Extending Your Replacement Cost Coverage Can Be a Financial Lifesaver

31 Aug

As the wildfire season starts in California, and other states out West, homeowners should be aware that they may not be fully covered if their house is completely destroyed by a wildfire due to rising costs of materials and labor. 

Homeowners are finding out too late, often after their home has been destroyed by a wildfire, that the amount of insurance they are carrying is no longer enough to rebuild their home. Catherine Wilson, who lives in the California mountains was recently highlighted in a KNBC article regarding her wildfire loss. 

“All of that sense of security, that sense of having roots, the sense of coming from family, just evaporated,” she said in the recent KNBC article. Wilson’s insurer was willing to pay out $400,000 to rebuild her house, but unfortunately, her contractor told her it would cost over $650,000 to rebuild her home the way it was originally. “Which is way more than I’m insured for and can’t afford,” said Wilson in the KNBC article.

Wilson may now need to rebuild a smaller home or relocate to a different area and not rebuild on her original house site. She is not the only homeowner to face this issue. As building costs have skyrocketed due to supply chain and labor issues combined with inflation, homeowners have found themselves under insured, even if their coverage levels were sufficient in the past. 

The National Association of Home Builders estimates the cost of materials used in residential homes has shot up 28% since January of 2021. Homeowners are not keeping up with the rising cost of coverage, according to the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, a mere 30% of homeowners have upped their coverage levels to make sure their home is fully covered.

The best advice for homeowners at this point in time is to call your insurance company to get information on your local building cost per square foot to make sure you are fully protected in the event a wildfire would hit your home. In addition to your insurer, you can also check with local contractors regarding building costs. 

“It’s really important for people to get in touch with a local contractor and ask the average building cost right now per square foot,” said Janet Ruiz with the Insurance Information Institute in the recent KNBC article. 

Once you have determined your rebuilding costs, you should up your coverage levels as necessary to make sure your home is fully protected against fire and other covered perils. It is also advisable to add extended replacement cost coverage, which is an endorsement on your policy that extends your dwelling coverage by 10% to 50% of the cost to rebuild your home.

As an example, if you are carrying $400,000 in coverage on your home and add a 20% extended replacement cost coverage to your policy you would have a total of $480,000 available to rebuild your home. 

Extended replacement cost coverage can be a financial lifesaver if a major fire or storm hits your area which can quickly push up rebuilding costs. “After a catastrophe, if 1,000 or more homes have been total losses and burned in a wildfire, then the prices can go up because contractors are having a hard time getting supplies, explained Ruiz in the KNBC article.

One way to make sure you are paid quickly and fairly by your insurer is to have an updated home inventory ready. Record the price and purchase date of all expensive home items, such as electronics and photo or video all your possessions. There are numerous apps available that make this tedious process a bit easier. 

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