Experts Offer Tips On Understanding Homeowners Insurance
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — In February 2010, a massive snowstorm walloped Pittsburgh. Then, in March of 2011, a tornado tore its way through Westmoreland County.
Last month, a twister leveled a town in Missouri, thousands were impacted and the damage was in the millions. But, are you covered if a disaster hits your home?
Nobody wants insurance — until they need it.
“I think to myself, how can you go without insurance even for a couple hours,” said Kristen Walch, an Allstate Insurance agent in Wexford. “Who knows when a fire breaks out or somebody’s going to rob you and you need that insurance; and if not, you are going to be stuck paying that out of pocket.”
Whether it is the tornado that hit Hempfield Township this spring or less catastrophic storm damage, how do you know if you are covered? What if it is just the sewer backing up into your basement?
Gary Madia owns Madia Insurance in the North Hills.
He says, “Damages [to] the carpeting in your finished basement, or something like that, you can have coverage for that – you can buy coverage for that – but a basic policy normally does not pick that up.”
Any agency can provide coverage for something like a sewer backup. It’s written as a rider or extension to your policy and costs as little as $50 a year. The problem is — every year people learn the hard way they didn’t have enough coverage, particularly for specialty items like jewelry.
“If it’s gold, yeah, it needs to be reappraised,” advises Walch. “It needs to be itemized, because like I said anybody can say somebody stole 15 rings from my desk drawer, but that’s not true. You are only going to get a minimal amount if you don’t have it specified on a rider.”
Rarely do the policy-holders have any idea what kind of coverage they have or what is in it. Madia believes the high-tech culture we live in is part of the reason.
“It’s confusing. They don’t understand it,” he said. “I think a lot of people today are buying online and they don’t have anyone to talk to, they just click a few buttons and get something.”
Storm damage typically is covered, but few policies cover flooding. You need to buy it separately.
Walch recommends insuring the replacement value of your home and its contents.
“It’s not, how much is it worth if I sell it, how much is it worth if something happens,” she said. “It’s how much is it worth if it burns down to the ground, what would it cost to rebuild that house?”
Her best advice is to talk to your agent at least once a year to make sure there are no surprises if and when disaster strikes.