YOU'VE finally got your foot on the property ladder and are the proud owner of your first home.
Great! But how can you make sure that your dream of becoming a homeowner doesn't turn into a nightmare?
Whether you own your own place or are a renter, you should seriously consider getting home insurance to make sure you're not left in the lurch if something goes wrong.
But with 16million Brits having no home contents insurance, lots of us are running the risk of ending up seriously out of pocket.
Here's what you need to know and how you can get cheap cover:
What is home insurance and what does it cover?
There are two main types of home insurance – buildings and contents.
Simply, buildings insurance covers your physical property – so its actual structure, its fixtures and fittings – while content insurance looks after your belongings.
Many insurers offer policies which combine both – and if you're a homeowner, you'll want to think about this type of policy.
If you're a renter, your building insurance should be taken care of by your landlord but you should still consider getting contents insurance to make sure you can replace your ruined possessions if a pipe bursts.
What does content insurance cover?
According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the average contents insurance policy costs just £127 a year.
All your personal belongings are generally covered, so things like clothing, furniture and jewellery will be insured.
Level of cover varies wildly between policies but you'll typically be covered against theft, fire and flood damage too.
Additional extras like "personal possessions" cover will cover you for personal items that you take outside your home.
Contents insurance, unlike buildings insurance, won't provide cover for the actual structure of your home and cover for a single possession is typically capped at £1,500.
Make sure you know what your limits are and what you'll be covered for before taking out a policy.
Think carefully about the value of everything in your home so you know your insurance will replace it all if there's a fire.
How to keep your home insurance premiums cheap
HERE are some tips from the Money Advice Service on how to save costs on your home insurance premiums.
Increase security: Some companies will only insure you if you have BSI-approved locks on all outside doors and windows. You might also receive a reduction for joining your local Neighbourhood Watch scheme and for installing some security lighting.
Install alarms: Smoke and burglar alarms are both important. Make sure they’re approved models — a NACOSS alarm (National Approvals Council for Security Systems) could earn a discount on your premiums.
Take advantage of offers: Some insurers guarantee to beat any quote by up to ten per cent, on a like-for-like basis.
Pay annually: Monthly premiums can cost more. There’s usually an extra six per cent charge to pay. But some insurers will allow payment by instalments for no extra charge so it’s worth shopping around.
Increase the excess on your policy: Excess is a contribution you pay towards the cost of your claim. If you are happy to cover a bit more yourself, your premiums might be lowered.
Build your no-claims discount: If you don’t claim for a few years there may be a discount, but not all firms offer this, so check first.
Buy buildings and contents cover together: You might get a discount if you get both from the same firm. Also, if there’s a fire, or something that affects both the building and your possessions, it’s often simpler to claim.
What does buildings insurance cover?
Building insurance covers the big things, such as the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if it's seriously damaged.
Again policies vary between insurers but according to the Money Advice Service, generally you'll be able to claim if your home is damaged by:
- Subsidence (if the foundations become unstable)
- Water damage from leaking pipes
- Events such as storms and floods
Some policies might also cover other structures around your property such as driveways and garages.
Be aware that typical exclusions – things you won't be covered for – include leaking gutters, damage caused by pests, and storm damage to fences and gates.
You normally claim if something happens to your property and it has been left unoccupied for more than 30 days.
What do you need to be aware of when buying home insurance?
Like all insurance policies, your loyalty doesn't pay when it comes to renewal time.
Firms usually offer their best deals to new customers to try to get them to switch – so make sure you shop around when your policy is coming up for renewal.
You'll most likely be able get a much cheaper deal than what your current provider is offering – just make sure you're happy with the level of cover they're offering.
If you can pay for your premium in one go, it'll also work out cheaper than if you were to pay for it each month.
Home insurance policies also come with compulsory excesses – the amount you have to pay towards any claim.
You can choose to increase this amount to lower your premium – but remember that you'll have to pay this figure if you do have to make a claim.
How can I shop around for the cheapest home insurance deals?
As home insurance depends on lots of factors that are unique to you and your property, the best way to shop around for the best deals is to use a comparison site and see what deals you can get.
MoneySavingExpert says the these are some of the best sites you can use:
Always make sure that you're happy and clear about the level of cover you'll be getting, it's not just as easy as going for the cheapest deal.
Some big insurers such as Direct Line and Aviva don't have their deals on comparison sites, so make sure you check them to see what they can offer.
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