As a homeowner, you need two types of cover.
Buildings insurance covers the structure of your home, and any permanent fixtures and fittings.
Home contents insurance covers everything that you could imagine falling out of your house if you turned it upside down and shook it.
Don’t scrimp on cover
While you may be tempted to cut corners to save yourself some money, scrimping on insurance – or not buying it at all – is a false economy, and could cost you tens of thousands of pounds should anything go wrong.
Cover for your home is particularly important during the winter when the average cost of a home contents claim rises by almost £400. This is according to new findings from Saga, which also show that claims for escape of water – often caused by freezing pipes – increase by 45% at this time of year.
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Don’t underestimate the value of your contents
You may think you have a good idea of the value of the contents of your home, yet many people under-estimate the total worth of all their belongings.
Figures from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) put the average contents value in a three-bedroom home at a hefty £55,000.
If you fail to purchase sufficient cover, this could leave you having to dig deep into your own pockets to foot the repair bill or pay to replace items yourself, should they get stolen or damaged.
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So how can you be sure you have adequate contents insurance in place?
The key is to carefully consider the value of your possessions, and obtain insurance that reflects the true cost.
As a homeowner, you need to carry out an inventory of your belongings, and and get a good understanding of the value of everything you own.
This is particularly important for older individuals who are at greater risk of ending up under-insured, as they have often accumulated more valuable items throughout their lifetime, either through increased spending power, or through inheriting heirlooms such as jewellery, furniture and antiques.
Walk around every room
As a starting point, it’s worth taking a tour around your home and making a room-by-room inventory of all the valuables you own. You should calculate the value as accurately as you can, working out how much it would cost to replace the belongings as new.
Don’t forget to include items such as carpets, curtains, expensive cookware, light fittings – and even the contents of your wardrobe – in your estimate.
It will take a bit of time to do this thoroughly, but it’s time worth spending, as this will ensure you don’t undervalue your possessions.
Check that expensive items are covered
When taking stock of all your belongings, you need to check that you have sufficient cover for any expensive items you own.
All insurance policies have a “single item limit” which is the highest amount you can claim for any one item.
This will vary from one insurer to the next, but could be as low as £1,000.
If you have high-value individual items such as jewellery, watches, artwork, antiques and designer handbags which are worth than more this, you should tell your insurer about these, and may need to take out separate cover for these, adding them to the policy as “specified items.”
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Get valuables valued regularly
At the same time, you need to be aware that the value of some items – such as gold and other precious metals or arts and antiques – will fluctuate over time.
If you own items such as these, it’s worth having them valued on a regular basis so you can ensure they still fall within the single item limit on your policy. If not, you may need to look at adding these to the policy as “specified items.”
Don’t forget the garden shed
While your focus may be on all the items inside your home, it’s important not to overlook the contents of your garden shed.
Many of us store some of our most valuable belongings in our cherished outhouses, ranging from garden tools, mowers and DIY equipment, to TVs, and other electronic goods and gadgets.
But unless you include these items when taking stock of your possessions, thousands of pounds worth of goods could be lying vulnerable.
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Check if items are covered away from home
Many people wrongly assume that items such as tablets, cameras, watches and jewellery will be covered by their policy when they are out and about, but this is often not the case.
For peace of mind, you should check your policy and, if not covered, look to take out an add-on for personal possessions outside the home.
Review your policy
Once you have bought a contents insurance policy it may be tempting just to simply let it automatically renew each year. But this could be a costly strategy.
You need to review your insurance on a regular basis to ensure you still have sufficient cover in place.
This is particularly important if you have bought new furniture or electronic equipment, or inherited items – or been given valuable gifts for Christmas or birthdays.
Also be sure to shop around at renewal time. That said, resist the temptation to buy the very cheapest policies, as this could saddle you with inferior cover or leave you dangerously under insured.
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Read the Ts and Cs
Worrying findings from Saga reveal that a third of people with insurance don’t know their total level of contents cover – so are completely unaware whether their policy covers their belongings.
To avoid this, it’s essential to go through the small print of your policy with a fine-tooth comb so you know exactly what is – and isn’t covered – should you need to make a claim.
This will give you the peace of mind of knowing that all your belongings are adequately protected.
Simple ways to cut home insurance costs
- Some insurers offer discounts for buying your policy online.
- Consider paying premiums annually rather than monthly.
- Home cover may be cheaper if you buy buildings and contents insurance from the same insurer.
- Savings can also be made by lowering your home’s security risk. Tips include installing burglar alarms, superior locks and security lighting.