Farrell: Your home insurance provider can't penalize you for shopping around

Q: Does shopping around for insurance lead to higher premiums from my current insurer, even if I don't switch to someone else? I've been with my company since 1970 and haven't had a homeowners claim in 21 years (a storm damaged roof). But this time around they want to up my homeowner's premium from $1,800 to $2,200, so I'm thinking about shopping around. Do the insurance companies have an information-sharing system where if I ask for quotes elsewhere they'll hear about it? Richard.

A: I contacted the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-funded consumer education organization, for its take on your specific question. Their response: "Your current insurer is regulated by your state government and can only change the price you pay for insurance based on state-approved criteria. Shopping around for insurance is not a state-approved pricing criterion anywhere in the U.S."

Shopping around is always a good idea. If you find some attractive alternative policies, take that information to your current insurance company or agent to see what they can do to craft a competitive policy that meets your needs. Homeowners' insurance protects your home, its contents and your assets in the event of a disaster, such as fire and theft.

"It's always good to do an annual checkup with your insurance agent about changes you may want to make," Tobie Stanger, senior editor at Consumer Reports who covers the cost of home ownership. "For example, you may have made improvements, especially over the last year."

Perhaps you did some remodeling projects, such as adding a patio or installing new windows. You'll want your coverage to take these improvements into account. Other enhancements, like a new roof, can reduce your premiums, says Stanger. Go over the replacement cost in your policy (and it's smart to have a replacement cost policy).

Replacement cost is different from the market value of your home. The replacement cost estimate is based on construction costs, the price of building materials and improvements to the home (which is probably why your premium is going up since those costs have increased). Stanger also recommends reviewing your liability coverage since the value of your financial assets has probably gained too.

One way to lower the cost of homeowner's insurance is to increase your deductible.

"Whatever savings you get from increasing your deductible add that money to your savings plan," says Stanger.

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor for "Marketplace" and economics commentator for Minnesota Public Radio.

Source: https://www.startribune.com/farrell-your-home-insurance-provider-cant-penalize-you-for-shopping-around/600087856/