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Home Insurance 101 – Homeowners Insurance Information

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When you insure your home, you should insure your home for the total amount it would cost to rebuild your home if it were destroyed. If you don’t have sufficient insurance, your insurance company may only pay a portion of the cost of replacing or repairing damaged items.

There are three ways to insure the structure of your home:

1. Replacement Cost: Insurance that pays the policyholder the cost of replacing the damaged property without deduction for depreciation, but limited to a maximum dollar amount.

2. Guaranteed Replacement Cost: Insurance that pays the full cost of replacing damaged property, without a deduction for depreciation and without a dollar limit. This coverage is not available in all states and some companies limit the coverage to 120 percent of the cost of rebuilding your home. This gives you protection against such things as a sudden increase in construction costs due to a shortage of building materials.

3. Actual Cash Value: Insurance under which the policyholder receives an amount equal to the replacement value of damaged property minus an allowance for depreciation. Unless a homeowners policy specifies that property is covered for its replacement value, the coverage is for actual cash value.

For a quick estimate of the amount to rebuild your home, multiply the local building costs per square foot by the total square footage of your house. To find out the building rates in your area, consult your local builders association or real estate appraiser.

Factors that will determine the cost to rebuild your home:

  • Local construction costs
  • The square footage of the structure
  • The type of exterior wall construction: frame, masonry (brick or stone) or veneer
  • The style of the house (ranch, colonial)
  • The number of bathrooms and other rooms
  • The type of roof
  • Attached garages, fireplaces, exterior trim and other special features like arched windows.

Also be sure to check the value of your insurance policy against rising local building costs each year. Ask your insurance agent or company representative about adding an “Inflation Guard Clause” to your policy. This automatically adjusts the dwelling limit when you renew your policy to reflect current construction costs in your area. Also, be sure to increase the limit of your policy if you make improvements or additions to your house.

rivate Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Private mortgage insurance is a type of insurance that helps protect the mortgage company against losses due to foreclosure. This protection is provided by private mortgage insurance companies and allows mortgage companies to accept lower down payments than would normally be allowed.

Private mortgage insurance also enables mortgage companies to grant loans that would otherwise be considered too risky to be purchased by third party investors like the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (FHLMC). The ability to sell loans to these investors is critical to maintaining mortgage market liquidity, which in turn, allows mortgage companies to continue originating new loans.

PMI Cancellation

Mortgage insurance can usually be canceled by the home buyer after he or she has at least 20 percent equity in the home. Borrowers should contact their servicer to find out the procedure for canceling mortgage insurance when they think they have achieved 20 percent equity. Guidelines for canceling private mortgage insurance are set by investors. Typically, investors will require an appraisal on the property. The servicer can recommend qualified local appraisers.

PMI Payment Options

Private mortgage insurance can be paid on either an annual, monthly or single premium plan. Premiums are based on the amount and terms of the mortgage and will vary according to loan-to-value ratio, type of loan, and amount of coverage required by the mortgage company.

Under an annual plan, an initial one year premium is collected up front at closing, with monthly payments collected along with the mortgage payment each month thereafter. Monthly plans allow a borrower to pay only 1 or 2 months worth of premium at closing, and then on a monthly basis along with the regular mortgage payment. Under a single premium plan, the entire premium covering several years is paid in a lump sum at closing. Typically, homebuyers choose to add the amount of the mortgage insurance premium to the loan amount. By doing this, homebuyers can reduce their closing costs and increase their interest deduction.

Private Mortgage Insurance VS FHA Mortgage Insurance

Although the insurance protection concept is similar, there are differences between private mortgage insurance and FHA mortgage insurance. FHA insurance is a government-administered mortgage insurance program that does have certain restrictions. FHA has maximum regional loan limits that are lower than those with private mortgage insurance. FHA may be more expensive, take longer to receive approval, and have fewer payment plan options. FHA insurance lasts for the life of the loan, unlike private mortgage insurance which is cancelable in most circumstances. FHA is a good choice for some borrowers with credit history problems that might need special assistance

Title Insurance

A policy of title insurance is a contract of indemnity between the insured and the insuring company relating to the title to the land described in the policy, protecting the insured against loss of damage by reason of defects, liens or encumbrances of the insured title existing at the date of the policy and not expressly excepted from its coverage.

The policy is issued after a complete search and examination of the public records and shows the condition of the record title, including any money obligations outstanding against the property, easements and other matters which may affect the rights of ownership, possession and use of the property.

Title insurance protects the “record” title, insuring it is good subject only to the exceptions expressly set out in the policy. lt also insures against certain matters which do not appear of record, such as forgery, identity of parties, incompetence of former owners, interest of missing heirs, and status of individuals not having the “right” to sell property.

There are different types of policies. Owners’ policies are issued to real estate owners. Purchasers’ policies are issued to purchasers of real estate under contract. Mortgage policies are issued to mortgage companies. In addition there are several other special forms of policies. There is a type of policy to meet the requirements of almost any form of real estate transaction.

Title Insurance Protection

Title Insurance insures that the “record” title is good subject only to the exceptions expressly set out in the policy. It also insures against certain matters which do not appear of record, such as forgery, identity of parties, incompetence of former owners, interest of missing heirs, and status of individuals not having the “right” to sell property.

The standard owners policy and standard mortgage policy are based on public records of the recording district in which the land is located. It does not insure against matters which would only be disclosed by actual inspection or survey of the property. It does not insure against certain matters not shown by the public records such as unrecorded easements, liens or money obligations; unrecorded utility rights of way, public or private roads, community driveways and other types of encumbrances, or against the rights or claims of persons in possession of the property which are not shown by the public records.

Upon application, the issuing company may specially cover matters which are disclosed by a physical inspection and/or a survey of the property, subject to any exceptions which the inspection will determine to be proper. An additional risk premium is charged for this type of coverage. Insurance of this kind is called extended coverage.

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