6 things that you should avoid doing if you want to get cheaper home insurance

Steps can cause trouble or lead to missing out on discounts up to 25%

Most people find home insurance too dull to focus on until they see their bill. With premiums averaging $1,428 a year by one estimate—and expected to rise faster than inflation. You may be reviewing your insurance coverage after a long time, or ever. Or you may be new to the game unsure of the rules, and wondering how to save. 

About those rules: You’ve no doubt been told the forward-looking things to do, like shopping around and creating an inventory of the contents of your home. There are some things that you should avoid doing to save money in the long run.

Use the Same Insurer to Cover all of Your Cars

If it sounds like a hassle to consolidate all your coverages, consider this: Bundling policies with the same company can cut 30 percent off your premium, and potentially more if you add your boat or motorcycle. A recent Consumer Reports survey of 59,670 members found that people who bundled were significantly more likely to be satisfied with their premiums, says David Gopoian, the CR research program leader who ran the survey.

“Bundling insurance policies also can simplify your bill paying and record-keeping,” says Loretta Worters, a spokesperson for the Insurance Information Institute (III), an industry group. 

Tip: When shopping for new homeowners coverage, be sure to get a quote for the entire bundle.

Don't Take a Lower Deductible

While a low deductible could save money if you have a claim, the odds are you won’t have one any time soon. Consider, for instance, that only 18 percent of CR members filed a claim within the five years covered by our survey. (Members in Plains states filed at the highest frequency: 29 percent.) In the meantime, boosting your deductible to $1,000 from $500 could drop your premium by as much as 25 percent, the III says. So if your annual premium is $1,400, you could save up to $350 in that first year alone. By year two, you’d already be ahead.

Tip: Devote the savings you’ve earned on your premium to a household emergency fund. Savings or money market accounts that are covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are supersafe options.

Don't Fail to Ask About Discounts

Certain good behaviors can shave dollars from your premium. But you may only know if you’re eligible by asking. Paying your bill annually instead of monthly could save you 5 percent. Reminding your insurer that you’ve been claims-free for several years could generate a discount, too. Some insurers reward nonsmokers and retirees for posing a lower risk. “Retirees are home more, and more likely to spot a problem,” says Angel Conlin, chief insurance officer at Kin Insurance, an online carrier. 

Tip: Insurers sometimes change discounts, so talk once a year with your insurance agent or a company rep about what’s available to you. Review all your coverages; you may be able to jettison extra endorsements or riders for, say, jewelry or collectibles that you no longer own.

Don’t Fail to Mention Home Improvements

In that annual convo, also bring up safety and security improvements you’ve made. Replacing a roof with an impact-resistant one earns a 35 percent discount in some states. (In Florida, adding a third nail to roof-to-wall connectors can earn you a big break, too.) Replacing old plumbing, adding a security system, or employing gas- or water-leak detectors can each trim 2 to 6 percent off your premium. Your carrier may reward you for installing a home standby generator. Even cutting back foliage around your home to create a fire break could generate a credit on your bill. Conversely, while it’ll cost you more, report a big kitchen reno or other major improvement so that you’re covered adequately.

Tip: Keep receipts for home improvements, as well as for big purchases. Having an inventory of those expenditures—and, in fact, all the items you already own—will ensure that you get what you’re owed in the event of a major loss. 

Check your credit reports and do not ignore them. 

It’s especially important to ensure that your credit information is accurate when you’re moving to a new company. In most states, insurers can use what’s called a credit-based insurance score to price homeowners insurance premiums, and poor credit can generate a premium twice as high as good credit, a PolicyGenius study found. Insurers can even check the scores of current customers to price their policy renewal. Your credit reports from the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) contribute to your credit score, so check those regularly to identify errors and correct them.

Don't rely too much on your own loyalty.

While insurers can offer discounts of 5 to 10 percent for longtime customers, staying put could signal that you’re okay with premium hikes. So shop for coverage every couple of years. Among 7,075 Consumer Reports members who switched carriers within the five years covered by our recent survey, 39 percent said they did so because they got a better price.

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