What You Need to Know Before You Buy Homeowners Insurance: An Interview with Jim Hyatt of Arbella Insurance

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Established in 1988, the Arbella Insurance Group is a customer-focused regional property and casualty insurance company, headquartered in Quincy, Massachusetts. Arbella provides personal and business insurance in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and business insurance in Rhode Island and New Hampshire. The Arbella Insurance Group founded the Arbella Insurance Foundation in 2004 to support not-for-profit organizations that have a significant positive impact on the people and communities served by Arbella.

What do I need to have in hand (documents, facts, bills, etc.) before I look for an insurance provider?

A little preparation can go a long way in making the insurance process quick and easy. If you've recently bought a new home or condo, a copy of the purchase and sale agreement and the home inspection will capture most of the pertinent information an insurance agent needs. If you're not moving, a copy of your current insurance policy will ensure you get the right coverage. Having your auto insurance policy on hand as well, can help an agent identify any discounts for bundling policies and ensure that you receive the best deal.

Will the location of my home affect my insurance costs?

Yes, and here's why: Insurance companies gauge the likelihood that a home could be damaged by severe weather or a fire depending on its location. If a property is located along the coastline, it is more likely to be damaged in a coastal storm than a home that's farther inland. Proximity of essential resources can also affect your insurance. For example, if you live in a location with a limited number of fire hydrants nearby, it could mean a higher insurance premium for you.

What does it mean to insure my home to "replacement value"?

Replacement value is an important distinction to understand. Insuring your home to replacement value means you're covered for the full amount it would cost to replace it and its belongings at comparable material and quality, without accounting for depreciation.

The common misconception is that if you paid $420,000 for your house, then that's the amount for which it should be insured. Not true--that amount could be too much or too little. Part of what you pay for when buying a house is the land; but an insurance policy shouldn't factor in the price of land since it will only pay what it would cost to rebuild your home.

This is where an independent insurance agent can be extremely helpful, because they can accurately determine what it would cost to replace your home. Companies like Arbella also inspect many of the homes we insure to help our customers identify the right replacement cost and therefore, the right amount of coverage needed on the policy.

Can I save money on my monthly premium if I add certain safety features to my home?

Yes! Many homeowners install alarm systems, low temperature sensors, or water flow alarms to better protect their homes. Your insurance company will likely give you a discount when those systems are present.

Another way to save money is by bundling your home or condo insurance policy with your auto policy. For example, Arbella offers a 25% discount on your home or condo premium when you include your auto policy.

How can I ensure that I am working with a reliable home insurance provider?

Look to the expertise of an independent insurance agent to find the right carrier for you. It's important to consider a carrier's financial strength (check its A.M. Best Ratings at ambest.com), its claim reputation, its knowledge of your region, and its community involvement and reputation.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

Arbella works with more than 400 independent agents across Massachusetts. Find one near you at arbella.com!

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