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Home Insurance

Jesusita Fire – over 60% underinsured

By July 21, 2009No Comments

The preliminary results of the Jesusita are in. Over 60% of the homes lost or damaged in the Jesusita Fire were underinsured. What does this mean? Well, let’s say you are standing in a pile of ashes and rubble that was once your living room, and your contractor is telling you that it’s going to cost $425,000 to rebuild your home. You look at your insurance policy, and the dwelling coverage limit is $200,000. That means, your insurance company is going to write you a check for $200,000, and you’ll need to come up with an additional $225,000 out of pocket. Think it won’t happen to you?

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE (From an article by David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times):

“When Dave Wilder and his wife, Lynn, surveyed the remains of their Running Springs house after it burned to the ground in a wildfire near Lake Arrowhead in October 2007, the thing that struck him most wasn’t the devastation, and it wasn’t the loss of everything they owned. Wilder said he bought his 1,758-square-foot house for $99,900 in 1984. It was originally insured by State Farm for about $90,000, or $51 per square foot.”

“Over the years, Wilder and his wife made improvements to the property, raising the insurance level to $202,000, or $115 per square foot.”

“’Each year, we always asked our agent if we had enough insurance, and he always assured us that we had good coverage,’ Wilder said.”

“But the $202,000 check he received after losing his house fell far short of the actual replacement cost. Wilder said estimates he received from contractors after the blaze were closer to $230 per square foot, or more than $400,000.”


#1 – People don’t want higher rates

This relates somewhat to my last blog post – we all want to save money, but we know that cheap isn’t always the best. Here’s the truth, when I recommend an increase in coverage, it’s not because I think you have some extra money lying around, or that I’ve been eyeing a new set of golf clubs. It’s because I am confident that if your house burned down, the current policy wouldn’t cover you properly. In fact, I never recommend an increase in coverage without offering some ways to help offset the premium increase, like a higher deductible, or multi-policy credits. So if there is an increase in premium, am I cheering because I’m getting rich? Absolutely not. If a policy goes up $100.00/year, my organization will earn about ten bucks. That increase doesn’t even pay for the additional service required to conduct our annual reviews. So, as an insurance professional, if your agent wants to conduct an annual review, please, listen to him or her. They really are trying to help.

#2 –Your agent hasn’t ever contacted you to complete an updated coverage analysis

If this is true, FIRE YOUR AGENT. (If you don’t have an agent, that’s a whole other problem.) When I write an insurance policy, it is merely a snapshot of your risk profile. But life is not a still photograph, it’s more like a movie…well, really, more like an IMAX 3-D! My point is, if you’ve had the same insurance policy for more than 3 or 4 years, and haven’t made any changes or updates to it, you may be underinsured.

#3 – Unethical Insurance Agents want to make the sale

This is somewhat less common than most media outlets would want you to believe, but it does happen. Although I would never knowingly underinsure someone, there are agents out there who might not be as client focused as I am. They realize that people are shopping for price, and instead of educating their clients, they write bare minimum coverages to keep the rate low, and close the deal. This practice makes me ill, but it does exist. Here are the red flags to watch out for:


  • The agent only asks for a copy of your current insurance and doesn’t ask you anything about your home.
  • The agent gives you just a price, without explaining any coverages or features.
  • The agent uses an ‘extended replacement cost’ as part of the coverage limit. (example: if the agent says that the coverage limit is enough because you actually have 150% of that limit – they are lying…if you want an explanation, email or call me at 877-544-8929)

#4 – Title and Escrow companies are trying to diversify

If your insurance was written through your escrow closing by direct mail, and you have no idea who your agent is, it might be time to shop around. One of my employees just bought a house. She received an offer for insurance from a company that is affiliated with the title company who provided her escrow services. On the surface, it looked like a decent offer. However, after she completed our comprehensive coverage analysis, she realized a few things wrong with the offer. First, she found that the offer had a total coverage deficit of over $300,000 across all coverages in the policy. Then, in the fine print, there were exclusions for things like swimming pools, trampolines, and animal liability (which is included in most preferred policies, and protects you if your dog bites someone, knocks them over, etc). There were also several other coverages missing. The point is, on the surface it seemed like a great deal, but once she realized all of the coverage deficits, the offer was setting her family up for a financial disaster. The beautiful thing was that she ended up writing her policy, with one of our preferred companies, and it was over $200.00 less than the offer from the title company. You don’t have to sacrifice coverage to save money!

Underinsurance is a real problem. You may never need to file a claim, but if you’re paying for insurance anyway, doesn’t it make sense to have a policy that actually protects you? You don’t have to sacrifice coverage to save money. For more information, or for a free comprehensive coverage analysis, please call me toll free at 877-544-8929 or email me at

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