Homeowners who have resolved to save money in 2017 can try many ways to economize — energy-efficient lightbulbs, cutting the cable cord and more. However, they could be overlooking a potential source of thriftiness hiding in plain sight.
You may have lost track of your home insurance premium, seeing as how it could be rolled into escrow along with your mortgage payment and property taxes. Just because you don’t see an individual bill for it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Any policyholder can feel motivated to shop around, whether it’s about saving money, rounding out coverage, etc.
Should you find yourself in the market for a new home insurance company, for whatever reason, you’ll need to come prepared. The following tips and guidelines can help.
Things to do before you start shopping
Tips to help you prepare for your search and avoid backtracking include:
- Get your paperwork together. With a copy of your current policy in hand, you’ll be better able to compare coverages, premiums and discounts among the providers you’re considering.
- Update your home inventory. If you’ve added or subtracted personal belongings since buying your current policy, those changes can help you calculate your new contents coverage. An up-to-date home inventory will give you a better idea of how much protection you may need, whether more or less.
- Check your credit report. Depending on the provider and the regulations in your state, your credit score could have an effect on premiums. (Keeping an eye on your credit rating can help you avoid nasty surprises in general.)
- Give your current provider another chance. Your insurance agent might be willing to offer a financial incentive to stay put, such as reviewing your policy to look for additional discounts. If price is your motivation for shopping around, a call to your agent could prove worthwhile.
Be ready to answer questions
When you speak with an agent about switching providers, the information you provide plays an essential role in determining premiums and coverages. You may anticipate such questions as:
- Have you had any life changes? From a change in marital status to the addition of a four-legged family member, recent developments in your life could affect your premiums and coverage needs. Sharing this kind of information can help you get a more accurate quote.
- Have you filed any claims? Your claims history helps determine your risk profile, which might have an influence on your premiums. You can request a personal history of your claims from a national database called CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange).
- Are you interested in an insurance bundle? Many providers offer discounts for bundling different types of policies, such as home and auto. Unless you’re satisfied with your current auto coverage, consider getting your car insurance from the same provider as your homeowners to save money.
Remember to finalize and follow up
If you do find a new home insurance provider, your work isn’t over. Make certain to iron out a few details such as:
- Making the cancellation official. Contact your soon-to-be-former agent immediately and get specific details on canceling your current policy. For example, some providers may require a written notice.
- Inquiring about refunds. Although policies can differ from company to company, you may be entitled to a refund from your current provider. When you talk to your agent about cancellation, be sure to ask whether the company will refund any of your prepaid premium.
- Notifying your mortgage lender. Many of today’s mortgages feature escrows, which operate as savings accounts that mortgage lenders oversee to pay for expenses such as home insurance and property taxes. If your mortgage includes an escrow, keep your lender informed about any change in providers to keep record-keeping and payments current.
A serious decision requires a serious approach
If you have homeowners insurance, congratulations on your loyalty. As a group, home insurance customers tend to stick with their providers. However, any customer — including you — has the right to shop around.
Changing home insurance providers is an important decision, one that no consumer should take lightly. When you undertake a big task, never underestimate the value of a little advance work