Owning it


Homeowner’s cover: peace of mind – and peace in the home!

Homeowner's cover: peace of mind – and peace in the home!

Most of us are eternal optimists – we hope to lead a trouble-free life, and we don't usually go around courting disaster. But insurers tend to know better. They know that, well, stuff happens, and that we just can't predict what tomorrow will bring. And they also know that when trouble comes calling, it's so much better if you're prepared.

We house our most precious people and possessions in our homes – our family and a lifetime's worth of belongings we love. And these all need protecting. But the first priority when applying for a bond is putting homeowner's cover in place.

And, while banks usually insist on – and might automatically provide you with – some sort of protection for your home (and their asset), it helps to shop around so that you get the cover you need. Having said that, make sure you don't do dual insurance – check your bond statement to make sure you're not paying twice.

Homeowner's cover won't protect your belongings and beloveds – there are other insurance products for that – but it will safeguard the physical structure of your home: the walls, roof, and fixtures such as fitted carpets, built-in cupboards, gate and gate motor, and light fittings. It usually also covers garages, domestic quarters, outside laundries, greenhouses and swimming pools.

But there's so much confusion out there when picking a policy that it helps to know your excesses from your exclusions, your premiums from your payouts. Here's some insider wisdom on home insurance:

1. Why you need homeowners cover

  • When an insured event happens, repairs will be done quickly without you having to find and fork out the funds right away.
  • You'll have access to emergency repair services to prevent further damage and disintegration.
  • If the damage is so serious that you're no longer able to stay in your home, your policy could cover your temporary living expenses while repairs are done.
  • Many policies offer extras and nice-to-haves, like an expert team of service providers on speed dial for daily home emergencies. Or cover for third parties who are injured on your property (visitors or tenants) – this protects you from possible litigation!

2. The cost of cover

  • The cost of your cover is not linked to the market value of your home, but to its replacement value. It's the cost of completely rebuilding your home from the ground up. Imagine a sudden tsunami or tornado sweeping through your neighbourhood! Not a pleasant thought, but it gives you a sense of just what funds you'll need to rebuild your property.
  • Other factors influencing the replacement cost include the location of the property, its design, and all those fine finishes you so lovingly laboured over. Whether you've bought a golden oldie, an off-the-grid eco wonder or an architected work of art, this will be factored into the replacement value.
  • Your premiums will also depend on whether it's a primary home or a holiday home – a holiday home will have periods when the property stands vacant, and that matters.
  • You'll need to decide on whether to pay higher monthly premiums with a lower excess per insured event, or lower monthly premiums with a higher event-based excess. Do the math!

3. Avoid under-insuring your home

  • It's important to make sure your home is insured to its correct value. It's not about the purchase price but the building costs – and those are high in SA. Building a new home can cost a whopping 30% more than buying an existing property!
  • While your bank will do a pretty thorough property valuation, it's really worth your while to get an independent property valuator in to assess its real worth.

4. What's not covered?

  • Always read the fine print, and make sure you understand the Ts & Cs – and don't be afraid to ask your insurer if you don't. It's important to get beyond the jargon so you know what you're committing to.
  • Always check what the grounds for a rejected claim may be.
  • Always check whether your cover is for a residential property only, or not. If you're running a catering service from home, or you're signed up with Airbnb, make sure you're covered.
  • Be mindful of the following general exclusions:
    • Damage done by your darling pets – claw and paw damage!
    • Theft that took place without forcible or violent entry. If you forgot to lock and set your alarm, you may not be covered
    • Poor property maintenance – if you've let your property go to rack and ruin, and, say, a fire breaks out due to unmaintained wiring, you may not be covered
    • If you let your garden grow wild, and roots and weeds push through the paving and walls, you may not be covered
    • If you have no home security system, you may not be covered
    • If your home stands vacant for a long period of time, you won't be protected

5. Check in on your policy each year

  • If you've made some really significant renovations like a fabulous new kitchen or bathroom, or built on new rooms and outbuildings, you'll need to refresh your policy.
  • If you've added energy-saving installations – think solar geysers, a backup generator or a water tank – you'll also need to update your policy.
  • If you've installed aircons or some smart security features, you'll need to relook your policy.
  • Even if you haven't revamped your residence, it's always good to check that you're adequately covered.

You need to make a truly informed decision when it comes to insurance. Look out for hidden provisos, disclaimers and exclusions. Ask the hard questions now, so that you don't end up under-insured or with a rejected claim when you most need the funds. Because every bit better your home insurance is, ultimately prevents your life from getting that much worse.

Shop around for cover that works for you. BetterSure's Homeowners Cover (HOC), for example, offers you fabulous features like Personal Assist – a dedicated person to address all your concerns – and Legal Assist – unlimited telephonic advice from a team of top-rate attorneys. They'll also provide DIY help, geyser inspections and third-party cover.

Whatever cover you choose, make sure your policy protects you for the better, when life takes a turn for the worst!

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