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Six Steps to Protect Your Home

Wherever you live, it pays to take steps to take action; to move in a matter.

See also: Step
 to protect your home from storms and maintain your homeowners coverage.

1. Keep your record clean. Raise your deductible to at least $1,000, which lowers your premiums and eliminates the temptation to file small claims that could prompt insurers to drop you.

Insurers share information about your claims history through the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE), so having a clean record could help you get coverage elsewhere if you need to find a new insurer. Order a copy of your CLUE report at

2. Don't take no for an answer. If an insurer tries to drop you, ask what you can do to keep your coverage -- such as increasing your deductible, making home improvements (storm-resistant windows, for example) or switching your auto insurance to the same insurer.

3. Consult an expert. Independent insurance agents know the marketplace and the best strategies for finding an insurer to cover you. And they know each company's reputation for customer service and financial stability, which can make a big difference if you file a claim. Find an independent agent in your area.

4. Buy enough coverage. Trey Hutt, an independent agent in Panama City Panama City, city (1990 pop. 34,378), seat of Bay co., NW Fla., on St. Andrews Bay; inc. 1909. A Gulf Coast resort with amusement parks and excellent fishing, it is also a port of entry. The city's industries produce paper, clothing, and chemicals. , Fla., says that when rates are on the rise, one of his biggest challenges is to persuade customers to increase their coverage to keep up with rising building costs. Marshall Swift/Boekh, which provides rebuilding costs for insurers, estimates that 59% of U.S. homes are underinsured un·der·in·sure  
tr.v. un·der·in·sured, un·der·in·sur·ing, un·der·in·sures
To insure under a policy that provides inadequate benefits: Be certain that you are not underinsured against catastrophic illness.
, by an average of 22%.

Regardless of whether you live in a hurricane-prone area, let your insurer know if you've made home improvements. Boosting your coverage may not increase your premiums nearly as much as you'd expect.

5. Don't forget flood insurance Flood insurance denotes the specific insurance coverage against property loss from flooding. To determine risk factors for specific properties, insurers will often refer to topographical maps that denote lowlands and floodplains that are susceptible to flooding. . Flooding isn't covered under your homeowners policy, but coverage can be cheap if you aren't in a flood zone. Don't wait until the last minute; there's a 30-day waiting period before the insurance takes effect. Flood coverage is available through the National Flood Insurance Program The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was created by the Congress of the United States in 1968 through the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968 (P.L. 90-448).  (see for price quotes).

If you live in a low-risk area, maximum coverage of $250,000 will cost you less than $350 per year. That's how much it cost insurance agent Don Beery beer·y  
adj. beer·i·er, beer·i·est
1. Smelling or tasting of beer: beery breath.

2. Affected or produced by beer: beery humor.
 to renew the coverage on his New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded  home. "I paid that bill in a hurry," says Beery.

Chubb has begun offering its own flood policies for its homeowners-insurance customers. The Chubb policies cost more, but provide higher limits and additional coverage.

6. Beef up your emergency fund. More insurers are moving toward percentage deductibles, especially for windstorm wind·storm  
A storm with high winds or violent gusts but little or no rain.


A storm with high winds or violent gusts but little or no rain.
 damage. So you might have to pay 2% to 5% of your home's insured value -- that's $6,000 to $15,000 on a $300,000 home.

Other common storm-related expenses -- such as removing fallen trees, which can cost thousands of dollars -- generally aren't covered unless the tree lands on your house. Before hurricane season Hurricane season refers to a period in a year when hurricanes usually form. For more information see: Tropical cyclone#Times of formation.

For a lists of past seasons, see:
  • The Atlantic hurricane season (see also )
, set aside several thousand dollars in a money-market account to cover potential out-of-pocket costs out-of-pocket costs Managed care Health care costs that a covered person must pay out of pocket–eg, coinsurance, deductibles, etc. See Copayment.  (see our yields and rates page for the best money-market rates). If you have a cash kitty, says Hutt, you can get a jump on hiring repair crews and be reimbursed by your insurer later.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated since it originally was published in 2006.
Copyright 2006
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Author:Kimberly Lankford, Contributing Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Date:Apr 17, 2006
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