Virtually all lenders require that you purchase homeowner's insurance. You'll have to show "proof of insurance" prior to closing. Lenders want to know that you're protecting their investment from harm, such as damage caused by fire, water, a tree falling through the roof, and even vandalism.
How much insurance is enough? Your lender will tell you what's the bare minimum required for your particular home purchase, and then it's up to you whether you want to buy extra coverage for the perils that won't be covered under your basic policy. A basic policy will cover things like fire, theft, falling objects, damage from frozen pipes, and sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated current to electrical equipment.
If you're buying a condo or co-op, there are special insurance policies just for you, sometimes referred to as "HO6" policies (as opposed to "HO2" policies for homeowners), and which meet the needs of owning a condo or co-op. This is because the property's common areas, such as the hallways, the roof, a laundry room, etc., are covered separately. Most condo and co-op associations hold the building policies and you just have to get yourself the basic coverage you need to protect your own unit and meet the lender's specific requirements.
How to Select the Right Policy
With the property information in hand-price, square footage, number of stories, year built, etc.-start calling around to insurance brokers or insurance companies that offer homeowner's policies and get quotes. Obtain references from friends, your real estate agent, your mortgage broker, your escrow officer, or your lawyer. And don't forget to talk to the insurance agent that carries your current car insurance. As far as coming up with the cash for it, be prepared that you'll pay for an entire year's worth of insurance up front when you close on your house. In subsequent years you'll likely pay monthly or in installments throughout the year.
Make sure that your insurance covers the costs of replacing your home at the time of the problem-not the year you buy it. It's called replacement cost coverage. In other words, if your kitchen goes up in smoke five years from now, replacement cost means your insurance policy will pay for what it costs to replace that kitchen in five years-not just in today's dollars.
Additional Insurance-All about the Hazards
Talk to your long-term neighbors to find out what kinds of insurance they have in place. You will also want to ask them about the history of the neighborhood. Have there been any big local fires that have ever swept through, or any flooding or mudslides from the hills above?
A home warranty is basically an insurance policy that covers the repair cost of the house's major systems once you have purchased it. I love these and highly recommend that you get one. You can ask the seller to pay for one year of this coverage. This is a wonderful way of getting some protection from the seller that ensures the systems, appliances, plumbing, and electrical wiring in the house are working and operational.
The policies have some restrictions, and you will have to review their coverage, but overall they are very cost-effective and practical. For example, they cover the cost of repair or replacement of your refrigerator if it breaks down during the coverage period, but it won't cover the ice maker. It will, however, cover all the big stuff-roof, pipes, electrical, appliances, pool, and heating and air. Home warranties only cost about $600 on average for one year of coverage. And they more than pay for themselves the first time the dishwasher breaks down and needs to be replaced.
Additional Tip: Bundle Your Insurance
Have your insurance broker put your auto and homeowner's policies with the same carrier. You can get a big discount for the double package!
Michael Corbett is Trulia's real estate and lifestyle expert. He is also the host of EXTRA's Mansions and Millionaires on NBC. In addition to his regular segments on ABC's The View and Fox News, he is a national best selling author with three critically acclaimed real estate books:Find It, Fix It, FLIP IT!; Ready, Set, SOLD! and Before You BUY! His years of experience in buying, renovating, and selling homes have made him a sought-after nationally recognized real estate expert.