Home insurance is such a boring subject, most of us are happy to let our policy renew automatically. But my latest annual home insurance letter shocked me when I saw how much my premiums had risen.
I’ve had the same insurer since I bought my tiny Regency house 11 years ago, but being a loyal customer, it seems, no longer counts for anything. Yet insurance is competitive so you can shop around, even haggle — but insurers rely on us doing nothing.
Many people, when they’ve bought a new home, just sign up for the cover the mortgage lender suggests. But, certainly after a few years, see if you can do better. This year I shopped around and found better cover for £170 less than my renewal premium.
Like 370,000 other homes in England, my house is listed. My brick terrace home, with its tile roof, is Grade II, as are 92 per cent of all listed homes. The other eight per cent — Grade II* and Grade I — are very special and owners should definitely use specialist cover. Ditto for homes with unusually high risks such as thatches.
Does a listed home legally need specialist cover?
According to the NFU Mutual (nfumututal.co.uk), the simple answer is “no”. But there’s a strong caveat: it costs more to rebuild a listed house, so on your policy, the rebuild cost must be sufficiently high, which increases the premium. Also, NFU advises, if asked whether the home is listed, you must say so, or cover could be nullified.
How do I calculate rebuild value?
When you buy your home, the mortgage quote usually has a rebuild value, so use that. Or a surveyor can estimate it. I asked my local surveyor (mcbryerbeg.com) an expert in this area of east London . If you don’t know a local one, find surveyors at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (ricsfirms.com). For unlisted homes, online calculators such as the Association of British Insurer’s calculator (abi.org.uk) are easy. You must register. And do make a note of the answer, as it doesn’t save it.
How do I find the right insurer?
You can use comparison sites, but you’ll still have to digest the small print later on, and who knows where your details will end up. So I decided on a more tailored approach. First, I asked friends who their insurer is, what they pay, and if they’re satisfied. Following a recommendation, I got a quote from saga.co.uk. For listed homes, if you start an online application you may be required to complete by phone. This was my experience. I next tried companies I’d heard good things about — johnlewis-insurance.com and hiscox.co.uk. They offered excellent cover but the rates varied. However, each offer is different, so it isn’t just a question of which policy looks cheapest, but which suits your needs best.
An online insurance portal specially for listed homes, buildings2insure.com, has several partners. I approached one, ecclesiastical.com — a 125-year-old specialist. They quoted £143 less than I was paying, with higher limits.
Should I try a broker?
A friend recommended Robins Row (robinsrow.com). I phoned, and after a courteous chat and a couple of day’s wait, the result was a very comprehensive policy with unlimited cover for a good price that included their fee.
Do all insurers ask the same questions?
No. Some worry about flat roofs, some about window locks. One consulted a flood map.
And what about haggling?
Finally, I told my original insurer I had a quote £170 lower. They offered to knock £75 off my policy “for loyalty”, and also increased my contents cover. At the very least, call your existing insurer and haggle. And don’t pay monthly — it ramps up the final cost.
What it costs:
My original cover was £593 (I paid monthly, so actually paid £627) for £500,000 of buildings cover and £50,000 contents. After a call this was reduced to £521, with contents cover raised to £70,000. Saga offered the lowest price for its “essential” cover with added home emergency, for a rock bottom £415. This gave £600,000 rebuild cover and £75,000 contents.
Hiscox quoted unlimited cover for £850 (calculated monthly, so cheaper paid annually).
John Lewis Insurance quoted £702 for £600,000 rebuild and £75,000 contents.Ecclesiastical quoted £449 for a tailored specialist policy giving £600,000 rebuild and £75,000 contents. This lowered to £423 for £550,000 rebuild. Robins Row found me unlimited cover — both buildings and contents — for £530, with identity theft cover, too.