If you're shopping for your dream home, you may have questions about homeowners insurance. It’s another expense of home ownership, so it’s logical to ask the question: Do you need homeowners insurance, and if so, when in the house buying process do you buy it?
Here's a list of frequently asked questions and answers to help you understand when you need to get homeowners insurance.
Is Homeowners Insurance Required?
There's no law that requires home insurance. But mortgage lenders do require you to get home insurance coverage before they will agree to finance your home purchase. Home insurance protects the mortgage lender’s investment by providing the money to repair or rebuild the home if it is damaged or destroyed by a fire, a lightning storm, a tornado or some other covered event.
What Kind of Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?
There are many things to consider, but for starters, you will probably want a homeowners insurance policy which typically covers:
- Your house: Homeowners insurance coverage can help pay to repair or rebuild your house and possibly other structures on your property, such as a detached garage or a storage shed, after damage from a covered loss.
- Your stuff: Homeowners insurance can help pay to replace your possessions, from your couch to your china, if they're damaged or destroyed by a covered loss.
- A place to stay: Your homeowners insurance policy may include additional living expenses (ALE) coverage to help cover the cost of a hotel or other lodging while your home is being fixed or rebuilt.
- Legal bills: If a guest slips on your walkway, you could be held liable. In this case, your homeowners insurance can help cover the related medical bills, your legal costs and potential court awards up to the dollar limit determined in the policy.
Generally, a typical homeowners policy does not include coverage for earthquakes or flood. Depending on the location of your home, your lender may require you to buy insurance that covers loss caused by earthquake or flood . And if you have valuable items that exceed the special dollar limits of your homeowners policy, such as an art collection or fine jewelry, you may want to purchase extra coverage, known as a Personal Articles Floater (PAF), for those items.
Is Hazard Insurance the Same as Homeowners Insurance?
Some mortgage lenders use the term "hazard insurance" to refer to the part of a homeowners insurance policy that covers the structure of the home. Even if the terminology seems a little confusing, simply put, this means the lender requires that you have homeowners insurance. The lender also may require you to have flood insurance or other coverage, depending on the location.
How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?
The amount of homeowners insurance you may need depends on the value of your home and your possessions. First, talk to your agent about a recommended dollar amount that will cover the value of the structure of your home, but also crunch the numbers to determine how much it would cost to rebuild in your area.
Next take an inventory of your belongings to see if their value falls within the policy dollar limit for personal property, typically set at 50% to 70% of the amount of insurance on the dwelling. Consider getting Replacement Cost overage, which can pay the amount needed to replace your items, rather than Actual Cash Value coverage. Think about how much Additional Living Expenses coverage you'd need if you were displaced from your home for an extended period. And finally, decide on the amount of liability coverage you need. The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends you buy enough to cover your assets, or at least $300,000 to $500,000 worth of coverage for the average homeowner.
Keep in mind that many insurance carriers offer discounts if you bundle multiple policies, install smart home technology or have a ‘green’ home. Check with your carrier or insurance agent to learn about ways you can potentially save on your homeowners insurance.
When Do I Need to Get Homeowners Insurance?
It's a good idea to start shopping for homeowners insurance as soon as you sign a contract to buy a home. This allows you to shop around for quotes and gives you time to get your policy in place before closing on the purchase. Typically, you will have a month or more between the time you sign a contract and the day you close on your new home. Do you need to have homeowners insurance before closing? Yes, you'll typically need to prove at closing that you've paid the first full year of premiums on your homeowners insurance.
How Long Does It Take to Get Homeowners Insurance?
If you are buying homeowners insurance for the first time, you probably wonder about the timeline for getting covered. The good news is that getting a homeowners insurance quote typically takes just a few minutes. If you decide to move forward and you're in a hurry, you may be able to get a homeowners insurance policy in a few hours depending on the type of property you are looking to insure. Otherwise, it typically takes one to three days to get homeowners insurance.
Do I Need Homeowners Insurance After I Pay Off My Mortgage?
Maybe you bought your home decades ago and the balance on your home loan is getting close to zero. Once you've made your last payment, your mortgage lender will no longer have any say in whether you carry insurance. But, consider the fact that you've spent years investing in your home and building equity and should a loss occur, you will want to have the protection of insurance for that investment. Your home is your safe haven, the place where you raise your family and create memories that last a lifetime. Homeowners insurance can help protect that investment well into the future.
What Will Happen If My Home Is Damaged and I Don't Have Homeowners Insurance?
If your home or property is damaged by a fire, windstorm or some other covered event, your homeowners insurance can help pay for the necessary repairs. But if damage occurs to your home and you don’t have homeowners insurance, you may have to pay out of pocket for repairs or find other resources to help rebuild your home. In a worst-case scenario, you could lose your entire investment. Keeping your homeowners insurance in good standing is a good way to ensure you’ll be able to cover the costs to repair and/or replace your home and belongings if they are damaged by a covered loss.