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Vacant home insurance

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Although your state does not require homeowners insurance, it is generally required if you have a mortgage on your home. But even without a mortgage, homeowners insurance can help you avoid paying substantial costs out of pocket should your home experience damage due to instances like a fire or weather-related loss. But how does your homeowners insurance work if you move out of your home and still own it? Or what if you’re away from your home for months?

Vacant property insurance is designed to provide insurance for a home that is vacant for an extended period. A vacant home is considered one that is not being lived in, and there are no immediate plans to return to the property. In cases where homes are vacant, these homes usually have minimal or no furniture. Exactly how long a property needs to be empty before it is considered vacant varies by insurance company but is typically 30 to 60 days or more. Owners of vacant properties will want to learn what vacant home insurance covers, who needs it and how to purchase vacant property insurance.

What is vacant home insurance?

Vacant home insurance is a type of property insurance that specifically covers homes that are not being lived in because owners are away from the property for an extended period. Standard home insurance policies usually do not cover homes that are left vacant because a vacant home generally carries more risk of a claim than an occupied home. For example, a home that is not being lived in is more likely to get broken into since people are not present to deter thieves. Additionally, weather events can cause more damage to the property since a homeowner is unable to prepare the home for an upcoming storm, assess any damage after a storm, make temporary repairs or contact an insurance agent to begin repairs.

Vacant home insurance is either sold as a standalone policy or possibly as an endorsement that is added to your current homeowners insurance policy. If you are able to purchase a standalone policy, you do not need regular homeowners insurance as well. Vacant home insurance that is sold as a separate policy is usually written as a DP-1 policy form. This policy form is not to be confused with a standard homeowners policy (HO-3) or a rental property policy (DP-3).

It’s also important to note that there is a difference between vacant and unoccupied homes. From a home insurer’s point of view, an unoccupied home is one that has furniture and belongings in it and has utilities set up but is unoccupied for an extended period, typically 30 days or more. Homeowners intend to return to their unoccupied homes in the foreseeable future. An example of this could be a secondary home, where homeowners stay at another property for a few months but return later during a warmer season. A vacant home is typically one that is completely empty and might even have utilities shut off. An example of this could be a home for sale, and the homeowners have moved into their new property.

What does vacant home insurance cover?

Every property insurance company treats vacant home insurance differently. Generally, vacant property insurance under the DP-1 policy form covers the physical structure of your home against perils such as:

  • Hail, fire and lightning
  • Smoke
  • Windstorm damage
  • Explosions
  • Riots and civil commotion

Keep in mind that a DP-1 does not usually offer personal property coverage or coverage for water damage. Vacant home insurance endorsements might include more coverage, as it is an endorsement added to a standard homeowners policy. An insurance agent can help you understand the different coverage options available based on if the insurer offers a separate policy or an endorsement to your current policy.

Who needs vacant home insurance?

Every insurance company has different criteria in what is considered a vacant home, including the length of time the property is empty. You may need vacant home insurance if you:

  • Recently bought a house and are not planning to move in within 30 days
  • Inherited property and do not intend to move into the home within 30 days
  • Are selling your home and the personal property has been removed
  • Have moved out of your home and are preparing to use it as a rental in the future

For homeowners who own their property outright, vacant home insurance is optional. But if you have a mortgage on your vacant home, your lender will likely require you to purchase vacant home insurance.

How to buy vacant home insurance

Buying vacant home insurance is similar to buying standard homeowners insurance. You might be able to purchase a standalone policy or endorsement through your existing homeowners insurance company. Here are the steps you should take to buy empty house insurance:

Shop around

The first step in buying vacant home insurance is to find the right carrier for you. Check to see if your home insurance provider offers an endorsement or standalone policy. If so, you might qualify for a policy bundling discount. If you want to buy a separate policy, shop around for providers that offer vacant home coverage in your state. Pay special attention to the coverage options, add-ons and discounts.

You may need to expand your search as not every carrier offers this form of home insurance. Some companies, such as Farmers, American Family and Foremost, offer vacant home insurance.

Get quotes

The next step is to get quotes from the companies you researched. For the most accurate rate estimate, call an agent and explain your situation. They can recommend an appropriate amount of coverage, help you choose your policy limits and see if you qualify for any discounts. Get quotes from a few different companies if possible so you can compare them and see which company is offering best coverage for your needs at the lowest price.

Set up a policy

The last step is to finalize a vacant home policy or add the endorsement to your current policy for your coverage to be in effect. If you are setting up a vacant homeowners insurance policy to replace your standard homeowners insurance policy, make sure to avoid a lapse in coverage. Your insurance agent will guide you through the process of how to avoid a coverage lapse.

Is there a difference between vacant home and unoccupied home insurance?

Vacant homeowners insurance and unoccupied homeowners insurance are not the same. When a home is vacant, it usually requires a separate policy or endorsement to be adequately covered should an incident occur.

An unoccupied home means that the homeowner is away from the property but intends to return to the home. The utilities are still hooked up, and there is furniture within the home. In cases like this, generally, a standard homeowners insurance policy will be needed to cover the home.

However, insurance companies define vacant homes and unoccupied homes differently. Generally speaking, unoccupied homes are ones that contain personal property, furniture and have active utilities. Vacant homes are ones that are completely empty inside.

Reviewing the details of your personal situation with a licensed insurance agent will help you determine what type of homeowners insurance you need for your property.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best home insurance company?

There are dozens of home insurance companies on the market, but which one is best depends on your needs. Some companies are better for affordable rates and others are good for discounts or customizable coverage. The best home insurance company for you is not necessarily the best option for your neighbor.

Can you get insurance for a vacant house?

Yes, you can purchase insurance for a vacant home. Most insurance companies define vacant homes as properties that do not have any personal property or furniture inside. Vacant homes are usually covered under vacant home insurance policies (a DP-1 policy form) or by adding an endorsement to your standard homeowners insurance policy.

How much does vacant home insurance cost?

The cost of vacant home insurance depends on many factors. Your age, claims history, credit score (in most states), the size of the home and where the home is located all affect your premium. Shopping around for quotes will help ensure you are getting the lowest rate with the coverage you need.

Written by
Elizabeth Rivelli
Insurance Contributor
Elizabeth Rivelli is a contributing insurance writer for Bankrate and has years of experience writing for insurance domains such as The Simple Dollar, and NextAdvisor, among others
Edited by
Managing Editor