Homeowners insurance blog

Kelly McMurtrie

Kelly McMurtrie is an insurance aficionado who has been writing content for HomeownersInsurance.com since 2011. She graduated from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Media Arts.

Articles from Kelly McMurtrie

What Should You Do When a Flood Damages Your Home?

Floodwaters pose a number of dangerous hazards to your home during a natural disaster. In addition to carrying away or waterlogging your most prized possessions, floods carry hidden risks in the water including chemicals and even sewage. If you experience flood damage to your home, here are a few ways to get back on your feet as quickly and as safely as possible. (more…)

Breaking Down the Insurance Risks of Breaking Bad

Exactly how much damage and destruction did the Heisenberg Empire actually cause?  As insurance experts and fans of the show, we’re less interested in focusing on the “what-ifs” that could have prevented Walt from picking up a gas mask in the first place. We want to know what kind of claims Skylar might be calling in after the show’s satisfying series finale.
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A year later: Where does Sandy rank among the worst storms?

Remember last year: From the flooded tunnels that crippled New York City’s entire subway system, the monstrous waves that destroyed the Jersey Shore and the snowstorms in West Virginia, there’s no question that Hurricane Sandy caused terrible damage in the United States. But where does it rank in comparison to America’s most devastating hurricanes of all time? (more…)

Act Now to be Ready for the Next Sandy

Not quite a year ago, Hurricane Sandy caused unprecedented damage in the northeastern U.S. Nearly 1.1 million homeowners filed claims related to Sandy, and insurers have paid about $18.8 billion to policyholders, not counting payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program. Many homeowners, even those who had a smart home insurance policy and flood coverage, still face a long road to recovery. (more…)

“Acts Of God” and Your Insurance Policy

If you comb through the fine print of your insurance policy – and you absolutely should, you’ll likely come across some unfamiliar terms. In the insurance world, a “floater” isn’t a personal water-safety device, an “inland marine” isn’t a soldier stationed off the coast and an “act of God” isn’t actually divine intervention – although some policies do cover Biblical perils.

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Gone But Not Forgotten – Insuring Your Belongings In Storage

Today, nearly 10% of American families utilize some sort of off-site storage space. Here are a few insurance factors to consider if you’re part of that statistic:

Coverage from your existing home insurance or renters insurance policy

Many homeowners and renters insurance policies include off-premises property protection for theft and damage from disasters such as fire. However, different insurance companies have different rules and regulations for how that coverage applies to items in storage. Typically, stored belongings may be covered if their total value is less than 10% of your overall homeowners insurance coverage, but you should check with your provider to be certain of your coverage.

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Having a Yard Sale Could Give You More Than You Bargained For

When you need to de-clutter the house and wouldn’t mind making a little extra cash while you’re at it, a yard sale is the perfect solution. However, before you invite everyone in town to hunt for the hidden treasures in your trash, it’s important to make sure you’re covered with liability protection so your yard sale doesn’t end up costing way more than you bargained for.

Consider this scenario: You set out some free weights on the lawn for 50 cents apiece (what a deal!). One of your neighbors’ young sons decides to test his super-strength by lifting them, but he ends up straining a muscle instead. Now the price tag on those weights could quickly spike from a couple of quarters to a couple thousand dollars because technically, you could be held liable for his injury and the resulting hospital bills.

If you’ve invested in a smart homeowners insurance policy, you’re likely protected by personal liability protection for just this reason. If someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, this type of insurance can help you cover medical treatment, court fees and other subsequent expenses. Typically, a standard home insurance policy includes at least $100,000 in liability coverage with the option to bump that up to as much as $500,000 or more.

Many homeowners ask whether it’s necessary to invest in a separate business policy for the event, since a yard sale is technically a profitable business transaction. Remember, most standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover liabilities that occur while the home is acting as a business.

The answer? If you’re just holding a one-time yard sale every couple of years, you could be able to get coverage from your existing policy. However, if you hold sales more frequently, you could need additional coverage. Regardless, it’s a good idea to talk to your licensed insurance agent about your coverage.

Another idea to help you prevent any accidents at your big sale is to clean up any dangerous debris in the yard, keep sharp objects such as knives or other kitchen tools out of reach of children and keep any pets away from the sale. If you have any other dangerous assets on the property, such as a pool or trampoline, make sure they’re out of range of the sale and properly secured (with a pool cover or a locked gate).

Limit access as much as you can so that you can keep a close eye on shoppers and their children. Even if you don’t get sued, you don’t want anyone to be involved in an accident. Don’t allow strangers in your home or garage during the sale.

I’ve Been Robbed – Now What?

If you become the target of a home burglary, it’s perfectly normal go through a wide range of feelings: violated that an intruder broke into your home, angry at the criminal, upset that your prized possessions have been stolen or tampered with, scared that it could happen again and more. However, it’s important to keep a clear head and follow these easy steps to help catch the intruder, recover what you’ve lost and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Call the police

The first thing you should do upon finding out your home has been burglarized is to evacuate and call 911. If there’s a chance the burglar could still be inside your home, it’s smartest to get to safety first and let the professionals handle it rather than try to be a hero against a startled criminal. In addition to the potential danger of surprising a criminal, you also risk contaminating any evidence left behind. Once the police arrive, let them clear the house for safety, investigate the scene and help them file a detailed report.

Check your home inventory

You should create a detailed list of everything that was stolen or damaged, including the estimated value of each item. It’s best to have prepared a home inventory in advance, so you can refer to a comprehensive list of all the contents in your home and be able to present photographs and receipts that prove ownership.

File a claim

Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible and file a claim for any lost or damaged property. If the burglar smashed a window, broke a sliding door, picked a lock or otherwise caused damage by forcing entry, an adjuster can help estimate the repair costs. Provide detailed information about each item that was stolen and present your home inventory to help speed up the process. Your insurance agent should help guide you through the rest of the process until you receive the settlement you deserve.

Take preventive measures

Finally, help make sure it doesn’t happen again by installing a home security system, deadbolt locks and other safety features. Even having a “No trespassing” or “Beware of dog” sign could help deter potential intruders. Keep a light or two on at all times to make it seem like someone is always home, and arrange with your neighbors to pick up mail and newspapers while you’re out of town. Never talk about your comings and goings on social media. The easiest way to help prevent crime in your home is simply to make it a more difficult target.

It will take time to overcome the fear and other emotions you experience after a break-in. But dealing with the immediate problems and then doing some long-range planning can help you feel more comfortable. Peace of mind will once again be in your grasp.

Insuring Your Collections

Most standard homeowners insurance policies include coverage for your personal property and the contents of your home. However, if you own a collection and its value exceeds your coverage limits, you may find yourself underinsured and out a large investment. Here are a few examples of common collections that are highly recommended to insure:

Coin collections

Depending on the size and value of your coin collection, it may not be covered under your existing homeowners insurance policy. Many standard policies include a limit of about $200 – if you’ve got a collection worth thousands you could be extremely underinsured. Serious coin collectors often extend their limits by purchasing a separate endorsement on their existing policies or by investing in individual personal article floaters. A number of providers specialize in providing coverage for coin collections and may offer more expertise and peace of mind than your primary provider.

Wine collections

The contents coverage included in your homeowners policy may not cover you if your climate-controlled wine storage unit malfunctions and destroys your priceless wine collection. Most collectors purchase a blanket policy to insure wine bottles valued at less than $1,000 each under one large sum or choose a stand-alone wine insurance policy to insure each bottle separately. A stand-alone policy is required to insure bottles valued at more than $10,000. Work with an agent with expertise in wine insurance to determine what kind of insurance is required to protect your personal collection.

Art collections

Although many pieces of art are irreplaceable, it’s a good idea to protect your investments with art insurance. Work with an insurance company with expertise in art insurance, because these providers will better understand how to appraise your collection and handle claims. Although it’s difficult to determine how much to insure a priceless work of art for, many collectors opt for coverage that will offset your lost investment or even help recover the piece. A licensed agent who specializes in art insurance is best equipped to help you choose the best option for your collection.

Other collectibles

Specialty insurance is available for all kinds of collections, from classic cars to Barbie dolls. Work with a licensed agent to find out whether specialty insurance is right for you or whether it’s more practical to simply purchase additional coverage from your current provider. Regardless of which provider you choose, you should have assurance that the collection you’ve worked hard to build is protected with insurance.