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What to consider when buying your home insurance

Price isn't the only factor to consider when buying home insurance. There are many areas where specific levels of cover might be important to you.

Whether you're buying your first home, moving home or simply renewing your policy, there's a lot to consider when it comes to protecting your home and possessions.

A document showing home insurance next to a model house and calculator


Buildings insurance

If you're a homeowner, you might need buildings insurance. Mortgage providers will often insist you get this insurance when buying a house.

It's there to give you some financial protection should something happen to your home, such as a fire, a falling tree or storm damage.

When you choose your buildings insurance you'll need to estimate the rebuild cost of your home, which can be easy to overestimate.

The rebuild cost is just for the physical house (the bricks and mortar), not the land it sits on. The rebuild cost calculator from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) can help you work out how much cover you need. 


Home contents insurance

Before you take out a contents insurance policy, you'll need to work out how much home contents insurance you need.

The best way to estimate the value of your contents is to do an inventory, room by room. Our contents calculator might help you work this out.

Make sure you don't underestimate how much your possessions are worth as you could end up out of pocket should you need to make a home insurance claim.

For example, let’s say you take out contents insurance for possessions worth £30,000 but their total value is really £40,000.

If you then make a claim for £4,000-worth of stolen possessions (a 10th of the sum you should be insured for), the insurer might be entitled to pay just £3,000 (a 10th of the sum you were actually insured for). 

You can take out both contents and buildings insurance in the same home insurance policy.


Contents insurance for tenants

Just because you don’t own your own home, this doesn’t mean you don’t need a type of home insurance. While your landlord will usually cover buildings insurance you will need to buy tenants insurance if you want to cover your belongings.

You will want a contents policy to cover the cost of replacing your belongings if they are lost, stolen, or damaged. If there was a fire, for example, and everything you own was destroyed, a contents policy should pay out to replace your items.

There are lots of policies to choose from so you want one that suits your needs. You can also usually buy add-ons if you want your belongings to be covered when you’re out of the house or if you’re abroad.  


Contents insurance for students

Students can usually buy their own student contents cover. This should cover their belongings while living in student accommodation or they may be able to use an existing policy belonging to their parents.

A standalone policy will cover a student's belongings, such as clothes, books, and laptops, in their room or university halls. While if they are able to, they may be covered, up to a certain limit, on their parents policy. This usually is allowed on a temporary basis only while they’re at university.

Comparing policies and costs is important as you want to find a policy to cover all of your belongings while you’re a student - but you also want to stick to your budget.

Some quick tips: 

  • Keep an eye on the excess, which you’ll have to pay if you make a claim. 
  • Choose to pay in one annual lump sum if you can. This is usually cheaper than monthly payments.

Accidental damage

You're sometimes covered for  accidental-damage to your building under a basic insurance policy. For example, if someone crashes a car into your home, or if you damage drains or pipes around your property your basic home insurance policy should cover you. The same goes for any damage that’s accidentally caused to glass and bathroom fittings.

If that cover isn't enough, you could pay extra to have a greater level of accidental damage cover on your policy.

You're sometimes covered under basic policies for accidental damage to contents, too, including home entertainment equipment, computers and mirrors.

Watch out for exclusions, though, as damage caused while cleaning, maintaining or repairing is often excluded.

However, some insurance companies won't cover accidental damage as standard, in which case you may need to add this on to your policy as an extra.

It’s usually a relatively small extra cost to add accidental damage cover to a policy but you’ll need to contact your insurer to get this added on.


Specify your high-value items

If you have specific high-value items make sure the valuable items cover is high enough to cover them all.

This includes things like:

  • Watches
  • Cameras
  • Computers
  • Jewellery
  • Sports equipment.

You should be able to list these individually on your insurance policy. You can also state whether you want them covered just within the home or when you take them away with you.

Make sure that the single-item limit will cover your most expensive possession. Single item limits can often be set at £1,500 unless it’s been specified otherwise.

If you have an expensive item worth more than the limit available, you may need to either list this separately or take out a different policy for it.  

Include musical instruments when setting your valuable items cover. If an instrument is particularly valuable, you might need a special valuation. 


Set your excess

Generally, having a higher home insurance excess can knock pounds off your premium. It usually means you’ll get a reduced payout should you successfully make a claim. However, don’t set it too high as if you make a claim you’ll need to be able to pay the excess.

Escape of water is a common claim, but the excess isn’t always the same as in the main section of your policy. So, double-check and ensure your excess for this is affordable. 


Away-from-home cover

Away-from-home cover might be handy for taking your personal possessions outside the house.

It usually comes as an add-on to your contents policy and will protect things such as phones, laptops, tablets, watches, and jewellery when you're out and about. You can pay a one-off fee to cover these while you’re out of the house, and this is often cheaper than taking out standalone policies to cover these items.

If you own a bicycle, check that your policy covers it. This usually depends on the value of the bike so if you aren’t able to get cover, you may need to take out separate bicycle insurance


Think about your keys, gardens, and frozen food

There are various specifics that some policies cover as standard but others might not. Check to see if you're covered for loss or theft of keys and the cost of replacing the door. Also find out if your insurer has a limit on how much you can claim for this.

Buildings insurance usually covers outbuildings and garages, but don't forget to check how much contents cover you have for things you keep in them.

If you store large amounts of food in your freezer you couldn't easily afford to replace, check that you have freezer contents cover in place. Some insurers offer it as standard but others don’t. 


Consider new-for-old cover

Many insurers offer new-for-old cover as standard, but some don’t. To benefit from new-for-old cover, make sure your total contents limit reflects the cost of getting new items.

Many policies automatically increase your contents cover for weddings and at Christmas, due to presents in your home at these times.

Check with your insurer to make sure the cover is high enough to meet your needs.

If you work from home, you'll also need to check that the business equipment cover is high enough. For things such as home office equipment, new-for-old cover could be an important feature. 


Alternative accommodation and legal cover

Most insurers offer alternative accommodation if your home becomes uninhabitable after damage, such as if there’s a flood or a fire. But check the small print to make sure you’ll have sufficient cover if you can't go back to your house for a while.

Legal expenses cover is also something that's often overlooked, but could be important. It's there to cover your legal costs if, for example, someone is injured by something in your home, or by falling roof tiles.

Without legal cover, you could be asked to pay any compensation and possibly their court costs -as well as your own.

Meanwhile, if you frequently have guests staying or your home is listed on sites such as Airbnb, check that both your insurance policy and mortgage cover you. 


Tailor your policy

These general rules could apply to most home insurance policies. But it’s worth bearing in mind that you might face some clauses or add-ons particular to you, depending on your property.

There are likely to be some specific extra steps you need to take if you want to be properly insured if:

  • Your home is listed
  • You have a thatched roof
  • You live on a flood plain
  • Your home is empty for long periods of time
  • You rent your house out.

The insurance companies you approach should talk you through your requirements and what they offer. Remember that whatever your circumstances, it’s worth shopping around for the best deal.

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