The risk of hurricanes makes buying homeowners insurance in Florida and some other states much more complex and expensive than it is in many other areas. It’s important to find out about a house’s insurability before buying it so that you don’t end up with annual premiums that are several thousand dollars more than you were expecting to pay. While the advice below is specifically for Florida, it can also apply to homebuyers in other states that are at risk for hurricanes.
Get a wind mitigation inspection. Before buying, ask for a wind mitigation inspection in addition to a standard home inspection. This inspection will include information on the shape and age of the roof (a hip-shaped or pyramid-like roof from 2002 or later is usually best), the size of the nails used to attach the roof to the truss, the device used to hold the trusses to the walls, and whether the home has hurricane shutters or impact glass, says Chris Heidrick, an independent insurance agent in Sanibel, Fla. “The cost to insure a home without wind mitigation features could be four times higher than a home with wind mitigation,” he says. Then ask an insurance agent to use that information to help estimate the cost to insure the house.
Check the home’s CLUE report. The Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) is a database in which insurers share information about home insurance claims to help identify a property’s risks when setting premiums. The CLUE report shows the amount, type and date of each claim over the past five years, so it can alert home buyers to potential problems that could cause costly damage and perhaps affect their insurance rates. You can’t order a report on a home you don’t own yet, but your real estate agent can ask the seller for a copy of the “Home Seller’s Disclosure Report,” a version of the CLUE report that excludes personal details. Homeowners can order the report for $19.50 at the CLUE Home Seller’s Disclosure Reportpage.
Shop around for home insurance. The availability of coverage and premiums can vary a lot by insurer. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has a great Rate Comparison Tool that provides premium estimates from the insurers selling home insurance in your county based on three general categories: a home valued at $150,000 and constructed before 2001 (when building requirements changed) with wind mitigation, the same home without wind mitigation, and a newly constructed home valued at $300,000. Your premiums will vary widely based on your home’s location, design and wind mitigation details, but the tool can give you a rough idea of the premiums and the list of insurers selling coverage in your county. Among the insurers listed on the comparison tool is Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, a not-for-profit created by the Florida legislature in 2002 to provide insurance to property owners who can’t find coverage from private insurers. You can find an independent agent in your area who works with many companies and knows the local marketplace at TrustedChoice.com. Also see the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation’s Hurricane Season Resources for more information about your rights, insurers selling coverage in your area, and resources to help you find a policy and get your claim paid.