Your home is likely to be the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, so it’s important to protect it to the best of your ability. One way to do that is by taking out a home insurance policy. Without a home insurance policy in place, you may not be able to afford to repair any damage that may occur.
Even if you don’t own a property and are renting, you can take out home insurance to ensure that your most valuable possessions are covered should something unexpected happen.
Here at bonkers.ie, we know that wading through insurance policies can be confusing, so we’ve compiled a list of key things to consider when purchasing home insurance to make the process easier.
This is the fifth guide in our six-part series on finding the best value home insurance. You’ll find the other guides in this series linked at the end of this article.
1. The right cover for your needs
There are numerous types of home insurance cover available, so make sure you’re choosing the best cover to suit your needs. It’s important to understand the difference between each type and what they cover.
- Buildings insurance: This will cover the cost of rebuilding or repairing your home should it be damaged, and is required to take out a mortgage.
- Contents insurance: This can be taken out on its own or with a buildings insurance policy and covers your personal belongings and items within the home. Although contents insurance is not compulsory to buy a house, you might want to add it to your policy to protect your valuables against loss or damage.
- Specified items: Certain items will only be covered up to a certain amount on your policy, and some may not be covered at all under the scope of the policy. It’s recommended that you specify certain items of most value to you when taking out home insurance
2. Additional extras
When purchasing home insurance, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Sometimes opting for a standard home insurance policy isn’t enough, and you may require some additional extras to be added to your policy.
While adding these naturally increases the cost of your premium, you’ll be provided with peace of mind. Here are some of the additional extras available:
- Accidental damage cover: This covers unintentional damage to the building or its contents. For example, knocking over the TV, spilling paint on the carpet, etc.
- Personal possessions cover: This covers items you may take away with you from the home, e.g. a bike, a mobile phone, etc. This can also be known as all-risks cover.
- Personal accident cover: This type of cover offers reassurance that you will be provided with financial support should you or a family member residing in the home suffer from a personal accident.
- Legal protection: This type of cover is designed to protect you against the cost of legal expenses you may incur for claims under your home insurance policy. Insurers will often pay up to €65,000 to cover legal costs.
3. Your level of cover
Over or underinsuring your home can prove to be a costly error.
Underinsuring your home may seem like a good idea in theory to lower your insurance costs, but there can be significant consequences should you need to make a claim. If you’re not adequately insured and your home is damaged due to unforeseen circumstances, you’ll be left paying a lot more than you anticipated.
On the other hand, if you over-insure your home you’ll end up paying a higher premium unnecessarily and there will be no additional benefit if you make a claim. To avoid this, you should insure your property for the rebuilding cost, not the market value.
A key thing to remember is that rebuilding costs will also fluctuate. At the moment construction costs are on the rise due to inflation, and Brexit has also resulted in the cost of raw materials increasing.
These higher rebuilding costs are feeding through into higher home insurance premiums. It’s worthwhile reviewing your policy upon renewal and making sure you’re not underinsured.
If you’re unsure what the rebuilding cost of your property is, the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland has an insurance rebuild calculator. This will tell you how much it would cost to rebuild your home based on your house type, square footage and location.
Most policies will have several exclusions, so it’s important to be aware of what’s actually covered in your policy and what’s not.
Standard exclusions are contained in every home insurance policy, but more specific exclusions and restrictions will apply under different insurance policies. It’s best to check what these are before you sign up.
General exclusions usually include the following:
- Faulty workmanship or damage resulting from the use of defective materials.
- Gradual wear and tear.
- Cyber risks resulting from the alteration, tampering or damage to computer systems, hardware, programme, software, etc.
- Existing damage that occurred before the cover starts or deliberate damage was carried out.
- Sets and matching items - Any undamaged item which forms part of a set or pair will not be covered.
Insurance providers will have a full list of exclusions on their website or in their home insurance policy booklets.
5. Unoccupied house rules
If you’re planning an extended trip, something to be aware of is that certain claims may not be valid if your property is unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days. Unoccupancy terms can vary from insurer to insurer, with some allowing you to leave your home unoccupied for up to 60 days in a row.
If your home is unoccupied for a certain period, your policy will then exclude the ability to claim for certain damages. This usually includes damage due to theft, vandalism, escape of water or oil and the breakage of glass in windows and doors.
Home insurance providers usually require customers to inform them if their house will be empty for longer than the unoccupancy term. So, if you know you’ll be away for multiple weeks or months, it’s best to contact your home insurance company.
Insurance companies may adjust your policy and add an endorsement to your policy to limit the level of cover after the unoccupancy term. Alternatively, they may require you to take certain precautions, such as leaving the heating on during winter so that pipes don’t freeze.
6. Your excess
Looking to lower your home insurance costs? Consider increasing your excess.
The excess is the amount that you have agreed to pay towards any claim before your insurer pays the balance. Your policy excess directly impacts the amount you pay for your premium.
If you choose a higher excess this would result in a cheaper premium. Usually, the amount of excess varies between €200 and €500.
It’s important to note that the excess for subsidence, water damage, heave and landslip claims tends to be much higher than the standard excess as this kind of damage is more costly to repair.
If you do decide to increase your excess, you may find it’s not worthwhile claiming on smaller amounts as this could affect your no-claims bonus.
7. Building up your no-claims discount
Home insurance providers will reward customers for not making a claim by offering a no-claims discount, which will help reduce how much you pay for your annual premium.
The longer you go without submitting an insurance claim, the higher the no-claims bonus discount. This is to deter people from making claims on smaller things that need fixing.
The amount of no-claims discount will depend on what insurance company you’re with. Some will offer up to 30%, provided you meet certain criteria.
Insurance companies will often offer first-time buyers or those who have no previous insurance an introductory offer of a no-claims discount too.
Building up your no-claims discount can help to significantly reduce the amount you pay, so before jumping the gun and making a claim, make sure you consider whether it would be worthwhile losing your no claims bonus.
8. What can invalidate your claim
It’s not uncommon for a home insurance policy to be deemed invalid when you go to make a claim. This will result in claims not being paid, even if they’re genuine, so it’s best to make sure you’re not accidentally invalidating your policy.
Your policy may be deemed invalid for the following reasons:
- Non-disclosure: This occurs when you fail to disclose necessary information to your insurer when taking out a policy. If, for example, you don't disclose that you rent your house or apartment out you could invalidate your policy. So, if you run an Airbnb you must let your insurer know as this is considered a commercial business.
- Not utilising your security measures: If you’ve informed your insurer that you have an alarm installed, you’ll likely have received a discount. Make sure you set the alarm whenever you leave the house unoccupied because if your house is burgled and the alarm isn’t on, this could invalidate your claim.
- Vermin: Damage caused by rats, mice or other rodents may not be covered by your insurance if you fail to try to rectify the problem before any damage is done. If you do notice any vermin in your house, you should act fast!
- Underinsurance: As mentioned in the third point, underinsuring your home may leave you in a financially vulnerable position and can also invalidate your policy.
- Non-payment: If you have failed to pay for your insurance cover, your policy may be deemed invalid. This may occur if you have agreed to pay for your policy in instalments and you end up missing payments.
You can also learn about why you could be refused home insurance in this guide.
9. What discounts are available
Many insurance companies offer enticing new customer discounts, so it’s recommended you shop around.
One thing to be aware of is that if you sign up with a new customer discount they usually only last a year, so when it’s time to renew your policy you’ll be paying more for your premium.
If you already have a different insurance policy, such as car insurance, with a particular company you could qualify for a multi-policy discount if you decide to also take your home insurance out with the same company.
The more secure your home is, the better. Oftentimes insurance companies will offer discounts to those who have monitored alarms, security locks and smoke/carbon monoxide detectors installed. Sometimes the cost of installing these can be more than the amount saved, however they can also help to provide peace of mind.
Get home insurance on bonkers.ie
You can now quickly and easily get home insurance right here on bonkers.ie!
You could reduce the price you pay for your home insurance, without affecting your level of cover. Head over to our home insurance page to receive a discounted quote in just minutes and see how much you could save.
You can choose the type of cover you want and add on any additional extras. You’ll also have the option to sign up for multi-year insurance too.
Our home insurance service is fully online, meaning you don’t have to deal with any paperwork. Should you need assistance at any point in the application process, our expert insurance advisors will be on hand to help.
Home insurance is just one of many products you can get through bonkers.ie. Did you know that you can also compare deals and prices for energy, broadband, banking products and other types of insurance? See what other household bills you could save on today!
Review our other insurance guides
Whether you’re looking for ways to reduce your insurance costs, or seeking further information before taking out a policy, we’ve got you covered.
We have a range of insurance guides that will aid you in making an informed decision. You may be interested in the following:
- Our Quickstart Guide will offer you a full overview of the guides in our home insurance series.
- You can learn how to use our home insurance tool here.
- Don’t worry if you want to cancel your home insurance policy. Here’s all you need to know about the cooling-off period and cancellation process.
- Take a look at these 12 common home insurance questions.
- There is a range of additional extras available to add to your policy. Discover the ins and outs of specified items cover in this guide.
Let’s hear from you
Can you think of anything else people should keep in mind when taking out home insurance? We’d love to hear from you!