While it never bit me, I wish I had checked my house’s CLUE record which is like a credit history for your house, except for insurance claims. CLUE stands for Claims Loss Underwriting Exchange and it’s a database of insurance claims run by ChoicePoint (yeah, that same ChoicePoint). As it turns out, only the owner of the home can request it (so if you make it a contingency, they have to look it up and send it to you) and it’s pretty painless. If you go to their website, you can get your report absolutely free and the only two bits of sensitive information you need to provide is your social security number and date of birth (and address of course). It’s very much like a credit history report request in that they pull four bits of information from your history to verify your identity (such as what streets did you live on, what’s your mortgage, etc.)
The CLUE record, superficially, will give you an idea of how insurable the house is but it also gives you greater insight on what sort of problems may exist in the house or the neighborhood. For example, I discovered two water damage claims in 2001 and 2003 – should I be getting myself some flood insurance? What was the nature of the water damage? (The claims were both for around $2,800) My girlfriend reminds me that Hurricane Isabel was in 2003 and dropped a lot of water on Baltimore (parts were severely flooded) so the claims may not be systemic of an unknown home problem.
In fact, it seems as this is a fairly common contingency in buying contracts when the market isn’t blazing white hot. Unfortunately I probably wouldn’t have received consideration if I requested the home sale be contingent on my acceptance of the CLUE report but it didn’t hurt so no big deal. It would’ve been terrible to buy the house and then find out insurance premiums would be off the charts for some unknown reason.