insurance

Insuring your vacant home

This type of policy covers homes unoccupied for an extended period of time, usually more than 30 or 60 days. The vacancy could occur for a number of reasons, such as the property being for sale or undergoing renovations. The insurance also would cover the property if the owner was away on an extended trip.

Companies that offer vacant-home insurance policies typically also sell other types of specialty insurance, such as coverage for boats, motorcycles and rental properties, says Gontjes.

To find an insurer that offers vacant policies, homeowners should ask their existing insurance agent for recommendations, Gontjes says.

Their names may not be as recognizable as more popular insurance brands, so research is crucial to finding a reputable seller, Gontjes says.

"You can check their A.M. Best rating to get an idea of their financially stability," he says.

Insurance expenses

Depending on the policy, vacant-home insurance term lengths are usually from three months to a year, Gontjes says. He advises homeowners to ask companies whether they offer a prorated policy refund if the home becomes occupied again before the end of the term.

Some insurers will offer this return of premium, but others with "fully earned" policies will not, says Gontjes.

Vacant-home insurance policy prices vary widely, says Gontjes. Pricing is based on factors that include the state in which the home resides, the amount of coverage purchased and the property's fire protection class.

Moraga adds that "vacant policies are priced based on risk," and McRaith says such policies are significantly more costly than standard homeowners insurance, which may cost just one-third as much as vacant-home insurance.

Despite the fact that the standard policy would likely be cheaper, homeowners shouldn't try to keep their existing homeowner's insurance if they plan to vacate their home. If they do, they'll probably violate the terms of their contract.

"The best advice for homeowners is to be honest with their agent or company and discuss the best course of action for their situation," says Moraga.

You can compare home insurance quotes on Insureme.com, a Bankrate company.

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