By Jessica Benes

There are a few things to think about when shopping around for homeowners insurance.

The company

“Foremost is the company, you want a reputable company. Usually someone you’ve heard of would be good,” said Sue Helfrich, owner of Helfrich and Associates, an Allstate agency. 

“Will they be there at the time of the claim? (A home) is their biggest asset, don’t cut corners here.”

Next up is representation. Is the customer willing to call a 1-800 number and get a different person each time, or do they want a local person with whom they can build a trusting relationship?

The property

Then there’s the property itself. When purchasing a home, the most important question for an insurance agent is, “How old is the roof?” The roof needs to be able to sustain substantial hail and wind events in Colorado. An insurance agent has
30 days after a client closes on a home to go inspect the new home. If the agent says a new roof is needed, that’s unfortunate for the client since they have already closed.

Helfrich said that Fort Collins now requires roofs to be hail-resistant on new construction. Greeley has not done this yet.

The policy

All basic policies usually cover four main items: the dwelling itself; detached structures like sheds, garages and fences; personal property; and liability if someone gets hurt on the property. Helfrich said liability is critical in our litigious society. Anyone, even if they’re trespassing, can sue a homeowner if they get hurt on your property.

Helfrich said it’s important to pay attention to what a policy doesn’t cover, rather than what it does cover.

You want to make sure there isn’t a limit to what is covered under basic wind, hail, fire, or lightning coverage. For example, the insurance policy might not cover replacing pipes if the pipes freeze. 

You also want to make sure that if you make a claim, you will get “replacement cost” rather than “actual cash value.” Replacement value means that if a television is five years old, many policies will replace the TV with one of similar value by today’s standards. Actual cash value would mean the policy would depreciate that TV and give you the cash for the current value of that old TV (maybe $50).

“The insurance’s obligation is to put you in the same position as before the loss,” Helfrich said.

Usually, home insurance claims are settled on replacement cost value, although there might be an exception if the home is really old. Cars, on the other hand, are settled on actual cash value.

The cost

When weighing the cost of homeowner’s insurance, pay attention to the deductible. Like, health insurance, a slightly higher deductible offsets the cost of the premium. (The premium is how much you pay annually for the insurance, the deductible is how much you pay out-of-pocket in a claim before receiving money back for that claim). But you want to make sure you can pay that deductible if you have a loss. 

In health insurance, a young healthy person might risk a higher deductible, knowing they’re likely to be healthy for longer. Similarly, in the house insurance world, the age of the roof is the thing to pay attention to. A newer roof can withstand more hail damage, so a homeowner might be able to then stomach a larger deductible.

“We should all have tile roofs like in Arizona!” Helfrich said.

“Knowledge is power,” she said. “The more you know about it, the better off you’ll be.”

> Allstate Ins. Co. / Helfrich & Associates, 1120 38th Ave., Greeley, 970.353.8572, sue-helfrich-greeley-co.html