Shopping for Homeowner's Insurance the Right Way Can Yield Discounts

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Shopping for homeowner's insurance before your existing policy expires and buying a new home are some ways consumers can reap additional discounts, according to Bankrate.com.

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Insurance companies are offering some surprising ways to save on homeowner's insurance with four out of the top ten insurers offering a discount for a home that was recently built or renovated. Bankrate’s analysis examined the discounts offered by the ten largest insurers operating nationwide on their websites.

“Insurance agents often do not volunteer information about discounts, so it’s up to the consumer to ask,” said Crissinda Ponder, Bankrate.com insurance analyst. “You can’t assume your insurer knows that you recently renovated your home or installed a new security system. A short phone call with your rep could potentially save you hundreds of dollars each year.”

Three of the top ten insurers reward customers who shop early by requesting a quote and switching to a new carrier before their existing policy expires.

“A lot of homeowners don’t know they should be asking about discounts,” she said. “Insurance companies don’t have to tell you. It’s up to you to find out the information. If you want the savings, you have to take the initiative.”

The most common homeowner’s insurance discounts include owning security systems and smoke alarms. All ten of the top insurers offer this discount for having protective devices such as sprinklers.

Eight of the top ten insurers offer a discount for a recently renovated or constructed home and for going a certain length of time without filing a claim. Being loyal and maintaining your policy with the same carrier for a number of years nets you a discount with two of the carriers.

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If you are considering replacing your roof, choosing one that is constructed of materials that makes it less prone to storm damage is beneficial since it gives you an additional discount at four companies.

When putting on a new roof, inquire about any savings that might be available, said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, the Washington, D.C. non-profit organization. She and her family were able to benefit from additional savings to their premium for using a class-four roof, which means the roof is more resistant to wind and hail damage.

“No one wants a bad surprise when they make a claim, so consumers need to be aware of what they’re paying for and any exclusions,” she said. “During the annual check-up, make sure you understand whether or not you have replacement insurance on the dwelling and contents.”

Additional Secret Sources of Savings

Your previous college Greek life or your current employer can be a boon to you now. Working for a certain company or field, belonging to a fraternity, sorority, professional association or other group nets you a discount is offered by two of the ten largest insurers.

Liberty Mutual has affinity relationships with more than 14,000 companies and organizations, including more than 750 college alumni associations that may entitle you to additional savings on your home policy, said Glenn Greenberg, a senior consultant at Liberty Mutual Insurance in Boston.

Non-smokers are also winners with two companies who give them a discount for not having anyone in their home smoking as well as retirees who are age 55 or older who get a break from three companies. One insurance company starts its discount at the age of 50.

While all of these discounts can add up to hundreds of dollars each year, avoid getting caught up in the discounts alone and search for the company that best fits your needs and budget, said Ponder. The discounts vary from state to state, and while some insurance companies have pages dedicated to their discounts, others post them in the question and answer section, so emailing or calling your agent can be your best bet.

“Even if a company has a long list of discounts, it may not be the best deal for you,” she said. “It is important to shop around.”

Having a good credit score will help homeowners qualify for lower premiums, said Richard McGrath, CEO of McGrath Insurance Group of Sturbridge, Mass. In addition to having an alarm, other protection devices such as dead bolts and water leak detectors can lower your cost.

“You may decide to purchase the lowest price policy to save money, but be sure you understand all of the alternatives and get a recommendation specific to your property,” he said. “If you end up without coverage for a claim, it’s important that you understand why.”

--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet

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