While some might claim the notorious ‘American Dream’ hopelessly outdated, over 70% of Americans still perceive homeownership as essential to achieving their personal goals.
Traditionally, most real estate owners do not buy houses instantly but rather mortgage them, splitting the total payment into monthly installments and providing obligatory homeowners insurance to the lender to validate the mortgage contract.
Contrary to popular belief, fewer and fewer Americans are buying homes. The homeownership rate had been steadily rising from 63.7% in 2016 to almost 66% in 2020, indicating the people’s reestablished desire to own real estate rather than rent it, an essential change in the over-decade-long recession-triggered decline in the homeownership rate that lasted from 2004 to 2016.
Almost all owners of the house – as well as those paying mortgage – have their real estate insured, which can be done with one of the seven forms of homeowners insurance, HO-1 through HO-8, each of which provides different coverages, premiums, deductibles, etc. The U.S. homeowners insurance industry leader is Bloomington, followed by Allstate and Liberty Mutual.
Anyway, whether you are a full-fledged property owner or you are still paying your mortgage, the knowledge of the declarations page can save you from many financial troubles, protecting your real estate and property from damages, theft, and liability claims. But hold on a second…how can you be sure that the whole insurance affair is worth it in the first place?
Before we proceed to dissect the declarations page, let’s mention that homeowners insurance is not mandatory in the United States, but it can be required by your lender in case you are paying a mortgage loan.
Important digression: the inability to provide proof of homeowners insurance to your lender allows them to buy a ‘force-placed’ insurance policy for you and add its cost to your mortgage payments. The ‘force-placed’ policy is more expensive and usually less extensive than the regular one, which makes it a pretty undesirable scenario (therefore, make sure your policy is up to date and fully covers your needs). Also, if you’ve just bought or mortgaged a house and need proof of insurance, you can get an insurance binder serving proof of your insurance.
Remaining your property uninsured would be too risky. According to statistics, about 5% of homeowners insurance owners file at least one claim yearly. In contrast, about 2.5% of insurance owners send a claim related to weather conditions, such as wind, hail, lightning, or fire. On top of that, about 0.15% of the insured has liability claims.
The numbers may not look intimidating, but having no insurance may result in bankruptcy and ruined life, whereas paying an annual premium of $1,000 to $1,500 won’t worsen your financial well-being dramatically, will it? Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to assess the degree of risk and make your decisions based on that.
With the total amount of paid claims (incurred losses) exceeding $65 billion in 2020, the highest recorded figure for the last decade and almost twice the amount paid in 2013, there’s very little doubt in the value of understanding your homeowners insurance, the main points of which are highlighted on its declarations page.
The Declarations Page – which you can get as a physical copy or a PDF from your insurance company, or you may be able to access it online on the insurer’s website – is a document containing the essential parts of your insurance.
It is issued by your insurer and updated (optionally) upon the renewal of the policy or whenever you want to make changes. Simply put, it is a summary of the lengthy document given to you for a better and faster understanding of the main points of the policy.
No overarching insurance declarations page form would contain every nuance you could encounter, so your particular case will likely differ from what we describe below. Some info might be more extensive or less extensive on your declarations page, but in most cases, it will repeat what is shown in our sample declarations form:
Note, however, that your declarations page is not all-inclusive. Given chiefly for informational purposes, it displays only the general – not exhaustive – policy information and, therefore, might miss some details that must be included in the full policy version.
While some may find the document pretty straightforward, others might be overwhelmed with the details and need help understanding the meaning of specific terms, such as deductible, endorsement, and inflation coverage index.
Here are the most popular terms you may encounter when deciphering your policy:
But then again, some unfamiliar terms may appear depending on the type of policy you’re using and other details of your particular case. Therefore, it is wise to consult with your agent, letting them elaborate on every aspect of the policy.
Oleksandr is an expert in deep research. He covers various insurance topics across verticals, adopting to every local law.