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Home insurance: what to know

Homeowners insurance is a policy that protects your home in the event of a variety of circumstances. Homeowners insurance applies to a private property that you own — not a rental unitcondo or mobile home

Read on to learn more about homeowners insurance.


What home insurance covers

A homeowners insurance policy is typically broken down into six parts:

  • Coverage A - Dwelling: A house and any attached structures, such as a garage.
  • Coverage B - Other structures: Any stand-alone structures — like a carport or tool shed — not attached to the home. 
  • Coverage C - Personal property: This covers repair or replacement of belongings or property stolen or damaged in a covered loss anywhere in the world.
  • Coverage D - Additional living expenses: Sometimes called a loss-of-use clause, this helps to cover the cost of temporary relocation in the event the home is unliveable due to repair work.
  • Coverage E - Personal liability: This covers the costs of another party's injuries on the insured party's property (or offsite) as well as claims against an insured for property damage.
  • Coverage F - Medical payments: Covers medical costs incurred on the property by those not listed as residents of the household, regardless of fault.

 

Common homeowners insurance policy types: HO-2, HO-3, HO-5

The kind of coverage you will have with a home insurance policy will depend on the type of policy. There are two main ways you can have coverage in your homeowner's insurance: open and named peril. A peril is an action that causes damage to you, your home, or your belongings. Below are the definitions for the two.

star in a blue circle
Named peril

All the hazards and threats to your property that will be covered will be explicitly listed on your policy.

star in a blue circle
Open peril

All the hazards that are not covered will be listed. This is a much broader form of coverage.

What does a named-peril HO-2 policy cover?

An HO-2 policy is a basic form of homeowners insurance. It only covers personal property and insured structures in the event of named perils, including the following:

  • Fire
  • Lightning
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Windstorms and hail
  • Damage caused by vehicles
  • Damage from aircraft
  • Weight of ice, snow and sleet
  • Freezing of household systems
  • Riots
  • Explosions
  • Falling objects
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Water damage: overflow or discharge
  • Damage from artificially-generated electrical current
  • Sudden tearing, cracking or bulging of home
house with blue roof

The HO-3 policy type is the most common in the U.S., covering a dwelling and other structures on an open-peril home insurance policy and the contents of the property on named peril coverage.

The next tier of home insurance coverage is HO-5. This coverage level includes coverage of both dwellings and personal property on an open-peril basis. Most insurance companies won’t insure against natural disasters like flooding, earthquakes, and landslides, and also occurrences of moldinfestations, wear-and-tear, nuclear hazards or government actions, regardless of homeowners insurance policy type

 

NameProperty CoveragePersonal Property Coverage
HO-2 Broad FormNamed PerilsNamed Perils
HO-3 Special FormOpen PerilsNamed Perils
HO-5 Comprehensive FormOpen PerilsOpen Perils

 

Learn more about how to read your homeowners insurance policy

Additional home insurance coverage types

Homeowners insurance may cover some seemingly unexpected things in addition to the above perils. Homeowners insurance follows you even while you're not at home: if you lose your luggage while traveling, your personal property coverage can help replace your lost items.

Home insurance may even cover the belongings of a child away at college — typically only if they reside in on-campus housing — and your parents' belongings if they depend on you while living in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

Other things your homeowners insurance may cover — depending on your policy — include property and liability coverage for tombstones or cemetery plots of loved ones and coverage for trees, plants and shrubs in your garden.


What home insurance does not cover

There are always exclusions in what homeowners insurance will cover: another reason it's important to understand how to read a homeowners insurance policy.

The below perils are commonly excluded are home insurance coverage, but could be amended by adding a policy endorsement.

Whether you have an open peril or named peril policy, damage from the below are never covered by homeowners insurance:

  • Enforcement of building codes and similar laws
  • Earthquakes*
  • Flooding*
  • Power failures
  • Neglect (failure to take reasonable steps to protect your property)
  • War
  • Nuclear hazard
  • Intentional acts

*Insurance options for these natural disasters may be sold separately.

Learn more about home warranties, which differ from homeowners insurance in some important ways.


How much homeowners insurance do I need?

Your insurance needs will be specific to you, but there are a number of key questions you can answer that will help guide you toward the appropriate coverage levels. Along with determining how much coverage you need, these questions can also help you get a more accurate home insurance estimate when it comes time to shop. The following questions can be used as a sort of home insurance calculator to help determine exactly how much homeowners insurance you will need:

  • How much will it cost to rebuild my home, including detached structures (at the current rate for labor and materials)?
  • How much will it cost to replace my personal property and belongings?
  • What is the value of my personal assets in case someone sues me?

The amount you spend on home insurance coverage depends on the replacement cost of your home, which your insurance company will usually help you determine via a home inspection. Remember: replacement cost and market value are not synonymous. Replacement value is how much it would cost an insurance company to rebuild your home and replace your belongings, whereas market value depends on the real estate market and other variables.

Because the purpose of insurance is to restore the insured asset — your home and property, in this case — to its original state, insurance companies use replacement cost rather than market value to determine the actual dollar value of coverage.

Other considerations include the amount of coverage you'll need for your personal property and liability protection. If you own costly items or valuables, conducting a home inventory and taking photos of the contents of each room in your house will come in handy if you ever need to file a claim. It will also serve the purpose of determining whether or not you need additional coverage for certain valuables, like jewelry, firearms and electronics, all of which come with their own sub-limits. 

Coverage limits for these items can be extended with endorsements, also known as riders or floaters.

When considering the personal liability insurance portion of your homeowners policy, make sure the coverage limit is high enough to protect your assets. A good method of determining how much liability coverage you need is to ensure it's equal to or greater than your net income. If you're ever sued with a liability claim and your limit is exhausted, you risk facing financial setbacks if you're forced to forfeit your assets.

Coverage TypeTypical Limit of Coverage
DwellingVaries
Other structures10% of Dwelling Coverage
Personal Property50% of Dwelling Coverage Limit
Loss of Use20% of Dwelling Coverage Limit
Medical PaymentsVaries
Personal LiabilityVaries

Deductibles and home insurance

There are some major differences between car insurance deductibles and home insurance deductibles. With home insurance, your deductible is deducted from your claim payout. If your kitchen catches on fire and sustains $5,000 worth of property damages and your deductible is $1,000, you would receive $4,000 and be responsible for covering the remaining amount.

Car and home deductibles are inversely related to the cost of premium — if you raise your deductible, your monthly costs should decrease.

Percentage versus dollar-based home insurance deductibles

Homeowners insurance deductibles can be dollar- or percentage-based. The above example of a kitchen fire would be considered a dollar-based deductible. For a percentage-based deductible, however, the monetary value is derived from a percentage of your dwelling coverage. For example, if your dwelling is valued at $367,000 and your wind and hail deductible is 1%, your deductible would be $3,670.


Actual cash value vs. replacement cost value

Most insurance companies will reimburse you for personal property claims via the actual cash value (ACV) though a number of companies do offer property coverage at full replacement cost. Replacement cost would give you the amount needed to replace your lost or damaged item for its current market value. ACV is the amount of money it would cost to replace an item, accounting for depreciation. This valuation process is usually handled by an insurance company's claims department, through its claims adjusters.

To ensure you have the most comprehensive home insurance, we recommend insuring your home and contents under a replacement cost coverage plan. For more information, feel free to read our in-depth article further explaining replacement cost and actual cash value.

You can change your policy to reimburse you based on a replacement cost value of your personal belongings with an endorsement. We'll explain homeowners endorsements below.


Endorsements and floaters

Homeowners insurance companies offer products called “floaters,” “riders,” or “endorsements.” An endorsement is any change to an insurance policy — whether adding something or removing it.

A good example of the use of endorsements relates to personal property. Most insurance companies will place special limitations on valuable personal property. If you want to increase your coverage level for these items, you would need to add an endorsement. Below are the items that are typically subject to specific insurance sub-limits.

  • $200 limit on money, gold, coins
  • $1,500 limit on jewelry, watches, furs
  • $1,500 limit on watercraft, trailers
  • $2,500 limit on firearms
  • $2,500 limit on silverware
  • $2,500 limit for on-premises business property
  • Variable limit on electronics

If you have anything in the list above that exceeds the policy limit, you should consider adding an endorsement to your home policy. If you own expensive personal items, consider a scheduled endorsement. A scheduled endorsement requires the item to be appraised but gives you substantially more coverage. This is common practice for engagement and wedding rings.

See more in-depth information on homeowners insurance endorsement options.

Identity theft coverage and homeowners insurance
Identity theft coverage and homeowners insurance

Although basic home policies don't guard against identity theft, most companies offer endorsements to cover these circumstances. While details of these endorsements may vary substantially from company to company, coverage ranges from $15,000 to $30,000 at a cost of $25 to $65 per year. 

Learn more about how homeowners insurance covers identity theft.

flood insurance
Flood damage and homeowners insurance

Flood damage is usually not covered by a standard homeowners policy. Flood insurance may be provided separately through FEMA or a private flood insurance company. Depending on your location, your mortgage company may require you to purchase flood insurance.

Earthquake insurance
Earthquakes and home insurance

Earthquake damage is not covered by a typical insurance policy. Unlike flood insurance, some insurance companies offer separate policies or endorsement for earthquake protection. If you live in an earthquake-prone area, consult your insurance company about homeowners insurance earthquake coverage.

Wind and hail deductibles
Wind and hail deductibles for home insurance

Some insurance companies assign additional deductibles for wind and hail damage, plus a deductible for other covered perils. This additional flexibility is designed to keep homeowners policies affordable.


Homeowners insurance tips and advice

If you’re shopping for home insurance, or if you have it but want to make the most of your policy, consider some simple steps to ensure you’re properly covered and not overpaying.

Take a home inventory

Go through all of your belongings, big and small, to take a full home inventory and determine your coverage needs before getting a home insurance quote. In the event of a claim, you'll be able to quickly determine what is missing and calculate its value.

Update your homeowners policy after making major purchases

Pay attention to coverage limits for specific items. If you purchase a new item that exceeds your policy’s limit, you run the risk of having insufficient coverage. Consider additional endorsements and floaters with any newly purchased high-value item.

Check your homeowners policy for discounts

While discounts vary per insurance company, typical home insurance discounts include multi-policy (home and auto), new roof, claims-free, non-smoker and new home discounts. Look closely at your policy to see if you qualify for any possible discounts. Learn more about common homeowners insurance discounts.

Maintain your home

Insurance companies see things like old roofs, mold and general disrepair as liabilities and will charge you accordingly for them. It is important to maintain the structural integrity of your home to ensure your premiums don’t increase.


The average cost of homeowners insurance

We surveyed thousands of home insurance rates to gather a comprehensive guide to homeowners insurance costs.

These rates may provide a good example of averages across the U.S. Your homeowners insurance premiums may vary depending on a number of factors, including where you live, the cost of building materials, the square footage of your home, and even your credit score.

Home Insurance Costs by Company (1).png
AVERAGE U.S. HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE COSTS IN 2021
Insurance ProviderAverage Annual PremiumMonthly Cost
Allstate$1,594$133
Farmers$1,455$121
Liberty Mutual$1,830$153
Nationwide$1,236$103
Progressive$1,355$113
State Farm$1,356$113
Travelers$1,444$120
USAA$1,231$103

 

AVERAGE HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE RATES BY STATE
StateAverage Annual Premium
Alabama$1,947
Alaska$1,011
Arizona$1,410
Arkansas$2,143
California$791
Colorado$2,271
Connecticut$1,411
Delaware$716
Florida$1,572
Georgia$1,196
Hawaii$349
Idaho$1,034
Illinois$1,673
Indiana$1,343
Iowa$1,302
Kansas$2,862
Kentucky$2,001
Louisiana$2,037
Maine$695
Maryland$1,042
Massachusetts$916
Michigan$1,098
Minnesota$1,411
Mississippi$1,929
Missouri$2,185
Montana$2,074
Nebraska$2,813
Nevada$841
New Hampshire$722
New Jersey$706
New Mexico$1,203
New York$980
North Carolina$1,661
North Dakota$1,682
Ohio$979
Oklahoma$3,102
Oregon$876
Pennsylvania$1,004
Rhode Island$1,087
South Carolina$1,556
South Dakota$2,004
Tennessee$1,872
Texas$2,387
Utah$740
Vermont$593
Virginia$1,294
Washington$878
Washington D.C.$940
West Virginia$1,331
Wisconsin$876
Wyoming$1,164

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What are the top homeowners insurance companies?

If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by your options, a good place to start is by assessing the companies you're interested in. Look for ratings on customer satisfaction and financial strength to gauge how well a company treats its customers. Start by consulting The Zebra's insurance company reviews, written by experts.

The table below is a list of the top 10 providers of home insurance by market share. Click on each company to jump to more information.

Insurance CompanyJ.D. Power Customer Satisfaction RatingA.M. Best Financial Strength RatingNAIC Customer Complaint Score
State Farm4/5A++Very Good
Allstate3/5A+Good
USAA5/5A++Very Good
Liberty Mutual2/5ABelow Average
Farmers3/5AGood
Travelers2/5A++Good
American Family3/5AGood
Nationwide2/5A+Very Good
Chubb2/5A++Very Good
Erie5/5A+Very Good

To see more information on the best homeowners insurance companies, take a look at our comprehensive list.

State Farm
State Farm

Commanding 17% of the home insurance market, State Farm earns positive ratings across the board in customer satisfaction and financial strength. The company boasts the added benefit of providing personalized service through insurance agents available across the country.

Allstate
Allstate

Allstate is another recognizable name in insurance with agents stationed nationwide and has just over 8% of market share in home insurance. However, its ratings are middling, with average customer satisfaction and complaint scores.

usaa
USAA

Providing insurance and financial services for military members and their families, USAA consistently scores highly in customer satisfaction. Keep in mind that you must first be eligible for USAA coverage, so not everyone will qualify.

Liberty Mutual
Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual's market share in homeowners insurance is slightly larger than in the car insurance market. J.D. Power and the NAIC have determined this company to be below average in terms of customer service.

Farmers
Farmers

With agents to provide personalized assistance to policyholders, Farmers has a firm presence in home insurance and decent ratings. It's also the fifth most popular home insurance country in the US.

Travelers
Travelers

Travelers was rated positively by the NAIC, but their home insurance offering was rated as below-average according to J.D. Power. Their financials — which directly correlate to a company's ability to pay out claims — indicate Travelers is in a very stable position, though it claims just over 4% of the market.

American Family
American Family

American Family has very average ratings but is slightly more popular nationally for homeowners insurance than auto insurance. Compared to other top providers, its financial outlook may not be the most robust.

nationwide
Nationwide

Its customer satisfaction rating may not be the best, but Nationwide has received favorable ratings by the NAIC and A.M. Best for its homeowners insurance product. With just over 3% market share, it's the eighth most popular provider of home insurance.

Chubb
Chubb

Catering primarily to homeowners of high-value propertiesChubb is the ninth most popular home insurance company. Chubb offers some extra benefits and coverage options that set it apart from many competitors.

Erie
Erie

A prominent regional insurance company serving select eastern states, Erie was highly regarded by J.D. Power and A.M. Best. Erie's customer complaint score — as logged by the NAIC — was also better than average.


Home insurance FAQs

Homeowners insurance is complicated. Below are a few answers to frequently asked questions about how much home insurance is necessary, what homeowners insurance covers, and some other common terminology. 

 

Who does homeowners insurance cover?

Home insurance covers the people who reside in a household. Some insurance companies require every member of the household be named on the policy.

If the insured's partner, child, relative or pet damages someone else's property, the liability portion of the homeowners insurance policy would extend to cover the liable family member. Typically, it also extends to cover family members who may be away from home — like a child heading off to college. Some insurance companies may only provide coverage if the student is living in on-campus housing — the rules may vary slightly from insurer to insurer.

If a child is living in off-campus housing, they should look into getting their own renters insurance policy.

Home warranty insurance vs. homeowners insurance: what's the difference?

The key difference is that home warranty insurance protects internal appliances and systems for heating/cooling, electric, and plumbing from a number of damages that are usually excluded from a homeowners insurance policy. It covers specific appliances while home insurance covers the structure of your home in addition to your personal property. If you want your HVAC or kitchen appliances covered from wear-and-tear, consider a home warranty. Home warranty insurance is typically a separate policy you'll need to procure to protect appliances beyond the manufacturers' provided warranty.

Appliance and mechanical systems repairs can get extremely costly; home warranty insurance will shield you from potential financial losses if systems like HVAC fails and needs repairs or replacement.

Does homeowners insurance cover mold?

Most homeowners policies will not cover mold unless it can be proved it was caused by a covered loss. If your policy provides no mold protection, you can add it back with a mold/fungi endorsement. This coverage is relatively limited.

Learn more about home insurance and mold.

How much home insurance do I need?

Coverage for your dwelling, i.e., the physical structure of your home, needs to be equal to the rebuild cost of your home. For your liability coverage, you should have enough coverage to protect your personal assets. See more information on how to determine the amount of insurance you need.

Is homeowners insurance tax-deductible?

You can only deduct homeowner’s insurance paid on a rental property, i.e., a home you own and rent out to a tenant. Outside of this circumstance, you may deduct premium payments to your private mortgage insurance. It’s important to note this isn’t your actual homeowner’s insurance but your mortgage insurance. If you’re unable to make the 20% required downpayment on your mortgage and thus have private mortgage insurance (PMI), you can deduct this, though additional restrictions apply.

Check out our page on tax deductions and homeowners insurance for more information.

How does home insurance work?

Insurance customers pay premiums to a home insurance company in return for the assurance that the insurance company will provide compensation — up to coverage limits — in the event of a total loss. As long as the homeowner — or their escrow — continues to pay and the cause of loss is considered a covered peril, the insurance company will honor repayment for damages.

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Recent Questions:

Is it too late to file a claim for a loss we paid for out of pocket?

If your son has coverage for this, he should still be able to file a claim, however each company has their own set of rules and guidelines. Depending on his deductible and how much he settled for, he might realize that filing a claim is not worth the premium increase.
Dec 29, 2020 Denver, CO

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Insurance is designed to respond to risk, and the difference between these homes present different kinds of risk. Here's a handy breakdown of how insurance companies view mobile and manufactured homes.
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Can the home owner be sued if their tenant caused damage to someone else?

No, the driver/owner of the car would be held responsible. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you can have the damage to your car covered and you can file a claim on your homeowner's insurance for the damage to your garage door.
Jan 22, 2019 Seattle, WA

Is home insurance required by law like car insurance?

One of the main reasons that car insurance is required by law is because your vehicle moves and has the potential to cause injury and damage to other people. Since your home is a fixed object there is no legal requirement that you maintain insurance on it.
Nov 27, 2016 Broken Bow, OK

Ava Lynch
Ava LynchSenior Analyst

Ava worked in the insurance industry as an agent for four-plus years.

Ava currently provides insights and data analysis as one of The Zebra's property and casualty insurance experts. Her work has been featured in publications such as U.S. News & World Report, GasBuddy, Car and Driver, and Yahoo! Finance.

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.

  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.

  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.