When you buy a home, you’re likely paying more than just the down payment and closing costs. You’ill probably also need to purchase homeowner’s insurance. While this coverage is not mandated by law, many mortgage lenders require it before they agree to finance the purchase of your home.
Here’s what first-time homebuyers need to know before shopping for homeowners insurance.
What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?
Homeowners insurance coverage provides protection for both a home and its contents against damage, theft, and up to 16 named perils, including fire, hail, windstorms, smoke, vandalism, and theft. It also typically includes personal liability coverage for accidents that may happen on the property (think of people slipping and falling down your stairs, or your dog biting a neighbor on the property).
On the flip side, basic homeowners insurance likely won’t cover damage from disasters such as floods and earthquakes, and even war (seriously). Homebuyers who live in an area prone to certain events or natural disasters may want to consider supplemental coverage. In some cases, their lender may even require it.
It’s a good idea to learn what’s generally covered by each homeowners insurance policy type — and what isn’t — to ensure you have the right protection in place.
When You Need to Buy Homeowners Insurance
If buyers plan to get a mortgage to purchase their home, their lender will likely require they obtain homeowners insurance coverage before signing off at closing.
In reality, this is a sound business tactic, as the lender will want to protect its investment, which is the property, not the person it’s lending to (harsh, we know). Let’s say the home is damaged in a windstorm or burns to the ground. Insurance will cover the cost, after a deductible, without burdening the homeowner. The homeowner can then continue to pay their mortgage on time, much to the delight of the lender.
Again, if you live in an area prone to certain disasters like floods or earthquakes, your lender may require additional coverage. Check with your lender on what’s necessary before signing.
If a person’s first home happens to be a condo or co-op, the board may also require specific coverage, thanks to a shared responsibility for the entire complex.
Can You Forgo Homeowners Insurance?
Technically, there are no laws requiring a person to obtain homeowners insurance, but it’s a rule put in place by many lenders.
If you’re paying cash for a new home, you can forgo purchasing homeowners insurance, though that may be a risky proposition.
Think you can somehow snake the system? Think again. If a lender doesn’t feel that the homebuyer is working hard or fast enough to find homeowners insurance before closing, the lender may go ahead and purchase insurance in that person’s name with what’s called “lender-placed insurance.”
This isn’t as cool as it sounds. Not only will it increase the mortgage payment, lender-placed insurance is typically more expensive than traditional homeowners insurance. And it may not even provide all the protection a homeowner needs or wants.
To give yourself enough time to find the right policy for you, aim to start shopping around a good 30 days before closing.
How Much Coverage a Person Needs
How much homeowners insurance a new homeowner needs will depend on the value of their home and the possessions in it. As a first step, would-be homeowners can ask their agent for a recommended amount of coverage.
After determining that number, it’s also a good idea to take stock of belongings and see if any items may require additional coverage (think expensive antiques, paintings, or other irreplaceable items). It could also be smart to photograph and digitally catalog major items in a home for proof needed on any claims.
Replacement Cost vs. Actual Cash Value
When shopping for homeowners insurance, there’s replacement cost coverage and actual cash value coverage.
Replacement cost coverage pays the amount needed to replace items with the same or similar item, while actual cash value coverage only covers the current, depreciated value of a home or possessions.
This means that if you have actual cash value coverage and disaster hits, you’ll only be able to get enough cash for the depreciated value of the home and items, not the cost of what it may take to replace them.
Most standard homeowners insurance policies cover the replacement cost of a physical home and the actual cash value of the insured’s personal property, but some policies and endorsements also cover the replacement cost of personal property.
The upshot: It’s best to go for replacement cost coverage whenever possible.
Recommended: How Much Is Homeowners Insurance?
Is homeowners insurance required to buy a home? If you’re taking out a mortgage, that’s almost always a “yes.” It’s worth looking at your options — and understanding what will and will not be covered — so you can feel at ease in your new home for years to come.
Of course, shopping for homeowners insurance often requires considering several options, from the amount of coverage to the kind of policy to the cost of the premium. To help simplify the process, SoFi has partnered with Experian to bring customizable and affordable homeowners insurance to our members.
Experian allows you to match your current coverage to new policy offers with little to no data entry. And you can easily bundle your home and auto insurance to save money. All with no fees and no paperwork.
Insurance not available in all states.
Experian is a registered service mark of Experian Personal Insurance Agency, Inc.
Social Finance, Inc. ("SoFi") is compensated by Experian for each customer who purchases a policy through Experian from the site.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.