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What do you like the most about your home - the bright, sun-filled kitchen, the shiny wood floors or the comfortable bedrooms?
Or is it the fact that your home probably makes up maybe the biggest part - of your total net worth?
Either way, you have to protect what you have, using homeowner's insurance.
Although there were reports a few years ago of higher prices and limited availability for homeowners insurance, the market has opened up again, according to J. Robert Hunter, insurance director for the Consumer Federation of America. Premiums are expected to rise by no more than the inflation rate this year, he said.
"The market remains a competitive one where homeowners' insurance shoppers can be selective," said Marshall McKnight, a spokesman for the state Department of Banking and Insurance.
"You can go from one company to another and pay twice as much," said Hunter.
And don't just call an agent and expect him to do the shopping for you, Hunter advised, because agents don't represent all companies and might not get you the best deal.
Let's say your home would cost $200,000 to replace and you're insured for only $100,000, half of the replacement cost. If you have a $10,000 loss, you would get only half of that amount, or $5,000.
Of course, knowing how much it would cost to replace your home is not always easy. For example, I know how much I paid for my home, and how much I could probably sell it for, but I don't have a clue how much it would cost to rebuild if it burned down.
The state Department of Banking and Insurance and the Insurance Council of New Jersey recommend that homeowners in this situation should consult their insurer, who will be able to estimate the cost of rebuilding based on the size and location of the home.
"If you're not going to file a small claim, it's no use paying a premium to be covered for an amount you wouldn't file for," Hunter said.
"Every dollar you give to an insurance company, on average you only get back 60 cents," Hunter said. The rest goes to the insurance company's profit and overhead. So if you can self-insure for smaller losses, you should.
About 20 years ago, Hunter raised |the deductibles on both his car and |home policies, and banked the money he saved on premiums in a special account. Over the years, he used that account to pay for about $2,000 to $3,000 in losses, mostly auto-related. He still has $4,000 - money that the insurance company |could have had.
"Nowadays, most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500. If you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25 percent," according to the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group.
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