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How should you choose a home insurance policy?

How should you choose a home insurance policy?

Even if you have a fair idea of the type of insurance coverage you need for your home and your belongings, selecting the right provider can be a tough ask. The sheer amount of advice available, both on the Internet and from friends and family, can get overwhelming.

Comparing insurance quotes from major home insurance companies is one way to assess your options, but there are a few things to consider when making a comparison. 

How do you go about getting the home insurance policy that’s right for you?

It might be easy to think that any Australian insurer will offer a policy that suits your needs. However, your home insurance policy should be finely tuned for your personal living circumstances and not every insurer will be able to offer such a nuanced policy.

Some insurers may only offer coverage for select incidents, while others may not be flexible in their coverage limits. But you don’t need to pull out a list of home insurance providers and start checking what each provider offers. Instead, you can start by asking your neighbours about their insurance policies since they will require a similar type and level of coverage. 

Long-term residents of your area may know more about the various factors affecting local home insurance rates as well as the frequency of disasters like floods or bushfires. Your local council office may also be able to provide this information.

When you have all the details you need, you can start making a shortlist of insurance providers who offer the best options for specific incidents that relate to you. Consider getting in touch with your preferred insurance provider to see whether they can provide a customised quote/policy that’s specific to your needs.

How do you choose the right home insurance coverage?

When choosing a home insurance policy, you need to decide whether you’d like it to cover the total replacement cost of your home or a predetermined “insured sum”.

The first option involves providing an estimate of what it might cost to renovate or rebuild your home after a disastrous event which is covered by your home insurance policy. Since this type of policy covers actual costs, and there isn’t a predetermined maximum limit on the coverage, you are less likely to be underinsured.  Keep in mind that the rebuilding cost will likely rise with time, as it is important to factor this into your estimate.

Alternatively, you can provide an estimate, called the insured sum, of the maximum cost of rebuilding your home and buy a home insurance policy that covers this amount. If the actual rebuilding cost exceeds the insured sum, you will end up being underinsured as your insurer is unlikely to pay the increased costs. As your insurance policy’s coverage already takes into account the excess you’ve agreed to pay, you end up bearing a greater share of the renovation expense if the insured sum falls short of your estimate.

Finalising the home insurance policy

Once you have an understanding of the incidents your home insurance policy should cover and the amount of coverage you need, you can compare home insurance quotes online to see which insurance policies meet your requirements.

You may also want to read the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to get a better idea of their limits, exclusions, and the kinds of damages they cover. This can help you gauge the comparison more accurately and spot any variations between two quotes more quickly.

Once you are clear about what you expect from the insurer and what the insurer will deliver, consider having a detailed conversation with the provider to clarify any questions you may have. Such questions can cover aspects like choosing coverage for your possessions or buying additional coverage for specific incidents. You can finalise the home insurance policy based on how satisfied you are with the insurer’s responses and speak to other insurers if necessary.

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This article was reviewed by Head of Content Leigh Stark before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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Learn more about home insurance

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.

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.

Does home insurance cover temporary accommodation?

Seeing your home damaged by a natural disaster such as a bushfire or a hail storm can be traumatic. Unfortunately, sometimes your house may become uninhabitable after such an incident and require major renovation or even rebuilding. In such circumstances, your home insurance policy should cover the cost of temporary or emergency accommodation. 

It's worth checking with your insurer on the coverage limit, as different insurance providers may cover the cost of renting another home for a number of months, though this will vary between coverage cost and insurance provider. However, the maximum coverage will probably run for 12 months. Upon filing a claim, most insurers will likely first ask an inspector to confirm that your home is too damaged to live in, and subsequently cover the cost of temporary accommodation after that. 

You could also need temporary accommodation because the local council or other governing authority may order an evacuation in anticipation of a problem or disaster. In that instance, you should check if your insurance provider will cover the cost of accommodation at such a time and, if so, how you can file a claim in such cases. If you are a pet owner, check if your home insurance policy covers the cost of temporarily housing your pets elsewhere.

Type of home insurance do I need?

There are two types of house insurance policies, namely total replacement cover and sum insured cover. The former covers the total cost of rebuilding the house to the same standard before it was damaged. The latter home insurance type covers the cost of damages up to a predetermined limit, which is called the sum insured.

Different types of homeowners’ insurance may offer extra cover at an additional premium, including accidental damage, fire insurance, storm insurance, flood insurance, motor burnout insurance, home and contents insurance, and contents insurance. These extras are not classified as homeowners’ insurance types; include one or more based on your situation. 

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 home insurance cover tenant damage?

If you have a property that you rent out to tenants, you may ask, does home insurance cover tenant damage? Generally, as a landlord, you’ll require a different type of insurance policy than a regular home and contents insurance that offers coverage for the unique situations faced by landlords.

Landlord insurance

As a landlord, you must insure against additional risks to protect your investment. A landlord home and contents insurance policy covers loss due to natural disasters, storm, and fire. Generally, it also covers fixtures like stovetops, light fittings, window coverings, carpets, and ovens.

Additionally, you may protect yourself against any loss arising due to damage to your property caused by your tenants or their guests. Some landlord insurance policies may also protect you against financial loss due to unpaid rent.

Does homeowners insurance cover tenant damage? In most cases, regular homeowners’ insurance policy will not cover such damage. It’s always best to refer to the product disclosure statement (PDS) to clearly understand what is included and excluded from your home insurance policy.

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.  

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.

Is my home insurance covered for weather damage?

It is important to understand what is covered and what isn't covered in your home insurance policy before purchasing it. One crucial point to consider at the time of evaluating home insurance policies is whether it includes home insurance weather damage cover, and what it actually means if it does.

Typically, the protection afforded by home insurance actually depends on how the home was damaged or affected by conditions. The whole idea behind home insurance is to protect you from loss or damage against an unexpected, sudden event, like a fire or storm. If your home was in the way of a storm and your roof was damaged, which also caused internal water destruction, you may be covered for the damage to the roof and the property. The same holds true for walls or a fence that got damaged in a storm or flood.

However, you may not be covered if the damage occurred because your property was not well maintained and your home suffered a leak. A poorly maintained fence is less likely to be covered by home insurance.

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.

How to file a Youi home insurance claim

Dealing with a disaster is never a pleasant experience, but it can be worse if your home is extensively damaged. At some point, you’ll have to estimate the damage to your home and file the necessary insurance claim. 

If you’ve bought a Youi home insurance policy, you can contact them regarding an insurance claim either by calling 13 9684 or through the Youi website. If you don’t remember your policy number, you can identify yourself and provide your address when speaking to a Youi member to grant yourself access to your policy details, handy if you’ve had to leave home in a rush and may not have had the time to collect any of your belongings, let alone insurance policy documents. 

You may not need to fill out any claim forms right away, but you’ll need to describe the incident and the damage caused to your home. Once you’ve contacted Youi, an inspector will visit your home and verify the damage before your claim is accepted and processed. Insurers usually expect you to contact them at your earliest possible convenience after a damaging incident, or within 30 days at the latest, as is the case with Youi

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.  

Does home insurance cover accidental damage?

Home insurance offers cover for any damage to your house and most policies cover the main building, garage, permanent attachments, and other external buildings that can be locked. 

Every insurance policy lists the defined events that will be covered, such as fires, floods, lightning strikes, theft, or falling trees. A few may also offer the option of accidental damage home insurance cover for other possible mishaps and unintentional damage around the home, such as when the dog knocks over the TV, or when red wine is spilled on the carpet.

The home insurance accidental damage cover is available only for the address provided at the time of buying the policy.