Guide to buying home insurance

Getting a good quote is one thing but making sure that your home and contents is equally important.  Here are a few tips on both what you need at hand to get a quote and how you can assist with getting the best deal.

Before you start
Have the following details at hand – they are not always obvious to you so a little homework on your property will help.

Build date
Your properties build date.  You should be able to find this on the survey or home-buyers report that you may have if you purchased the property.

Type of locks
What type of locks you have fitted and what standard they are.  This can make a good difference to cost but make sure you are accurate.

Getting this right is important as a lot of homes have the wrong sort of locks fitted on their doors and therefore don’t comply with insurance companies requirements.

The easiest way to approach it is to have 5 Lever kitemarked B/S3621 locks fitted on all external doors, front and back, and key locking window locks on all windows.

Internal doors do not require locks on them but if you wish to lock them then a 2 or 3 lever will be adequate.

When go through the process to find home insurance the insurers will ask you to tell them what locks you have on your exterior doors and your windows as well.  Insurers may offer different rates for better sorts of locks so its worth considering upgrading – remember your quote application must be about the locks you have fitted at the time cover starts, not on your plans to do so.

If you live in a higher risk area and have a low level of security you could find the price of your premium rises considerably, and when you have locks – you must use them.  If you make a claim and you have fabulous five lever locks everywhere, the loss adjuster can invalidate your claim if you left the house with the doors or windows unlocked.

Neighbourhood watch
Are you in a recognised neighbourhood watch and is it active?  If not sure check here 

Scotland Neighbourhood watch can be found here  and Northern Ireland here

Neighbourhood Watch  is  national charity, who is partly funded by the Home Office and work with them on national crime issues such as Serious & Organised Crime and cybercrime.

Neighbourhood Watch Associations work with their own local authorities to help reduce crime and make their communities safe and pleasant places to live. Neighbourhood Watch volunteers are often involved with Community Safety Partnerships and local government initiatives.

Your home’s rebuild cost.
This can appear quite tricky as rebuild costs are not easily evident and most of us are not builders or quantity surveyors.  You really want to have an accurate figure to allow the insurer to quote and cover the real cost of rebuilding your home should for example it burn down.

If you under insure then you will have to make up the shortfall yourself, and if you over insure then you will add up paying a higher premium and can find that the loss adjuster will not pay out more than the actual cost even if you have more covered.

You will need to consider demolition and removal of debris costs along with the cost of rebuilding to the original size and standard using new materials.  Bear in mind that if you have an unusual or listed property that there could be extra charges involved with this.

How to get to an accurate figure?  You may have this listed in your survey or home-buyers report but allow for inflation or increases in costs over the years.   You can also take a look at the Association of British Insurers  (ABI) website where they have a free tool to help you calculate your own rebuild costs.  You can find the free rebuild cost tool here

Having smoke and burglar alarms can be very important both for your personal safety and for your premium.  Lots of homes will have battery powered smoke alarms but they are useless if the battery is flat – so change regularly or even better have an approved system fitted by an accredited and regulated company.

For smoke and in particular burglar alarIt’s best to ensure that they’re approved models.  The most common approval is a National Approvals Council for Security Systems (NACOSS) Alarm and can get you a serious discount on your premiums.

NACOSS is later merged to become the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) but NACOSS is the commonly known standard.

NSI approval is not simply a bureaucratic box ticking exercise; all NSI certified companies are audited twice a year and re-certified every three years to ensure that the standards are being maintained.

Pay annually if you can
There is normally an extra cost to paying monthly so if you can buy a yearly policy.  Some insurance companies however can spread your costs at no extra charge so its best to look at the offer they make to you.

Buy Buildings and Contents together
This is usually cheaper than buying each sort of cover separately – of course if you are renting and not required to have buildings cover then don’t spend out on it – check what you need to have in place and only cover that.

Build up your no claims bonus
Not every insurance company offer this but if you have home insurance and dont make a claim then many will see you as a good risk and offer you a lower premium.

Think about add ons and extras
Do you need to have cover for shed’s, pushbikes and garden tools?   If not then maybe a policy that does not cover that is cheaper.

Consider increasing your excess
In the same way that increasing your excess (the amount of a claim that you are expected to cover yourself) can reduce your premium for cars and motorcycles – the same is true of house insurance.  If you are willing to cover a higher amount from your own pocket if you make a claim then this can reduce the premium from the insurer.

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