In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, stories have emerged of homeowners whose hazard insurance coverage was too low to cover the damage to their respective properties.
Unfortunately, this scenario is common among U.S. homeowners, and is not just limited to damage from natural disasters. Homeowners in Longmont and nationwide are often woefully under-insured against catastrophe in its many forms.
Whether you’re buying a home, or own one already, revisit your hazard insurance policy choices and be sure that your bases are covered.
Here are four common components of a homeowners insurance policy :
Look for the amount listed under this section and divide it by the square footage of your home. Talk to your insurance agent, your real estate agent and perhaps even your contractor to determine whether your current coverage is sufficient. Be sure to consider lot size and building materials.
What if a person is injured on your property and decides to sue? Whether your dog bit someone’s hand or a guest slipped on a wet floor, lawsuits can be expensive. Most liability policies start at $100,000.
Few homeowners policies cover valuables such as art, jewelry, antiques, gold, or wine collections. However, you can usually add coverage for these items for a small annual fee. Appraisals are sometimes required.
When you live in a condominium or a co-op, the building often has coverage for the “walls out”. Everything inside a unit remains the responsibility of the homeowner. To be sure, however, prior to purchasing coverage for a condo or co-op, show your insurance agent the homeowners association hazard policy for recommendations.
A little bit of insurance coverage goes a long way when it comes to unforeseen disasters — but only if you maintain proper coverage. Speak with your insurance agent regularly to make sure you’ve never under-insured. Accidents, after all, are unexpected by definition.
As a homeowner in Boulder , your fiscal responsibility extends beyond just making mortgage payments. You must also pay your home’s real estate taxes as they come due, as well as your homeowners insurance policy premiums.
Failure to pay real estate taxes can result in foreclosure. Failure to insure your home is a breach of your mortgage loan terms.
There are two methods by which you can pay your real estate tax and homeowners insurance bills.
The first method is to pay your taxes and insurance as the bills come due, usually semi-annually. Depending on your home’s tax bill size and the cost to insure your home, these payments can feel quite large — especially if you’ve failed to budget for them properly.
The second method of paying your taxes and insurance is to give your lender the right to pay them on your behalf, a process known as “escrowing for taxes and insurance”.
When you escrow your real estate taxes and homeowners insurance, you pay a portion of your annual obligation to your lender each month, which your lender then holds in a special account for you, and disperses to your taxing entities and insurance company as needed. Lenders prefer that homeowners escrow taxes and insurance because, in doing so, the lender is assured that tax bills remain current and that homes stay insured.
Want a discount on your next mortgage rate? Tell your lender that you’re willing to escrow.
To help calculate your monthly escrow payment to your lender, do the following :
- Find your home’s annual real estate tax bill
- Find your home’s annual homeowners insurance premium
- Add the two figures and divide by 12 months in a year
The quotient is your monthly “escrow”; the extra payment you’ll make to your lender each month along with your regularly scheduled principal + interest payment. Then, when your tax bills and insurance premiums come due, your lender will make sure the payments are made on your behalf.
If you’re unsure whether escrowing is right for you, talk to your loan officer and/or financial planner. There are valid reasons to choose either path.