11 Secret Ways to Save on Your Homeowners Insurance

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You know you need homeowners insurance, but what you may not know is how many different types of discounts that your carrier offers. According to Bankrate.com, there are at least 11 types -- and chances are, most will be a surprise to you.

That's because, unless you seem like you're about to jump ship and hand your money over to someone else, an insurance agent has no incentive to tell you about them. Agents typically are paid commissions on policies, so the more you pay, the more they make.

"They don't really want to give that information out," Crissinda Ponder, Bankrate.com insurance analyst, told DailyFinance. "They don't have to, either. Some homeowners might not know they need to be asking these questions. It's up to consumers to take the initiative."

There are two main principles at work. One is that the less risk you seem to be, the less the insurer can afford to charge you. The other is once the insurance company has signed you up, they know there's a statistically good chance you'll be paying them for a long time, and they want that business.

11 Ways to Qualify for Discounts
  1. You have more than one type of insurance with the carrier, and it wants to encourage you to keep all of your business.
  2. An alarm service or sometimes even smoke detectors will qualify for protective services discounts.
  3. You avoid claims for a certain period, maybe two or three years, depending on the insurer, and you're demonstrably a lower risk.
  4. A newly built or renovated home might be more durable and is certainly earlier in its realistic lifespan.
  5. Your house has disaster-resistant roofing.
  6. Senior citizens, sometimes as soon as they turn 50, get a break.
  7. You've just purchased your home, and the insurer want to lock you down as a new customer.
  8. After some number of years, you might qualify for a loyalty discount.
  9. You have a work or organizational affiliation that the insurer rewards with lower rates.
  10. You're a nonsmoker.
  11. You shop for insurance well ahead of when a policy comes up for renewal.
(For a breakdown of which carriers offer which discounts, Bankrate created a convenient chart.)

There were more unusual discounts, as well, such as having had an interior inspection of the home done recently, being a married or widowed owner, insuring for up to 100 percent of a home's replacement value and having a LEED-certified green home.

This list came from looking at the websites of the ten largest insurance companies that operate nationwide. Sometimes the discounts were fairly easy to find on dedicated pages. Other times, turning up the opportunities required some digging.

Not all insurers offered the full range of discounts; only two -- multiple policies and protective items -- were offered by all the companies. There's also no guarantee that all the discounts appear on a company's website. The only option is to be aggressive with the insurer and ask about all the types of discounts that might apply.

But be wary of getting too attracted by a discount. "It doesn't mean it's the best deal for you, so it is important to shop around," Ponder said.

Does Your Home Live Up to the American Average?
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11 Secret Ways to Save on Your Homeowners Insurance
In 2013, the median lot size of a new sold single-family house was 8,596 square feet, or just under 0.2 acres. While that might not seem like a lot for you suburban homeowners, a regional breakdown shows that the small average size isn't due to urban inhabitants alone. The Northeast enjoys the largest average lot, at 13,052 square feet, while the less densely populated South and West lay claim to just 8,649 square feet and 6,796 square feet, respectively.
From a footprint of 1,650 square feet in 1978, the average American home has grown 50 percent, to 2,478 square feet. Yet tough times seem to be squeezing our expansionary attitude. Although new single-family homes sold in 2013 clocked in at a median 2,478 square feet, single-family homes completed in 2013 amounted to just 2,384 square feet. Homebuilder confidence has plummeted into pessimism in the last few months, hinting that the housing market's road to recovery might be rougher than expected.

While birth rates have held relatively steady for the past 40 years, everyone apparently needs more elbow room. The share of homes with four or more bedrooms has jumped from 27 percent in 1978 to 51 percent in 2013. And where would a bedroom be without a bathroom? While just 8 percent of 1978 homes had three or more baths, 37 percent of homes now fall in that category.

From 2008 to 2013, both the share of homes with four or more bedrooms and the share of homes with three or more bathrooms have jumped 10 percentage points, while median square footage is up 10.9 percent for the same period.

If there's one strong sign of new housing demand, it's home prices. After nose-diving during the Great Recession to a median sales price of just $216,700, home prices have been roaring back up. In 2013, the median sales price for a new single-family home was $268,900. But for those on the housing hunt, don't be discouraged. Home prices today still don't hold a candle to costs in 2006, according to the well-regarded Case-Shiller Home Price Index. In 2006, the index topped 200 before plummeting to less than 140, and current rates put the index just above 170.
It is America, after all. Our industrialized nation was built on the back of Henry Ford, and America is in no danger of breaking its automobile addiction. In 2013, a whopping 300,000 of the 429,000 new single-family homes sold included a two-car garage. And 98,000 new homes included a three-car garage -- the highest amount since 2007. Of all new homes built, only 10,000 failed to include a garage or carport.
American homebuyers are building bigger homes than ever before. But if there's one thing the recent recession has shown us, bigger isn't always better. Although 30 percent of Americans believe real estate is the best long-term investment, homeownership isn't for everyone. There are plenty of reasons to spend less or invest elsewhere -- and leave keeping up with the Joneses to Mr. and Mrs. Smith.
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