Finding an Insurance Agent
An insurance policy is one of those necessities that hopefully you’ll never have to use. As a homeowner, you need insurance policies that cover your house, property and valuables. If you're researching what kind of coverage you need, a good insurance agent can help you decide which policy is best for you.
Selecting an Insurance Agent
When looking for an insurance agent, a good place to start is the website of the California Board of Insurance. All insurance agents and brokers in California must display their license numbers on business cards and brochures or other marketing materials. You can check the status and details of the agent's license at http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0200-industry/0070-check-license-status/.
Your home is probably the most important asset that you have, so when you buy residential insurance you should research your options carefully. There are various levels of homeowners' insurance that you can buy, depending on your needs. The most basic homeowners' insurance will cover you against fire and theft; you can also buy coverage against earthquakes and other disasters, damage from burst pipes, personal liability claims, etc. You can use the website of the California Insurance Board to access a 2012 survey of premiums from insurers offering homeowners' insurance in California, at http://interactive.web.insurance.ca.gov/survey/index.jsp. These are not quotes but are intended to be a guide to premiums that a homeowner in various scenarios might pay. For a more detailed assessment, an insurance agent should be able to advise you on the level of coverage and type of policy that you need, if a general policy will be enough or if you need special coverage. If you keep valuables such as art, antiques or jewelry in your home, or if you have a home office, or you run a business from home, you should tell your insurance agent, as this may affect the kind of coverage that you decide to buy.
Before you pick a policy, ask if claims are paid for at replacement value or actual cash value (ACV). If your property is stolen or damaged, will you be reimbursed for the replacement value of your items or for their actual cash value? Ask if you will be paid what the home theater you bought three years ago is actually worth now, or if you will be reimbursed for what it will cost you to replace it.
If you watch TV at all, you've probably seen a lot of insurance commercials by now. They do have a point: sometimes you can save money by bundling. If you need car insurance, ask your agent if they offer any discounts if you buy your home and auto insurance together.
Also, be sure to ask your agent if there are any repairs or improvements that could reduce your premiums if you were to carry them out. For example, installing new locks, security systems or storm shutters, might result in a savings on your premiums substantial enough to offset the cost of the improvement.
Hopefully you'll never need to make an insurance claim. But if you do need to make a claim, it will make the process easier if you've previously taken photographs or video footage of your household items and furnishings and made an inventory list of the items as well. Be sure to include serial numbers if applicable. Keep your records, with a copy of your policy, in a secure location, such as a fireproof lockbox, or better yet, in a safe deposit box at your bank. If you need to make a claim, you should do it as soon as possible after an emergency or natural disaster, so keep the contact information of your insurance agent and a copy of your policy handy.
Now that you're ready to shop for insurance coverage, let BizPals help you find the right insurance agent to assist you.