News & Information

Homeowners insurance--make sure you're covered
Buying a house also involves making sure your house and valuables are protected in case of fire, flood, or some other disaster. Homeowners insurance can protect your property, but make sure the insurance is adequate.

CNNmone recommends looking for the following in a homeowners insurance policy:

  • Ask your insurer about discounts. Safety devices like smoke alarms and deadbolts can save you 5%, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some insurers also give 5% to 15% discounts if you buy two or more policies from them.
  • Make sure the insurance covers the cost to rebuild. A cash-value policy may cover only the depreciated value of your home and belongings. A guaranteed replacement clause covers the cost of rebuilding. You may need to purchase more insurance if your insurer's appraisal is low or if your home has handcrafted cabinetry or other expensive features.
  • Homeowners policies don't cover flood, earthquake, and, in most cases, sewer or storm-drain damage. You'll have to purchase separate insurance for that--especially recommended if you live in a high-risk area. This additional insurance can be purchased from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (800-427-4661).
  • Make sure your insurance contains a loss-of-use clause that covers living expenses for temporary housing (rent) during the rebuilding of your house.
  • You may need more insurance to protect what's inside your home. Valuables like jewelry, art, and electronics are usually subject to replacement limits of $1,500 to $2,500 per item. Also, videotape or photograph your possessions and keep a dated record in a safe deposit box or other secure place outside your home.

For more information, read "Federal Insurance Mops Up After Floods," or "Don't Borrow Trouble--Buy Renters Insurance," in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center under the housing section.

What should you keep in a safe deposit box?
There are no laws that limit what you can and cannot put in a safe deposit box. The only restriction may be in the financial institution's contract or lease when a person rents a box.

  • What should you store in a safe deposit box? About 5% to 10% of the boxes at Florida's unclaimed property division of the state's Banking and Finance department contain substantial cash $5,000 or more.
  • The most common items stored in safe deposit boxes are jewelry and important papers--originals of birth, marriage, and death certificates; deeds; vehicle titles; stock certificates; bonds; valuable collectibles; and insurance photos of the contents of a home.
  • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says to store items in a safe deposit box that would cause you to be in big trouble if you lost. Don't store things you would need in an emergency such as a will, a living will, or originals of a power of attorney authorization.
  • If you're concerned about losing safe deposit contents due to fire, theft, or flood--which is rare, but does happen you might want to consider insuring some items such as jewelry or coins.
  • People often make an inventory of valuable items in their house to store in a safe deposit box. Jean Salvatore of the Insurance Information Institute in New York recommends making an inventory of what's in a safe deposit box and keeping it in the house.