Unless you work in the insurance industry, you likely have only a vague understanding of home insurance. For good reason – the industry is boring, opaque, and confusing. Spending a few minutes up front understanding the basics can save future headache (or worse, complete financial ruin). Let's take a quick dive into what matters and what doesn't in comparing and choosing the right home policy.
The Big 5
1.) The Actual Policy: this is a legal contract and is your best line of defense in case of a claim. Homeowners policies are based off of state standardized forms, though insurance carriers differ in terms of what is automatically included in the base policy vs treated as an add-on. The most common is an "HO-3", which offers well-rounded coverage. You can see the common exclusions in an HO-3 policy here. The HO-5 is a premium version that adds a more protection, while an HO-2 or HO-8 are bare bones options that I would rarely recommend.
2.) The Coverage Limits and Add-ons: The most important coverage limits to check are:
Coverage A - Home: this is the max amount you will be reimbursed to rebuild your home.
Coverage C - Personal Property: make sure you have enough to replace all of your couches, clothes, appliances, electronics, etc. This can add up.
Coverage E - Liability: this protects you in case you accidentally hurt someone else or their stuff. I'd suggest a minimum liability coverage of $300,000. As a rule of thumb you should try to keep this coverage greater than your net worth. If you have more than $500,000 in assets, it is a no-brainer to add an umbrella policy.
Check my easy coverage definitions for simple explanations of different options. There are a few add-ons to always consider as they do not come standard in many home insurance policies:
3.) Deductibles: many policies have one deductible, though be sure to check if there is a separate deductible for wind/hail damage or damage from a hurricane.
4.) Price: First make sure you are comparing policies on an apples-to-apples basis. You can use price to help determine which one to purchase once they are standing on even ground.
Below is a sample quote sheet that you will get if you shop with Young Alfred. Notice the apples-to-apples coverage and price comparison that you won't find anywhere else online.
Other Considerations (less important than the Big 5 listed above)
Financial Ratings: while important, most standard carriers these days are rated A- or better by AM Bests. Insurance carriers are regulated to keep very conservative reserves, and if a carrier gets completely wiped out in a major catastrophe, the state steps in with additional funds. The higher the rating the better, though this does not indicate your policies quality or customer service.
Discounts: "vanishing deductibles", "safe driver", "paperless policy"... you've heard them all in the commercials. There are discounts out there, and any good agent will ensure you get all the discounts available at each carrier.
Self-Servicing Online Accounts/Tools: nice to have, especially in an industry still stuck on fax machines, but less important than ensuring you are adequately covered.
I'm here to help you easily compare your home insurance options.
At your service,