Insurance rates—how are they even calculated? It can be complicated, but it all comes down to an algorithm that takes many variables into account. If keeping your rates as low possible is your number one concern, you need to know about these five factors that can affect your bottom line.
1. The age and condition of your house.
This is one of the most obvious factors and also one of the biggest. The age of your house and the wiring, pipes, roof, lumber, square footage, and even how many corners it has all play a role in the price of your insurance.
It comes down to the risk associated with the house and the costs that come with repair or replacement. For example, if your home was built in 1920, it may have old pipes and wiring that aren’t up to code. These materials come with a much higher risk of damage or fire, so the insurance companies will charge more to insure it.
2. In a flood zone? It can cost you.
Again, if the risk of destruction is high, your insurance will reflect it. If you have a beachfront home on the Gulf Coast, you can expect to pay more than if you’re in an area of the country where flooding is typically not a concern, such as the Midwest.
If you’re in any sort of flood zone and you have a mortgage on your home, your lender will probably require a separate flood insurance policy—and that costs money. Even if you aren’t in a flood zone, your mortgage company may still require coverage, so be sure to look into your lender’s requirements when you begin shopping around.
3. Some dog breeds can take a big bite out of your wallet.
In some cases, your family dog can bump up your premiums. Certain breeds, such as pit bulls and “bully” breeds, have a reputation of being more dangerous than others and historically come with larger liability concerns to your insurer, resulting in a higher rate.
Three things can happen if your dog is considered a “dangerous” dog breed: you could be charged a higher rate from your carrier, your provider may cover you but exclude any liability associated with the dog, or the carrier could decide not to insure you at all.
4. Your pool can put your rates in the deep end.
Pools, trampolines, and even backyard construction projects are in a category called attractive nuisances, which are recreational amenities added to a home that can raise liability concerns (and your rates) on behalf of an insurer. If there is something in your yard that can attract the attention of a minor and pose any level of danger, it will probably affect your insurance policy.
5. Proximity to the fire department affects your premiums.
If your house were to catch fire, how long would it take for the local fire department to get there? The faster they can get there and handle the situation, the better chance they have of minimizing the damage.
Every homeowner’s policy requires what’s called a Public Protection Class (PPC) rating. A PPC is rated between 1-10 (one being the best) and takes factors like proximity to the fire department, proximity and number of fire hydrants, municipal water towers, and even railroad tracks into account.
In some cases, you may be able to make some changes to help lower your rates, but never lie or intentionally exclude key information on your application—this could result in your coverage or renewal getting denied. Be honest with your agent, and they will help you find the right coverage and rate that works for your needs.
Paul Martin, CPCU, is an insurance professional for Trusted Choice with over 30 years’ experience in the field. Throughout his career, his mission has been to advance the insurance industry through education to be better equipped to serve the public.