Home Insurance explained
Compare current home insurance offers, and find out when you need it, why you need it, and how to compare home insurance quotes.
- Last updated on 24 Nov 2020
To help you make a choice about Home Insurance, here are some options you can consider. These are some examples of what’s available in the marketplace from selected providers.
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What are the factors that affect home insurance premiums?
House insurance covers the damage costs to your property due to reasons like fire, theft, or storm. Several factors affect the premium, like potential risk and amount of cover. Read on to learn more about the factors that affect homeowners’ insurance premiums.
What is home insurance?
Life can be full of surprises - you can never tell when things might go south. Purchasing adequate home insurance coverage helps you protect your most precious asset, besides giving you peace of mind when dealing with unforeseen events. When doing so, you should choose an insurance policy that protects your home as well as other fixed structures against all likely incidents. This may sound easier said than done, but you can compare quotes from various insurance providers to see what coverage they offer for various kinds of damages before deciding on the policy you want to buy.
Usually, home insurance involves two kinds of coverage: total replacement cover and sum-insured cover.
Total replacement cover refers to the actual cost of replacing your house entirely, often by rebuilding, renovating, or repairing after heavy damage. This kind of home insurance policy will likely cost more, and possibly require extended negotiations with the insurer.
A sum-insured policy covers a predetermined maximum cost to be paid by your insurer – the insured sum - in the event your house gets damaged. The insured sum often falls short of the actual cost of repairing or rebuilding your home, leaving you underinsured or having to pay for repairs out of your pocket.
When buying home insurance, it's a good idea to remember that home insurance only protects the structures that make up your home, not the objects that your home may contain. To protect these, you will likely need to buy home and contents insurance. You can purchase a single policy that covers both your home and its contents, or you can purchase separate policies covering each. Checking what the costs are for each as well as the coverage limits and exceptions can be useful in helping to decide between the two types of insurance policies.
What does home insurance cover?
What your home insurance policy covers and what it excludes can vary based on your provider, as well as the policy purchased. A home insurance policy typically covers your entire property, including permanent structures such as fences, in-ground swimming pools, garages, tool sheds, and walk-in wardrobes. The policy’s product disclosure statement (PDS) will give you a clearer picture of the covered incidents or damages, and the limits specified for each. The PDS will also tell you which incidents or contents are excluded and whether you need to purchase additional coverage.
There are usually two types of homeowners insurance you can choose from. The type you choose helps determine the level of coverage you will receive:
- Total replacement cover – covers the cost to repair or rebuild your home to the state it was before the insured event occurred. You won’t find this option with every insurer and where it is available, you can expect it to be more expensive.
- Sum-insured cover – covers your home to a maximum amount pre-determined by you. This is the amount that you estimate it would cost you to rebuild your home if it is destroyed or becomes a total loss. This is the more popular cover type, though it’s more likely for a homeowner to be underinsured with sum-insured cover.
If you’re not sure which option to take, it could be worthwhile to speak to a professional valuer to understand how much it might cost to rebuild your home.
It’s wise to review your property insurance policy regularly to make sure your house is adequately covered, particularly if you have renovated or extended your home.
Do I need home insurance?
No matter what any insurer suggests, buying home insurance is not mandatory unless it's a requirement from some other party, such as the case may be when taking out a home loan.
By purchasing an insurance policy, you are effectively paying the insurer to worry about dealing with the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if disaster strikes. If you are taking out a mortgage to buy a home, your lender may ask you to purchase home insurance, possibly before approving your loan application, though usually if you are purchasing a freestanding house, terrace, or semi-detached property.
If you live in a strata-titled apartment or unit, the onus of purchasing insurance for the building falls upon the landlord or the body corporate managing the property. As a resident, however, you will need to check whether the policy covers the contents of the apartments. If not, you should consider purchasing contents insurance. Likewise, if you live in a rented apartment, you do not need to buy home insurance, although buying contents insurance may be wise.
How can you compare home insurance policies?
Home insurance policies are often worded in complex legal language and can sometimes feature complicated mathematical calculations which, as someone buying a home, you just have to deal with. Understanding the cost of home insurance typically means dealing with these, though, so you need to estimate the cost of rebuilding your home from scratch in case that eventuality arises. If you are choosing a home and contents insurance policy, you may also need to factor in the cost of replacing all your possessions. Your insurance policy should ideally cover both these costs, though you may want to account for a rise in costs and have some buffer for unexpected expenses.
Luckily, computing this amount doesn’t require you to spend days running around your home with a calculator in-hand. Most insurance providers also offer convenient online home insurance calculators to help you compute the cost of replacing your home and belongings. However, since these tools are offered by insurance providers, you may want to get the numbers double-checked by an expert. Understandably, this calculation plays a huge role in calculating your insurance premium.
An expert can also guide you with estimating the excess, which is the cost you pay beyond the amount claimed from your home insurance provider. As your insurer may also set limits on the maximum they will pay for different items, you will need to factor this into your calculations. You can then choose whether you're more comfortable paying a higher excess or paying a higher insurance premium and select the policy payment cycles based on whether you want to pay monthly or semi-annual or annual instalments.
Besides the numbers, you should also compare home insurance policies to see which incidents are covered. Most Australian insurers offer coverage for damage from lightning storms, earthquakes, bushfires, and floods. Incidents like riots, arson, and vandalism can also be covered. Based on where you live, some incidents may be more likely, which can affect the coverage, as well as the amount you pay for your home insurance policy. Consider checking whether you need any additional and optional coverage, as it may help you in the long term.
Armed with this information, you can compare home insurance quotes online before purchasing the policy of your choice from the comfort of your home.
What is contents insurance and what does it cover?
Contents insurance covers your personal belongings inside the home, including furniture, whitegoods, appliances, computer, jewellery, artwork, etc. The items may be covered if it is lost, damaged or stolen inside the home. However, it’s possible to take out extra cover for possessions that are taken outside the home, known as personal effects cover.
Homeowners and renters can take out this type of insurance for most types of properties, including houses and apartments.
What is home and contents insurance?
Of course, insurance for your home only covers one side of what you might need, while contents insurance cover just what's in your home. If you buy a home and contents insurance policy, you can recover the cost of replacing any damaged possessions, in addition to the cost of renovating or rebuilding your home. This can include furniture, white goods, electrical appliances, computers, jewellery, and artworks. A home and contents insurance policy usually covers water and fire damage caused by accidents inside the home, as well as theft and vandalism. You can also purchase additional insurance coverage, called "personal effects cover" for possessions that you may carry outside the home. Insurers will also offer you optional coverage for any high-value items you may own.
Purchasing a home and contents insurance policy may be a better approach in terms of balancing the coverage that's needed and premium payments. Before you purchase home and contents insurance, remember to compare insurance quotes online to find out how each matches against those for the combined policy before making your decision.
How much is home and contents insurance likely to cost?
What you pay for home and contents insurance can vary based on where you live and what your possessions cost in total. An insurer will gauge how often you might file a claim based on the kind of incidents that are likely to occur in your neighbourhood. If you live in a high-risk area where there is a greater incidence of bushfires, floods, or crime, your policy coverage might not be as extensive or could cost much more. You may be forced to choose between lowering your insurance payments and paying higher excess for some of the damages.
Contents insurance policies may not play as nicely with important possessions such as collectibles or high-value jewellery, and you may need to spend more money to insure those valuables. It's worth considering whether buying separate insurance policies for high-value items can help lower the amount you pay for the home and contents insurance policy if the price is too high to justify. Alternatively, consider looking at specialist insurers for items such as jewellery if you are comfortable juggling multiple insurance policies and payments.
Ultimately, you shouldn’t choose your insurance policy based only on what you have to pay. If you look up home and content insurance reviews, many people realise after filing a claim that they may have overlooked an aspect of the insurance policy. It's always wise to read the fine print and carefully examine what your insurance provider is offering, compared to what they are offsetting or discounting.
Do I need home insurance for a home loan?
While home insurance isn’t necessarily a requirement for a home purchase per se, it’s likely that if you’re purchasing a home with the help of a home loan, you’ll need to take out home insurance on the property. Home insurance is one of the main factors typically required in the pre-settlement documentation, and you may be advised by either the bank or a broker (or both) of the need to purchase home insurance for the property ahead of settlement.
Why you should review your home insurance policy
You should review your home insurance policy periodically to ensure that your house and your possessions are adequately covered. Regular insurance policy reviews can help make sure that your insurer has not added exceptions or changed the coverage limits, and keep your home insured.
Such a review also helps you keep your policy up to date in terms of changes or renovations to your home. For example, if you decide to build a new tool shed in your backyard but your insurance policy doesn't cover it, you could lose out on coverage if the shed or its contents are damaged. Likewise, if you buy a home and contents insurance policy and acquire high-value items which are beyond the policy coverage limits, your insurance policy will likely require a similar update.
How do I compare home and contents insurance rates?
Much like comparing home insurance policies, choosing the right home and contents insurance policy requires you to understand what you expect from the policy and what various insurance providers will offer. While comparing home and contents insurance policies, try finding answers for the following questions, as this can guide you in choosing the policy you need:
- What will it cost you to rebuild or renovate your home, and replace all your valuables? What percentage of this cost are you comfortable paying on your own? Which of the insurance policies that you are comparing adequately covers the difference? By answering these, you can rule out the policies that do not offer adequate coverage.
- Of the shortlisted policies, which ones are most specific in detailing the coverage limits for specific items? Which ones offer you protection against the most common risks in your neighbourhood? Selecting the more flexible, comprehensive policy is wiser.
- It's worth checking for conditions specific to you. For example, do these policies have any restrictions regarding the presence of pets in the house?
Check whether the insurance policy covers emergency support, such as temporary relocation while your house is being renovated.
- Even if the policy you choose seems to offer thoroughly adequate protection, you may miss out checking some limits, conditions, or exclusions. Always read the insurance provider’s product disclosure statement (PDS) or confirm with the insurance provider before making your decision to purchase the policy.
Learn More about Home Insurance explained
What is a home insurance premium?
Your home insurance premium is what you pay your insurance provider for covering your home under their home insurance policy. It is calculated based on the type of coverage you choose for your home as well as any additional coverage you buy for either your possessions or specific incidents. Your premium can either be paid annually or in smaller instalments.
Your home insurance policy may cover the total replacement cost, which is the actual expense of rebuilding your home from scratch. Alternatively, it can cover an insured sum, which is a predetermined estimate of what it might cost to rebuild your home. You’re more likely to pay a higher premium for total replacement cover than for insured sum coverage.
Apart from selecting your coverage, you’ll have to figure out your excess, which is the amount you pay out of your own pocket for each insurance claim. If you are okay with paying a higher excess, your insurance premium may be lower. Conversely, if you choose a lower excess, you may pay a higher premium.
Your insurance premium can also be higher if you live in an area prone to incidents like floods, bushfires, or theft, as insurers are more likely to receive a higher number of claims in such neighbourhoods.
If you also want to buy insurance for your belongings, a combined home and contents insurance policy may have a lower premium than paying premiums on separate policies for your home and your belongings.
What does home insurance cover?
What home insurance specifically covers and the extent of the coverage depends on the insurance provider and the individual policy. However, home insurance typically covers the property and other permanent structures found on or in the property, such as fences, in-ground swimming pools, garages, and dishwashers, to name a few.
There are usually two types of homeowner's insurance you can choose from, with "total replacement cover" or "sum-insured cover".
If you’re not sure which option to take, it may be worthwhile to speak to a professional valuer to understand how much it might cost to rebuild your home and replace what's inside.
How do you compare home insurance rates?
When you compare the home insurance quotes offered by various Australian insurers, consider looking at the type of coverage they offer as well as coverage limits and exclusions. You can choose an insurance policy which covers either the total replacement cost, which is the actual cost of rebuilding your home from scratch, or a fixed insured sum, which is an estimate of the cost to rebuild. The home insurance policy is likely to cost you more if you go for the total replacement cost coverage.
Your insurance policy’s exclusions and coverage limits usually depend on how exposed your home is to adverse events like floods and bushfires. It also tells you the maximum compensation that your insurer is likely to pay for damage caused to your home. If you live in an area with a greater incidence of crime or disasters, your insurance policy will likely cost you more.
The amount you actually pay for home insurance can be adjusted by agreeing to a higher excess, which is what you will pay over and above the insured amount from your own pocket. You should consider using the online calculators provided by various insurers to check how different coverage limits affect your insurance premium.
Do I need home insurance for a home loan?
While home insurance isn’t necessarily a requirement for a home purchase per se, it’s likely that if you’re purchasing a home with the help of a home loan, you’ll need to take out home insurance on the property. Home insurance can be one of the factors required in the pre-settlement documentation for a home purchase, and you may be advised by either the bank or a broker (or both) ahead of settlement.
Are bikes covered under home insurance?
Ordinarily, home insurance only covers damage to your house, which can include additional buildings such as garages, sheds, and fences, as well as permanent fixtures.
However, to protect the items located in your home or in any of these other buildings, you will likely need to purchase home and contents insurance. Even so, your bike would only be covered if it does not require separate vehicle registration, as is the case for bicycles and 50cc minibikes, but not motorcycles, and only when located on your property, parked or otherwise.
Depending on the cost of your bicycle or minibike, you can have it listed in your home and contents insurance as a high-value item. You'll want to check your insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to know the normal coverage limit for a bike included as part of your home and contents insurance, as well as the incidents which are covered.
Insuring your bicycle can be distinct to insuring any personal effects on your bike at the time, or even using the bike when you're out and about. If you want to cover those, such as something in a basket or a camera equipped to the bicycle, or the bike itself as you travel, you will likely need to purchase additional personal effects insurance. You can also read about any additional coverage available under the personal effects policy, though for full coverage, an ideal option will likely be a separate bike insurance policy.
Does homeowner’s insurance cover electrical problems?
Every home has a range of electrical fittings,appliances and wiring running through the structure of the house. You can face many kinds of electrical problems but, unfortunately, your home insurance policy may not cover all of them. Damage accidentally caused by natural accidents may be covered, as might the repair of motors if you have opted for fusion damage cover. For example, if there’s a lightning storm and your home suffers a power surge which causes a short circuit, any repairs needed may be covered if your homeowner’s insurance contains lightning damage.
However, if any electrical appliances stop working, even a home and contents insurance policy may not cover the cost of repairing the appliance. Also, you should check with your insurer about making any electrical repairs inside your home as that may affect your coverage.
Usually, in Australia, you need to hire a professional electrician to carry out any inspections or repairs to the electrical system in your home. This can include conducting periodic checks to make sure the electrical wirings are not exposed to seepage, flooding, or attacks by rodents. Consider asking your insurance provider about optional coverage for fixed electrical appliances such as air-conditioners and washing machines.
Can you transfer home insurance?
When you sell your home, you cannot transfer the home insurance policy to the new owner. The buyers need to purchase a new home insurance policy where the insurer will calculate the premium based on several factors.
The risk of any damage to the home is transferred to the new owners when you sell the property. You can speak to an experienced conveyancer or solicitor to find out more about when the risk gets passed to the buyers in your state or territory.
If you move to a new home
Can you transfer home insurance to a new property if you move to a new home?
Some insurers may allow you to transfer your policy to a new property as long as you meet certain conditions. These include informing the insurance company as soon as you enter into a contract to buy the new home. You may need to pay an additional premium when transferring your existing home insurance policy to the new property.
Does home insurance cover tree root damage?
While trees can add much beauty to your property, they can be an indirect cause of damage to your home. For instance, a storm could knock branches off trees on to your roof or windows. A really strong storm may even cause the tree to topple entirely.
Home insurance may not directly cover tree damage to your house. However, the policy will likely cover the incident, such as a storm, which resulted in branches or uprooted trees falling on your home. You can check your home insurance policy’s coverage for various incidents by reading the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).
You should remember that trees can require regular maintenance, just like the plumbing in our homes. Insurers may check whether the tree, its roots or its branches were rotting due to a lack of care, in which case the damage caused by the tree falling on your home may not be considered accidental damage. Again, if a branch falls on your house while you’re trimming it, you may not be able to claim compensation from your insurer for the damage. If any trees are growing too close to the walls of your home, consider checking that none of the branches or roots is causing any stress to your home, which can result in structural damage.
How much is home insurance?
How much your home insurance could cost and the amount of premiums you pay will depend on many factors, including the amount you need to cover, the excess you're willing to pay, and what type of cover you want to take.
It's important not to base your insurance policy decision solely on the premiums being charged, reviewing what the policy covers, its features, claim exclusions, and caps when deciding which home insurance policy is the right one for you.
What is home insurance?
For homeowners, home insurance can provide some financial protection to your property when things don’t go as planned. If you have home insurance and your property is damaged (or even the permanent fixtures inside), you could make a claim to your insurer to cover the costs of getting it fixed, replaced or rebuilt.
The idea behind property insurance is that you pay insurance providers to take on the risk of loss or damage to your property that you would otherwise be carrying.
Is hail damage covered by home insurance?
If storms are among the incidents covered by your home insurance policy, hail damage protection is more than likely assured. While all policies differ based on your needs and what a home insurance provider will offer, some things are close to a certainty.
Extreme weather events tend to be unpredictable in their severity, but dangerous all the same. You'll never be able to fully prepare for any damage caused, be it lightning, strong winds, rain leading to flooding, or hailstorms, but home insurance can at least provide you with a way to deal with life's unpredictable nature.
If your home suffers from hail damage, you can file a claim with your insurer. In the event that this happens, remember to take pictures of any hail damage as an insurance adjuster will need to evaluate the impact on your home. Any additional wind damage to your roof will also need to be documented similarly.
You may want to check if your home insurance also covers hail damage to the cars parked on your property, and then file the claim for the total damage caused by the hailstorm. Once your claim is approved, your insurer should offer you either a cash settlement or refer you to a network vendor for the necessary repairs.
Do I need home insurance?
While homeowners' insurance is not legally required, it’s an option for those who want financial protection for their property. Some mortgage lenders may even require borrowers to take out home insurance.
Does home insurance cover termite damage?
It is unlikely that the average home insurance policy will cover damage caused by termites, mice, or other vermin, which are typically the result of negligence. For instance, water may have seeped from a heater or washing machine and dampened the woodwork in your home, attracting termites. Since termites usually build colonies, you’ll need to deal with the existing infestation and also take preventative steps to prevent future termite damage.
Treating your home for termite damage can be quite expensive, and you’ll likely have to make significant repairs depending on the size of the infestation. You may want to check if your neighbours have also had termite damage issues, and consider taking more long-term measures to keep termites away. For example, you could install a chemically-treated soil barrier or baiting station, both of which may be effective for a few years.
Consider inspecting your home for any leakage or seepage from time to time, especially in the flooring or the outer edges of your home, as a precaution against damage by vermin. You may also want to consider hiring a pest control professional who can inspect and treat your home to protect against termites.
Does home insurance cover rising damp?
If you spot mould formation on the walls of your home, the cause could likely be rising damp. As a homeowner, you are expected to monitor your home for rising damp and the resulting mould damage. If you do have rising damp in your home, the renovation of your walls can cost you thousands of dollars. Worse, most home insurance policies won’t cover you for such repairs, as mould damage is considered gradual damage arising from negligence or poor maintenance.
In most cases, rising damp is a structural issue which occurs when the damp proof course (DPC) installed in your home is damaged or rendered inadequate. For instance, a broken or leaking storm pipe may result in water accumulating below the floor of your home, causing damp to rise through the walls. Equally, the sub-floor area or the DPC may be obstructed or damaged, for instance, by a concrete slab.
You will need to hire experts to locate the exact problem and make the necessary repairs. Again, the issue causing rising damp can also result in other problems such as termite damage, which means you may need to act quickly. Remember, your home insurance will likely not cover termite damage either.