Houston Homeowners Insurance - How to Prepare a Home Inventory and Understand Weather-Related Specialty Policies
Those living in the state of Texas have more than one hurdle to overcome where homeowners insurance is concerned. But if you live in Houston, you should know that getting better rates is not an impossible feat. You just have to know what coverage to consider and communicate that to the insurance companies you solicit quotes from.
Did you know that Houston residents live in a state that's near the top of the list where property damage resulting from floods and hurricanes are concerned? It's true, and as a result, standard homeowner policies available to Houston residents exclude this peril. Those living in the state of Texas must then obtain flood coverage via the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), and hurricane coverage via the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) as part of what's necessary for Houston homeowners insurance.
It may seem ironic, but many of us don't think about creating an inventory of our home's valuable items until disaster strikes. That may have something to do with the way home inventories are perceived; as time-consuming chores that no one wants to do. But in reality, creating a home inventory is far less complicated than it may seem on the surface. No longer do you have to try and write everything down manually; you can now record all of this information digitally.
How to Prepare a Home Inventory
If you have a digital camera, a computer with some kind of word processing or spreadsheet software installed, flashlight and a tape measure, then you are ready to prepare your home inventory. Other optional items you may wish to use include a flashlight for easier location of serial numbers and a scanner to provide copies of receipts and other information.
Making A Spreadsheet
Using spreadsheet software to make your home inventory is much simpler than it may appear to be. It all begins with figuring out how to label your items. Usually, you will only need about nine headings for your inventory. They are:
- Replacement value - this can be either an estimated or actual appraised value
- Item location
- Description of item
- Initial item cost
- Item purchase date
- Model number (if applicable)
- Serial number (if applicable)
These headings should be placed across the first row of your inventory. Next, you will enter in item names down the left side of your spreadsheet. After saving the document, you can begin entering information about each item. Your home inventory worksheet may end up looking something like this:
You may also wish to include where the warranties or receipts can be found if this information is applicable to the particular item you're entering information for.
Types Of Home Inventories
These days, your home inventory can be as detailed as you want it to be. You can have a completely digital home inventory that may take the form of a multimedia presentation, complete with video of your items and audio descriptions.
Or, you may simply decide to keep your inventory to a certain number of printed pages. Contacting your insurance company about which format they prefer home inventories to be in may be a great help when trying to decide which form your inventory should take.
Collections may include any number of items. For larger collections, it may make sense to have a separate spreadsheet so that these items can be assessed individually.
An Alternative To Doing It Yourself
Should the thought of taking so much time to complete your home inventory yourself make you dread the task, you may benefit from hiring the services of an inventory specialist. Not only can this type of individual ensure an efficient inventory process, but they can also provide you with credibility once the time comes to communicate with law enforcement or your financial or insurance company.
How To Get The Flood Coverage You Need
The NFIP is operated by FEMA's Mitigation Division. Their web site has a very handy tool which allows you to see whether your property is located in a flood zone by entering your home's address. If you've found that your home is, in fact located in a flood zone, visiting another area of the site will allow you to calculate approximately how much it will cost to obtain flood coverage.
The TWIA covers homes vulnerable to wind and hail damage. Those homes are located in 14 counties which are situated along Texas's coast, as well as in parts of Harris County on Galveston Bay. If coverage from wind and hail is what you've determined you need for your home, all you need to do is contact your agent to inquire about coverage, as it can be purchased directly from them.
Your Credit Score and Homeowners Insurance
Can you remember the last time you checked up on your credit score? If you're going to be looking for property liability coverage, giving this number a second look may be a good idea. That's because there are many insurance companies today who use the credit ratings of would-be clients to underwrite their policies. As it turns out, credit scores are very good indicators of claim filing frequency; those with poor credit tended to file more claims than those with good credit. As well, having a good credit rating can mean lots of premium discounts for you.
Do You Have To Have Flood Insurance if You Live in Houston?
In a word, yes. Flood insurance is mandatory in areas where there is a one percent or more chance of flooding in one year. Those living in moderate to low risk areas are not required to have flood coverage. However, statistics from the NFIP reveal that 25% of claims for flood damage have come from homes in these moderate to low risk areas, so purchasing flood insurance may simply make good sense if you live in areas such as these.
What Does Flood Insurance Cover?
Depending on the policy you choose, it may cover both a building and its contents, or either one separately. Contents coverage can reach $100,000, where building coverage can reach $250,000. Coverage rates will depend on your property's rate band.
For building coverage, a flood insurance policy will usually provide help for the following:
For contents coverage, it will usually provide help for the following:
What Isn't Covered By Flood Insurance?
Typically, it will not cover any water damage that you as a homeowner could have prevented. This includes mildew, moisture and mold. Water damage to basements is covered, but on a limited basis. None of the following will be covered by flood coverage:
- Business losses due to interruption by flood
- Item considered possessions, but stored outside of the building
- Most vehicles
- Loss of important papers, cash or precious metals
You will also not be covered for any costs you incur should you have to leave your property due to flood damage making it uninhabitable. But ALE (Alternative Living Expenses) insurance is there to cover you if it has already been included in your regular Houston homeowners insurance policy.
Determining all of your options available in homeowners insurance is the best way to match your needs to the right policy. We have helped make this process easier by helping educate the consumer in order to make a wise choice.
For example, we have provided an easy way to compare homeowners insurance quotes for seven forms of homeowners insurance, as well as condominium and renters coverage, that target a variety of perils. Beginning the research process online in the privacy of your own home enables you to shop on your terms and in your timeframe.
The level of homeowners insurance coverage you require depends on your goals, your budget, and your assets that you wish to protect. You'll want solid advice on how to go about selecting your coverage in order to get the right protection without overpaying for coverage.