Insuring the unconventional home: Solutions for non-standard properties

Your home isn't average, so your insurance needs may not be either

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Alani Asis

Alani Asis is a personal finance writer with nearly three years of experience in the space. She has worked with leading publications and brands cover…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

  • 4+ years in the Insurance Industry

Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

To protect yourself from financial loss due to unforeseen circumstances like damage to your home and property, it's crucial to have a homeowners insurance policy. But, if you have a non-traditional home like a historic, mobile, tiny or eco-friendly home, you may need special coverage or even a different policy.

We'll explore various non-traditional home types and the coverages they may require, so you can have peace of mind knowing that your home is entirely protected.

Historic properties

Although historic properties are attractive due to their rich history and vintage features, insuring an older home can be complicated and expensive. This is because these homes are built with older materials that are costly to replace. Additionally, the electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems may not meet current code standards, making them susceptible to fires and other hazards. Insurance companies may increase your premiums to offset the risk of insuring a historic home.

Consider enlisting the National Trust Insurance Services (NTIS), an insurance agency catered to historic property owners, to find an insurance company offering coverage for your property[1].

An illustration of an old house

If you have a historic home, consider these coverages:

  • HO-8 policy: This policy is designed for older homes built more than 40 years ago which helps homeowners get coverage for their home if they can’t get a standard HO-3 policy. Covers named perils, actual cash value and will replace your home with modern, not original materials.
  • Guaranteed replacement cost coverage: This coverage reimburses you for the entire replacement cost of your home, despite the limits on your policy, if you experience a loss. However, most insurers won't offer guaranteed replacement cost coverage with your HO-8 policy, so you may have to ask if this is an option.
  • All risk coverage: Also known as an open peril policy, this feature ensures you have coverage outside the perils listed in your policy.

Tiny houses

Tiny homes are gaining traction among prospective homeowners all over the world. According to Technavio, a company that provides global market research, the global tiny home market is expected to grow $4,171 million by 2027, with North America contributing 57% of that growth.

A tiny home is 400 square feet or less dwelling. While you aren't legally required to purchase insurance for your tiny home, your lender may require you to get insurance if you obtain financing.

A standard homeowners insurance policy won't cover your tiny home. See coverage options below.

Some factors that may influence the cost of your policy include policy limits, deductible amounts, safety features of your tiny home, and your NOAH and RVIA status. 

Your insurer may require a National Organization of Alternative Housing (NOAH) or RV Industry Association (RVIA) certification to provide coverage for your tiny home[2]. These certifications ensure your tiny home is up to code with safety and construction standards.


An illustration of a modern tiny house

If you have a tiny home, consider these coverages:

  • Mobile or manufactured home insurance (HO-7): Through this insurance policy, you can get coverage for a tiny home built on or tied down to a permanent structure.
  • RV insurance. You must obtain Recreational Vehicle or RV insurance if you use your tiny home to travel frequently. Like the standard auto insurance policy, RV insurance includes comprehensive, collision, liability, uninsured motorist coverage and other coverages.

Mobile homes

Mobile or manufactured homes are built in a factory, transported, planted on a metal frame chassis with wheels, or tied to the ground. The best option for this type of home is mobile home insurance. This coverage offers dwelling and other structures coverage and personal liability protection but limited peril coverage. 

Not all insurance companies offer this type of insurance policy. And if they do, it's usually offered at a higher cost than the standard home insurance policy. Mobile homes are costlier to insure than the typical home because their weaker structure makes them more susceptible to weather-related damages, a greater liability to insurance companies.

Eco-friendly dwellings

With the growing focus on eco-consciousness, homeowners increasingly opt for eco-friendly homes. These homes are known for their efficient building materials and careful management of energy and water resources. 

Here are some of the defining features of an eco-friendly dwelling. 

  • ENERGY STAR certification: These homes are 10% more efficient than traditional homes constructed to meet standard building homes. As a result, homeowners can enjoy savings of up to 20% on their energy bills. 
  • Indoor air quality: Homes with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) airPLUS certification are built with high-quality materials that reduce exposure to airborne pollutants and contaminants. 
  • Water efficiency: The EPA's WaterSense® program thoroughly inspects homes to meet indoor and outdoor water efficiency standards. This program allows homeowners to use up to 25% less water than non-energy-efficient homes. 
  • ZERO energy saver. As an extension of the ENERGY STAR and Indoor airPlus programs, the DOE's Zero Energy Ready Homes (ZERO) incorporates extra energy-saving techniques allowing homeowners to achieve 40% to 50% higher efficiency than conventional new construction homes.

Home insurance considerations for a green home:

  • You can insure your eco-friendly home with a conventional home insurance policy. However, you can ask your provider if they offer eco-friendly replacement material endorsements so you can build your home with sustainable materials after a loss. 

  • Discounts are available for green homes if your home receives certification from an environmental agency like Energy Star or the Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) so homeowners can get additional savings on their insurance policy.

You don't have to live in a cookie cutter house to make sure your home is protected. If you have a home with non-standard features, make sure you have the appropriate coverage to match.