowner’s Insurance?


By Diane Tait

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When it comes to owning a home, most of us want to feather our nest from time to time.  That means performing the occasional home makeover or addition.  Whether you’re simply looking to add a garage onto your home, upgrade your kitchen or bathrooms, add a patio or deck, or add a new room or floor, any of these can affect your homeowner’s insurance.  With that in mind, I thought I’d devote this week’s blog to letting you know what you need to do if you’re looking to upgrade your home.

1.      Upgrading your home adds to its value If you’ll remember when you signed up for your homeowner’s policy, one of the first things your agent asked you was the value of your home.  That’s because your homeowner’s policy is used to determine the replacement cost of your home.  Should a fire, storm or other calamity destroy your home, you’ll need to replace it.  That being said, if you upgrade or add onto your home, you need to tell your insurance agent, so the enhanced value of your home is reflected in your coverage.  If not, you could find yourself a day late and tens of thousands of dollars short if your home is destroyed and you haven’t increased your coverage.

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2.      Will my policy cover my home if I’m not in it when the renovation takes place? – If you read the fine print on your homeowner’s policy, you may find it stipulates that your home needs to be occupied in order for it to be covered.  Should a major renovation force you to temporarily vacate your home, you don’t want to your coverage to be invalidated.  Especially since a contractor or laborer could cause your home to be damaged or destroyed while the renovations are taking place.  Not to worry, since it’s a simple matter to request a vacancy permit from your insurer.  A vacancy permit may cost you a few dollars, but it will ensure your home is insured while you are living elsewhere.  (Ask your agent about obtaining a vacancy permit.)

3.      Speaking of contractors and their hired help –  Some homeowner’s make the mistake of thinking they should wait until after construction is complete to talk to their agent.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Having strangers work on your home represents increased liability to you the homeowner.  Regardless of what the contractor tells you, if a worker is injured on your property, you could be held liable.  It may be a good idea to ask your agent what it would cost to increase your coverage during the construction period.  Spending a few dollars for a month or so beats having to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in damages and court costs should the worst come to pass.

4.      This old home – If your home is more than thirty years old, it’s entirely possible that during the renovation your contractor could uncover structural deficiencies, building code violations, or hazardous material that needs to be remediated.  It’s possible that some of these “discoveries” could also affect your insurance coverage.  Again, when in doubt sort it out with your insurance agent.

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5.      Do you plan on playing dirty pool? – If your renovation includes adding a pool to your property, you definitely need to consult your agent before you start digging.  While owning a pool increases the value of your home, it also increases your liability risks substantially.  Like it or not, ten people on average drown every day in the US, the majority of whom are children.  If you’re thinking about installing a pool, you will also need to install several safety measures, including a fence at least 4-feet high, equipping all doors leading to the pool area with self-locking mechanisms, and taking a state-sponsored water safety course.  (For more details, see my previous blog entitled, “How Safe is Your Swimming Pool?”)  It’s also obvious that you will need to talk to your insurance agent long before you slip into that bathing suit.

6.      Do you plan on working from home? – If you’re planning on running a small business from your home, you may need to acquire additional liability insurance along with your business license.  Your homeowner’s policy doesn’t extend to perils that can occur in the workplace, including slip and fall injuries, or errors and omissions, not to mention the theft of expensive office equipment.  Regardless of the type and scope of your business, you want to make sure  you don’t wind up putting your biggest investment (your home) in peril by under-insuring your second largest investment (your business).

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7.      Do you love to cook? – It isn’t at all unusual for a homeowner to spend between $30,000-$60,000 to redo their kitchen. With this big of an investment, you want to make sure you boost the replacement value of your home to reflect what you put into your gourmet kitchen.  The same thing goes if you add a patio or deck.

8.      The big build – Whether you need more space because your family is growing, or because you’re tired of parking your car in the driveway, a room addition is a big deal.  A project of this scope is also a big deal to your insurance company, since your policy is predicated on the square footage of your home.  Make sure you tell your insurance agent about any additions before your contractor breaks ground or your insurance company could wind up breaking your heart if your home is damaged or destroyed during construction. 

9.      The proof is in the roof – Into every life a little rain must fall.  But it shouldn’t rain inside your home.  It isn’t unusual for a homeowner to have to replace a roof every fifteen years or so.  Putting up with a leaky old roof means having to deal with interior water damage or even mold.  An old roof is also considered a higher risk to your insurer, which is reflected in your premiums.  If you’re going to have your roof replaced, for goodness sake consult your insurance agent.  Who wants to pay more than they have to in order to get covered?

If you have any questions regarding your planned home improvements, call your insurance agent or Diane Tait at (904) 388-5494.

Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance.  To find out more about how you can save money on homeowner’s insurance, go to her site or fill out the form at right.


Comments

  1. Anyone who is considering a home update needs to read this blog first.

    ReplyDelete

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