By Elaine VonCannon, ABR, SRES, Associate Broker, Notary, Team Leader, Property Manager, Award Winning Agent
Whether you are buying a home, selling a home, retiring or relocating homeowner's insurance can be a tricky issue. Learning the basics of homeowners insurance is key to completing a smooth real estate transaction. Below are some important tips that can help you secure a homeowner's insurance policy. Knowledge, time management and professional advice will help you avoid common insurance problems.
The first and most important tip when purchasing a property is to always begin your search for an insurance policy as soon as you have made your first offer on a property. Homeowner's insurance is required to secure a mortgage, if you are unable to obtain a policy before closing your real estate purchase will not go through. Lack of homeowner's insurance can be a deal breaker, so give yourself as much time as possible.
Don't forget to shop around. Investigate all of your options and ask your real estate agent for their opinion and advice. It may take time, but it's worth it when you find the most coverage for the best price available.
Be sure to review a CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report on yourself and the property you want to purchase. Insurance companies report their losses to both of these national databases. During the underwriting process the insurance company will investigate any past claims filed and reported to the databases. If the database reports show a number of claims filed in the past the insurance company can deem the buyer or the property “high risk” and your application for homeowners insurance will be denied. Reviewing your CLUE report is like reviewing your credit report. Once you identify potential problems consult a real estate professional on how to handle the situation.
If you are calling to inquire about a possible homeowner's insurance claim state plainly and clearly that you are calling to make an inquiry and not to file a claim. Even zero-dollar claims (claims that do not result in payment) can count against you or the property in the CLUE databases.
Always read you homeowner's insurance policy carefully so you understand exactly what the coverage includes. Even the most common “all risks” policy, covers all causes of loss except those specifically excluded. Find out what causes are excluded and then purchase supplemental insurance, such as flood or wind insurance, if necessary.
When you choose an insurance company read the underwriting guidelines. These guidelines explain exactly what the insurance company is reviewing. This allows time for you to make any necessary repairs. A good insurance agent will then complete the field underwriting process by visiting and documenting the current state of the property.
According to the Virginia Association of Realtors, in the state of Virginia the insurance company can cancel your homeowner's insurance policy any time during the first ninety days after closing, as long as they provide 30 days notice. This often happens because the home inspector has come across a potential problem the insurance agent did not document. In this scenario you must make timely repairs to bring your property into compliance with the underwriting guidelines to avoid cancellation. The insurance agent will again visit the property to document them.
I recommended that you not file for claims less than $4,000. Three claims against you homeowner's insurance can lead to cancellation, regardless of the severity or cost of the claim. Smaller repairs are best paid from your own pocket. You can also purchase a homeowner's warranty. I often give home warranties as closing gifts to first time homebuyers, single homeowners and people buying a home over 7 years old. Warranties are renewed yearly. They cover a variety of items such as roofs, appliances, electrical, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, wells and septic depending on the type of warranty you have. These warranties are also a really great option for landlords.
Keeping these tips in mind when buying, selling, retiring or relocating will help your closing go smoothly and easily. To learn more about a variety of real estate topics please visit www.voncannonrealestate.com and read more educational articles available on my homepage.