The term "rush hour" took on new meaning in Russia's Ural Mountains last Friday when an early morning meteor with the wallop of 30 Hiroshima atomic bombs showered the outskirts of Chelyabinsk with fireballs, toppling walls, blowing out windows and injuring more than 1,000 residents.
It was a visceral end to a nerve-wracking, Chicken Little-themed week worldwide that also witnessed a surprise nuclear test by North Korea and an uncomfortably close encounter with a passing asteroid.
The suddenly hostile skies left many Americans asking the same question: Will my homeowners insurance cover me if a flaming space rock takes out the guest wing?
The answer is yes: a standard homeowners insurance policy typically covers damage to your home and its contents caused by "falling objects," which can include everything from tree limbs and aircraft to self-propelled missiles, spacecraft, satellites and meteors.
Naturally, "falling object" coverage comes with a few rules attached:
- The meteor must cause damage to the roof or an outside wall for contents coverage to kick in.
- While your policy will cover the cost to repair that unplanned open-air skylight, it may not cover other damage caused by rain or wind coming through the meteor hole unless you take reasonable steps to prevent further damage, say by putting up a tarp.
- Coverage limits typically apply.
As with most insurance claims, it's a good idea to forgo making any permanent repairs until an insurance adjuster determines the extent of the damage.
Interesting side note: Damage to the falling object itself is typically not covered under a standard policy. While this clause was probably designed to release the insurers from having to pay to repair fallen airliners and such, it raises a point few homeowners are aware of: Meteors are valuable property. And when one falls on your house, it officially becomes your valuable property.
In the course of covering financial stories, I once interviewed a meteor hunter named Michael Farmer, who travels the world hunting down and selling fallen space rocks. Depending on which ZIP code they hail from (Mars and the moon are highly valued), even small meteorites typically fetch anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 and sometimes as much as $1 million from collectors, Farmer says.
Early estimates indicate that chunks of this meteor could fetch more than 40 times the price of gold, which currently sells for $1,610 an ounce.
So, in the unlikely event a meteor should come crashing into your home, for heaven's sake, don't discard it.
That space rock just might build you a new, vastly improved one.
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus
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