My Insurance Philosophy: Catastrophic Protection

When it comes to insurance, my approach is that insurance protects you against catastrophic events that would otherwise leave you broke. It’s for covering your car against being totaled, covering your home against that one big earthquake or fire or tornado that’ll level it, and for covering the unforeseen medical emergency where your life depends on you pulling out all the medical stops. It’s like the backstop or net at a baseball game. The ball has to get past the batter, catcher, and umpire before it’ll hit the backstop. In most games it’ll never gets that far, but for the one time it does, I bet those fans are glad that net is there.

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 The Home 

Quoting Premiums for Combined Homeowners and Auto Insurance Coverage

So they say that getting your auto insurance and homeowners insurance with one policy underwriter and in the next week or I’ll be figuring out whether I can find a better deal than I’m getting right now. Currently my auto insurance is through Geico, my homeowners insurance is through Travelers, and while they have an agreement with each other, neither gives an additional discount because the other policy is through their partner (as confirmed by a CSR on both ends). So, my plan now is to get a quote for both auto insurance and homeowners insurance from State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, Erie Insurance, and any others I may have missed (please leave comments if you know of one I should request a quote from).

My current auto insurance premium from Geico General Insurance Company is $344.90 per six months, or $689.80 per year. My current homeowners insurance premium from St. Paul Travelers Company is $712.00 per year.

That puts my annual total for both at $1401.80, or around 116.82 per month, let’s see if any of the above listed insurance companies can beat that.

 The Home 

Ask For A CLUE Report Before Buying

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.

 The Home 

Information Needed for a Homeowner’s Insurance Quote

I called up Geico, with whom I have an automobile insurance policy, to see about getting homeowner’s insurance because I’ll need a policy in place before we close on Friday. I was basically completely unprepared for the battery of questions the CSR asked me but we struggled through it and came up with a quote on a $295,000 policy with a $500 deductible of $843/year. I’ll be sure to compare that rate with other insurers but $70/month seemed reasonable to me at first glance but I have no experience with homeowner’s insurance. However, I probably answered some of the questions inaccurately so if you’re going to get a quote, here are the questions you should have answers to:

These were sent to me in an email by the CSR, who worked for Travelers (underwrites policies for Geico):
Here is a list of questions of good to know information because they will probably ask this of you.

  • Address of home
  • County
  • Year of construction
  • Type of construction
  • Square footage of home
  • Type of roof material
  • Condition of roof (Excellent, Good, Fair)
  • Type of heat (Oil, gas, electric, other)
  • Any form of alternate heat (woodstove, kerosene heater, or electric space heater)
  • Distance to fire hydrant (in feet)
  • Distance to fire department (in miles)
  • Is there a garage?
  • Is there a porch, deck, breezeway attached? What dimensions?
  • Security/protective devices:
  • Deadbolt locks?
  • Are there smoke detectors?
  • Do you own a fire extinguisher?
  • If home is older than 1990
    • Year roof was replaced or original
    • Year heating was updated or original
  • Electrical service- circuit breaker or fuse box?
  • Purchase price/Current coverage amount
  • If purchase price- contact person for lender, phone # and if possible, fax #

I hope that comprehensive list is helpful for someone so you don’t sound like a dope when you call in. 🙂

One company I’ve been told we should check out is Liberty Mutual because they give discounts to my alma mater. I’ll probably give them and perhaps one other company a call just to get an idea of the quality of the $843 quote.

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