Chicagoland Insurance

Chicagoland home insurance claims – especially during the winter – can be expensive. And, whether you live in a colder climate or a warmer winter one, damages caused by a number of perils can put a damper on things. Let’s look at a few winter – and some all-season – claims and how you can best reduce the risk of them happening to you and your home.

Common Claims (and the Most Expensive)
Once again, it may affect some regions of the country more than others, but damage is damage, no matter where you live. Weather is a leading contributor to a number of Chicagoland home insurance claims. Frozen precipitation – or an abundance of rain, frozen or not – and extremely low temperatures are often responsible for a variety of potential home damage. The insurance industry listed a recent top five list of the most-often claims based on analysis of claims data (and all of them are not necessarily restricted to winter weather): 

Chicagoland home insurance claims can get expensive

Water leaks (and flooding)
Wind damage
Hail damage
Frozen pipes
Roof damage from too much snow and ice

The claims analysis went on to rank the top three most expensive weather claims based on the average cost to repair covered assets:

Frozen pipes – $18,000
Hail damage – $10,000
Falling trees – $6,000

Historically, year after year, these and other Chicagoland home insurance claims total billions in insurance losses. The insurance industry estimates losses of more than $3.5 billion in 2015 and $2.6 billion the year prior to that.

Preventing Common Perils
Of course, perils such as wind and hail damage are difficult to prevent – but not completely impossible to minimize. Consider these defensive measures to prepare for the unexpected – whether it’s in the winter or not.

  • Inspect your roof and keep it in tiptop shape. Keep your gutters clean. Replace worn or missing shingles. By doing so, you can guard against potential water leaks. And water leaks can lead to a whole host of other claims issues.
  • If you have an abnormal accumulation of snow and ice on your home’s roof, act quickly by using a long-handled snow rake or hire the services of a business specializing in snow removal. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Fortunately, in most areas of the country, this has not been an issue this year, as most of the country has experienced an unusually mild winter.
  • Protect your water pipes. Frozen pipes – or old, damaged pipes – can cause expensive repairs. In extreme cold climates, keep your thermostat set at a minimum of 68 degrees. In addition, allow your faucets to drip slowly so the water can move through them without freezing. Lastly, make sure any water pipes located outside are properly insulated. For homes in warmer climates who rarely, if ever, have to worry about winter weather issues, ensure your pipes are sturdy, free of rust and unobstructed. Remember, old pipes can break, too.
  • Make sure your trees are in good shape. Strong winds, ice and sleet often cause tree branches, and even the tree itself, to come falling to the ground – and perhaps on your house. So keep the limbs near your house trimmed back. Insurance experts further recommend to have an arborist inspect trees that may require pruning, may have diseases, or potentially may need to be removed altogether. Again, remember, such perils are not only restricted to areas of the country that have harsh winters. Many tree branches can be broken off by high winds – and entire trees can fall as a result of the ground becoming too saturated with rain or flood waters.

Protect Against Liability Claims
Another of the Chicagoland home insurance claims to be on the lookout for – and to avoid, if possible – are the common slip-and-fall lawsuits and resulting claims. Many of these such incidents occur in the winter, but of course, guests visiting your home can trip and fall anytime during the year, not just during the winter months.

Thankfully, most homeowners are covered against slip-and-fall lawsuits under their liability coverage in a standard home insurance policy. In addition, according to some legal analysts, slip-and-fall cases due to the accumulation of snow and ice on a homeowner’s driveway, sidewalk or porch are difficult to win – particularly in cold-climate states where judges and juries view those perils as known and accepted weather-related hazards.

Regardless of the advantages mentioned above, it’s always a good idea to be as prepared and proactive as possible when it comes to eliminating or lessening the potential for any slip-and-fall accident. We suggest keeping your driveway, sidewalk and other areas that you or guests may walk on free from snow and ice in the winter – or other debris or hazards during other times of the year or in other climates – in order to make it safer for all concerned.

Remember, Chicagoland insurance claims can be expensive – whether they occur in the winter or not. So, be vigilant, be prepared and be ready to address potential hazards around your house that could lead to damages or personal injuries causing you or your insurance company substantial losses – and greater headaches!

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home insurance claims in the Chicagoland Insurance section of our site below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook, many of these relate to insurance as it pertains to homes and homeowner's insurance. Check us out there.

In Chicagoland insurance news, it's no secret Americans have bought and continue to buy millions of household security cameras and home smoke detectors connected to in-home Wi-Fi networks. However, so far, insurance carriers aren't convinced the technology will improve home safety. Despite the devices designed to prevent billions of dollars in home damage and loss, the average cost of insuring a single-family home is projected to increase in 2017.

Insurers cite a lack of sufficient data showing the security and safeguard devices have made significant impact in loss prevention. In addition, they say the new technology does little to heighten security or encourage American homeowners to be more safety or security conscious. As a result, the nearly $85 billion home insurance industry has withheld across the board premium reductions.

So, what's the significance of this Chicagoland insurance news?  As usual, it's all about money in big business. If it can be substantiated that these new technological gadgets improve the safety and security of American homes it could mean billions of dollars in lost revenue. The projected revenue loss will likely exceed the costs major insurers would save in settling insurance claims over time.

Chicagoland insurance news reveals that not many insurance discounts are being offered yet for smart home technology.

For the homeowner/consumer's part, sales of internet-connected home safety systems are forecast to more than quadruple over the next four years. As a result, many consumers feel the insurance companies should embrace their usage and recognize the technology as loss prevention features designed to save money. "Insurance companies should provide an incentive" for homeowners who use internet-connected security cameras, thermostats and lighting, says one frustrated homeowner. Currently, most insurance carriers provide premium discounts for homes utilizing basic security devices.  What remains to be seen in the Chicagoland insurance news is the advent of insurers allowing premium reductions for the internet-connected security equipment – especially if it can be proven more effective than the current equipment.

Among the more notable internet-connected technology are devices that alert homeowners like smoke- or carbon monoxide-detectors, doorbell-integrated video for their smartphones and systems that can detect plumbing leaks. As mentioned earlier, sales are expected to increase four-fold by 2020. ABI Research, a quantitative technology research company, predicts 360 million smart-home devices to be delivered in 2020, up from 79 million in 2016 and roughly 40 million in 2015.

While some carriers have made Chicagoland insurance news by offering modest premium discounts for the new devices, the savings aren't significant enough yet to reduce the average home insurance premium. Insurance insiders predict the average premium on a single-family home in the U.S. will increase 5.5% to $1,293. The premium represents a whopping 61% increase from 2006.

In 2014, a study was conducted by Morgan Stanley and Boston Consulting Group that concluded smart-home technology could reduce potential home losses by 40% to 60%. It was also estimated the devices could reduce insurance premiums worldwide from $32 billion to $47 billion over the next decade. Worldwide, home insurance premiums reached nearly $161 billion in 2013, according to the study. The projected premium savings, therefore, could be from 20% to 30%.

Some insurance industry experts say connected-home technology could change the basic need to even have insurance coverage. They contend a reduction in the severity and frequency of home losses comprise the bulk of insurance premiums. The question, they say, is when would premium dollars be reduced by a substantial amount?

While insurance insiders agree insurance coverage will never be able to be replaced completely because of hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters, there should be savings to be enjoyed in the future.

The research and data being collected from homeowners and analyzed by insurance carriers has been compared to similar efforts by auto insurance companies. Auto insurers have used devices that monitor how far their customers drive and how frequently they slam on brakes. They've been using that decade-old research to adjust pricing of insurance premiums. In some cases, drivers who agree to use the data collection tools can save as much as 30% off their premiums. One can only imagine how a 30% homeowner's premium reduction would make Chicagoland insurance news!

Although studies are being conducted now, experts say it will probably take several years to confirm smart-home technology can translate into home insurance savings. Insurance giant, State Farm, offers a 15% premium savings to homeowners with certain internet-connected home security systems. The company deems those devices better than more traditional security systems or smoke detectors because it's easier to verify they are installed and operational. In addition, other home insurers are giving incentives to homeowners to buy connected-home devices – with a bonus if the insured homeowners will share certain data with the carrier. For example, Liberty Mutual Insurance provides discounts for its customers who use internet-connected security devices or smoke alarms. The program is currently offered in 38 states. And, if homeowners allow the company to verify the devices are operating properly they can receive an even larger premium discount.

Another insurance company, American Family Insurance, discounts the cost of Ring Video Doorbells, a product containing motion sensors, cameras and microphones. The doorbells allow homeowners to view and remotely talk to visitors from a smartphone or other device. The company also offers a program to reimburse the deductibles of any of its customers who experience a burglary. With insurance deductibles averaging between $600 and $800, that incentive can be compelling. Though other testing and studies are ongoing, the Ring Video Doorbells company recently compiled a study with the help of the Los Angeles Police Department. In the study, it was concluded that the doorbells reduce crime, however, more in-depth data is expected to take a few years to compile. Industry experts say most insurance companies need a minimum of 10 years of data before any substantial changes are made to their premium structure.

In the meantime, homeowners should keep a watchful eye on Chicagoland insurance news as advances in smart-home technology are made often, with home security and safety as one of the most important goals.

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland home insurance news in the Chicagoland Insurance section of our site below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, we post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook, many of these relate to insurance as it pertains to homes and homeowner's insurance. Check us out there.

If you’re like most homeowners, you have questions about your Chicagoland homeowners insurance. Unless you’re an insurance expert, very few of us understand all the ins and outs of our homeowner’s insurance policy. More importantly, few homeowners truly understand how losses caused by natural disasters affect their insurance premiums. Believe it or not, homeowners across the country have decided to drop their insurance policies altogether. Let’s examine the reasons why and consider if you could ever find yourself in their shoes.

Property insurance premiums have risen steadily over much of the last decade, according to Trulia, who cites government sources that say a record number of homeowners are relinquishing their insurance coverage.

Hurricane Matthew, which recently wreaked havoc all along the Southeastern United States coastline, was responsible for losses estimated as high as $6 billion – primarily caused by high winds and storm surges. Now federal officials are discovering the damages will likely be much higher, since many of those affected by the storm were uninsured.

Will your Chicagoland homeowners insurance cover this?

In 2014, the U.S. Census Bureau reported insurance coverage among homeowners living in the Southeast’s largest metropolitan areas dropped anywhere from 7% to 12%. As an example, in Miami, the number of homeowners with property insurance declined from 90% in 2006 to just 78% in 2014. And while the Census Bureau report only reported on primary mortgage insurance, other disaster insurances such as flood insurance or hurricane coverage contained a requirement that the homeowner should first have a standard policy in order to add a hurricane policy. Trulia says there were two contributing factors responsible for the number of homeowners who dropped property insurance:

  • Most mortgage lenders require – as a condition of the loan – that a homeowner’s policy be in effect. As a result, the the mortgage is paid off, homeowners elect to go without insurance.
  • Homeowner’s insurance coverage is expensive and has increased steadily over the past eight years. During that time, premiums have risen an average of more than 28% nationwide. Trulia says that of the 25 most expensive homeowner’s insurance markets, 10 are in the Southeast.

Despite the fact that many homeowners did not have insurance in the areas affected by Hurricane Matthew, there are other means of compensation and relief. In times of natural disaster the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) often steps in to provide assistance capped at various levels depending on the regional maximums and extent of the damage.

The big question homeowners should wonder about their Chicagoland homeowners insurance coverage is, “Could it happen here?” Let’s take a look at what could happen and why.

While the threat of hurricanes is more likely in some parts of the country than others, there are other perils or natural disasters that could affect insurance companies on a national level. Tornados, wildfires, earthquakes and raging floodwaters can create staggering losses – losses that a large insurance provider will ultimately have to pay. Should the losses be higher than forecasted by these large insurers, homeowners will bear the brunt of paying higher insurance premiums – sooner than later. Again, as mentioned earlier, premiums have risen over 28% in the U.S. in the past eight years alone. As has been the case in some Southeastern states who’ve experienced record flooding and hurricane damage in each of the past three years, imagine premiums which continually increase until you as a homeowner reach your financial breaking point.

If your home is covered by an existing mortgage, chances are you’re required to maintain at least basic Chicagoland  homeowners insurance coverage on the property in an amount sufficient to cover the outstanding loan amount. However, if your home doesn’t have a mortgage, there’s no such requirement, and you’re free to reduce or even drop insurance coverage. Though not advisable, it can be an option to avoid higher premiums. And while it is one option, there are several others. Consider refinancing to have enough money available to properly cover your property in the event of a peril that could destroy it completely. Still the question remains as to whether insurance coverage is a good idea or too much of an added expense. We argue a case for keeping insurance coverage in force – always – despite the cost.

Should you reduce or eliminate insurance coverage on your home? In a perfect world, the answer would always be a resounding “No!” Insurance covering your family’s largest asset – protecting the most expensive investment you’ve likely ever made – is a vital part of home ownership. Should your home be damaged or destroyed by fire or a natural disaster like a flood or a hurricane, without insurance you’d be left to repair or replace your home out of pocket. Few families in today’s economic climate are able to do that, and if you’re unable to do so, you should think twice before gambling by not having insurance coverage. With the rising cost of labor and materials, repairing or replacing your home may be a more expensive undertaking than you think. That's why your insurance coverage should always allow for the replacement value of your home and its contents.

While there may be some areas of the United States that are more prone to certain natural disasters than others, anyone can fall victim to a fire or other loss that may require a substantial out of pocket expense to even attempt to recover. That’s why Chicagoland homeowners insurance experts, financial advisors and real estate professionals all agree that insuring your home is not only vital to protecting your biggest asset, but it protects your family’s future, as well.

Nobody knows what the future holds when it comes to higher prices – regardless of whether it’s higher insurance premiums or not. Through careful planning and frank discussions with your insurance agent – and possibly other companies in the marketplace – there are other viable alternatives to consider rather than eliminating homeowner’s insurance coverage. In our book, that should be the last resort. In fact, we’d more likely recommend selling your home and renting, or buying a less expensive home that you can more readily afford to insure. Eliminating or minimizing the risk is what insurance is all about. Protect your family’s future and their well being.

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland homeowners insurance in the Chicagoland Insurance section of our site below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, you can also check us out by following us on Twitter and finding us on Facebook.

Chicagoland insurance costs aren't cheap. The average U.S. homeowner pays $952 for insurance on their home. While it’s not a budget-breaker, we all would like to pay less. Here are a few helpful strategies and tips that not only better protect your home from loss, but can help save you money, too.

First, it’s important to make sure you have the proper amount of coverage on your home. It’s vital to determine whether you’re currently paying too much or not enough. Chicagoland insurance costs experts recommend working with your insurance agent to calculate the estimated cost of rebuilding your home should a disaster occur. Keep in mind the replacement value of your home will likely be a great deal higher than the market value. Why? Because if you have to completely rebuild your home, it will probably be more expensive than what you paid for it. In addition, if you have a mortgage, your lender will usually only require coverage in an amount equal to what you paid for the home. In actuality, the mortgage holder really only cares about sufficient coverage to pay off the loan amount in the event of a total loss resulting from a fire or natural disaster.

Your Chicagoland insurance costs can get away from you if you're not paying attention to details.

Your insurance agent can assist you with ideas about upgrades and loss prevention steps you can take to lower your Chicagoland insurance costs – without running the risk of being underinsured. We’ve identified ten items that could reduce your homeowners insurance premiums.

Choose a higher deductible.

If you’re comfortable with paying for smaller claims out of your pocket, you definitely need to increase your deductible. Since most homeowners plan to use their insurance coverage for major perils, your deductible should be at least $1,000. Insurance experts say the more you’re able to pay from your cash reserves or savings, the more you’re able to save. Homeowners with $5,000 or even $10,000 deductibles can save even more – if they are capable of covering the costs.

Consider bundling your policies.

Insurance companies that offer policies covering home, auto or life often provide a discount for bundling them together under the same company. Experts suggest shopping each of the policies separately and comparing the costs to what bundling them would be. If the savings warrants, it makes sense to deal with one reputable, highly-rated insurance company.

Don’t sweat the small claims.

Avoid making small claims if possible. Should you incur damage to your home that you can handle out of pocket without filing a claim with your insurance company, do it. Like most insurance, the more claims you make (not just the size of each claim) the greater the likelihood your premiums will increase. In addition, before you think you’ll just change insurance carriers, experts point out many insurance companies are members of a larger database with information on customer claims. So, just changing carriers won’t necessarily mean you’ll start over with a new company – your premium may still be higher.

Opt for paperless billing.

Insurance companies – like many other business who receive monthly payments – always seek their own ways to cut costs. Encouraging customers to choose paperless billing has been one way insurers can do this. In turn, by passing on some of the cost savings to their customers, paperless billing can offer you a small discount on your Chicagoland insurance costs.

Pay premiums annually instead of monthly.

Most insurance companies include a small processing fee for premium payments paid monthly. However, some companies offer cost savings if you elect to pay your premium annually, or even semi-annually. Depending on how much the processing fees are, you could save up to $50 or more.

Install a central alarm system.

If you install a central alarm system – one that’s monitored by a home security company – you could qualify for a discount. Insurance companies reward their customers who perform proactive measures to limit or prevent damages that could potentially occur to their insured premises. An alarm system notifying first responders like the fire department or police department usually minimizes losses to both the homeowner and the insurance company.

If your home is older, update it.

Older homes, of course, likely have outdated electrical and plumbing systems. Such systems can often be responsible for damage – and resulting losses – for the homeowner and the insurance company. By replacing the electrical and plumbing systems you can save money on your Chicagoland insurance costs by minimizing the risk older systems pose.

Professionally install storm shutters and doors.

Notice we used the word, “professionally.” If your home is located in a hurricane-prone area, having professionally installed protective storm shutters and storm doors can save money on your insurance premium. Check with your carrier ahead of time and find out what they will require for a premium discount. Most companies will want receipts for the work performed or other certification that the work was completed by a professional installation company. Having specially designed storm shutters and doors may help save Chicagoland insurance costs.

Install an automatic generator.

During a power outage – especially in some parts of the country – water pipes can freeze quickly, creating considerable damage in the event of breakage. If you have an automatic generator wired directly to your home’s electrical system you can avert such a disaster. In return, most insurance providers will give you a money-saving discount for being prepared – and potentially eliminating damages or loss.

Exercise customer loyalty.

One of the hallmarks of good customer service is rewarding customers for their continued brand loyalty. Insurance companies do the same thing. For example, one nationally recognized insurance company will lower a customer’s deductible by $50 for every year the customer has had the policy – without increasing the premium. It’s a simple, but effective way of saying “thanks” for being a loyal customer. The net effect, of course, is the customer is saving money by not having to pay for the lower deductible. It's just another way you can save on Chicagoland insurance costs.

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland insurance in the Chicagoland Insurance section of our site below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember, you can also check us out by following us on Twitter and finding us on Facebook.

Chicagoland insurance experts report many first time homeowners find buying home insurance more than a little intimidating. Insurance professionals recommend prospective buyers consider a few common questions before they begin shopping for coverage. Doing so may give first time buyers a better understanding of Chicagoland insurance and a greater comfort level as they discuss their insurance needs.

Chicagoland Insurance – Some Q&A

Let’s examine some frequently asked questions from first time home buyers.

Questions and answers about Chicagoland Insurance for first time home buyers

Am I required to get insurance prior to buying a home?

Some may find this surprising, but the answer is actually, no. While most states require drivers to have auto insurance coverage on a newly-purchased vehicle, that's not the case with a home. The big exception, of course, is if you are taking out a mortgage loan to purchase your home, the lender will almost always require home insurance coverage in at least the amount of the mortgage to protect the collateral.

What type of coverage is included?

Most standard home insurance policies generally cover the structure of the home, its contents (furnishings, appliances and personal items,) other structures on the property, and additional living expenses. Here’s a closer look at each:

The Structure:  In the event your home is damaged or totally destroyed by a fire or other covered peril, your insurance policy will cover most of the expenses required to repair or re-construct the house. Keep in mind, the coverage of your structure isn’t necessarily the same as the amount your home cost when you bought it. Most Chicagoland insurance experts recommend having structure coverage in an amount required to completely rebuild your home in the event of a total loss.

The Contents:  Contents coverage applies to your personal possessions in the home. This portion of your insurance policy is activated if your belongings are damaged or destroyed by a covered peril, such as a fire. A word of caution, however, if you own items of higher value like expensive jewelry, rare antiques or a valuable art collection, most insurance policies contain a maximum – or cap – on the repair or replacement value of those items. Typically, the cap is $1,000-$2,000. Most Chicagoland insurance companies can add a rider to your existing policy to increase the coverage amount for your higher-valued possessions.

Liability Coverage:  Liability coverage is the part of your home insurance that can help pay for medical, rehabilitation, or funeral expenses if a person is injured while on your covered property. In addition, if the injured party sues you that coverage can help pay for the costs associated with the lawsuit – and its consequences.

Although coverage amounts vary, typical liability coverage limits are $100,000. According to Chicagoland insurance professionals you should consider setting coverage limits between $300,000 and $500,000. This is especially true if your home features what lawyers term “attractive nuisances,” such as a swimming pool, a trampoline or a swing set. Because these items are often responsible for home injuries, increasing coverage limits is recommended since today’s medical and legal costs can mount quickly.

Other Structures:  Additional structures on your property such as a detached garage, tool shed, workshop or children’s playhouse are covered in the event of damage or loss by a covered peril. This portion of your policy would help pay to repair or reconstruct the structures.

Additional Living Expenses:  Should your home be destroyed by a covered peril, this coverage can help pay for living expenses like hotel accommodations and food expenses for the amount of time you’re displaced from your home. It is highly recommended you discuss this with your insurance company to understand the limits of coverage. Most policies limit the amount of time you and your family would be covered.

What are covered perils?

Standard Chicagoland insurance policies cover damage as a result of fire, hail, lightning, windstorms, theft, vandalism, explosions, and riots. In addition, water damage from frozen, burst, or leaking pipes is usually covered. Remember, damage caused by earthquakes or floods is not covered. Those natural disasters require separate policies for each specific coverage.

How much coverage do I need?

The best way to make sure you have enough coverage is to take a complete inventory of your home. Make a list of everything you own and the value of each item. It’s best to have a photo or video file of your possessions and, if possible, include the receipts or other proof showing the amount you paid for them. Make several copies of the inventory list and keep them in various safe locations like a bank safe deposit box, a personal file in your office, or at the home of a relative. Meet with your insurance company and review the list with your agent. They will best determine the amount of coverage you need.

What determines my premium?

The cost of your Chicagoland insurance policy is determined by these factors:

  • Your credit score
  • Your claims history (both personally and the history for the area in which you live)
  • Your home’s location
  • Your home’s age
  • Costs to rebuild your home
  • Your home’s proximity to a fire hydrant or fire department
  • Whether you own pets or not. For example, owning a dog – especially certain breeds – may require additional liability coverage
  • The types of coverage you choose

How can I save money on my premiums?

Consider these money-saving ideas:

  • Discounts.  There are discounts available. Having your home and auto insurance with the same company can often earn a discount. Having home safety features such as security systems or smoke alarms can also save money.
  • Raise the deductible. Your deductible is the amount of money you have to pay out of pocket on a claim before your insurance begins to pay. Increasing the deductible will save money on your premium. Be careful, however, that you don’t create a financial hardship if you have a claim by having your deductible too high.
  • Increase your credit score. Insurance companies use statistics citing your credit score as an indicator of how likely you are to file an insurance claim. Do what you can to improve your credit score. Increasing your score can decrease premium payments.

How do I select a company?

Like most large purchases, we suggest you shop around. Most Chicagoland insurance companies offer different coverage terms and costs. Get quotes from several companies and compare what each covers and what it costs.

You can find more articles pertaining to Chicagoland insurance in the Chicagoland Insurance section of our site below Chicagoland Real Estate Categories in the column to your right.

Remember to also check us out by following us on Twitter and Finding us on Facebook.