Insurance

12 common home insurance questions answered

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Image Sarah Rigney
Staff Writer

In this guide we take a look at some of the most common questions we get asked about home insurance so you know what to keep in mind when taking out cover.

Home insurance is a form of property insurance that covers private homes, buildings and contents. It can provide peace of mind that your property and valuables will be protected should anything unexpected happen. 

Here at bonkers.ie we’d always urge consumers to insure their house and contents - if your house and contents were damaged through fire, for example, a home insurance policy will provide you with the financial means to repair your home and replace the contents.

However, we know that comparing home insurance policies can be confusing and it can be difficult to know whether you have the right level of cover needed to protect your home.

This guide is the fourth guide in our six-part series, which aims to help you get the best value home insurance. You’ll find the other guides in the series linked at the end.

Here we’ve compiled a list of the most common questions by consumers when taking out a home insurance policy. Hopefully it will help put your mind at ease and aid you in making an informed decision.

1. What type of home insurance is there?

Home insurance can include both buildings insurance and contents insurance. 

Buildings insurance

Buildings insurance is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding or repairing your home should it be damaged. Put simply, buildings insurance covers anything you can’t take away and bring with you if you move house.

It covers minor things such as leaks, all the way up to subsidence claims and major damage caused by a fire, flood or storm. 

Contents insurance

Contents insurance covers moveable objects in your home. It covers your personal belongings, furniture and appliances within your home should they be stolen or damaged. In general, any items that aren’t fixed features in your home can be covered under contents insurance.

Most people moving into a new home will take out a home insurance policy that covers both buildings and contents insurance. However contents insurance can be taken out as a separate policy from buildings insurance, which may suit renters or those living in apartments.

2. Should I insure my building’s structure for the market value or rebuilding cost?

Your home should always be insured for its rebuilding cost, which is different from its market value. 

The rebuilding cost is usually (though not always) less than the market value as it does not need to take into account the value of the site the property is built on. However it does need to allow for rebuilding your home in its current state, including the cost of clearing the site and any professional fees. 

In some cases, the rebuilding cost could be higher than the market value. For example, if the property is built from material that is no longer easily available, or if it includes period or special architectural features.

The rebuilding cost could also be lower than the market value. 

Some policies now offer cover based on an overall limit for the rebuilding cost. For example, insurers may set a specific rebuilding limit for a three-bedroom semi-detached house. As long as you’re sure that this amount is enough to rebuild your home and that it can cover the costs associated with clearing the site and professional fees, you don’t need to work out the exact cost.

This may suit some people, but keep in mind that these policies won’t be suitable for all buildings, particularly those which are not of standard build. For example, this kind of policy may not suit listed buildings or properties built from unusual building materials which may be difficult to source. 

3. How can I work out the rebuilding cost of my home?

One option is to ask a qualified surveyor to work out the cost of rebuilding your home, which may help you decide how much you should insure your home for. This may not be suitable if your home has special design features or is not a standard build. 

Alternatively, you can use the Society of Chartered Surveyors rebuilding calculator, which will tell you what the actual costs are based on your house type, square footage and location.

Don’t forget to regularly check that your sum insured is high enough as rebuilding costs are likely to go up over time and with inflation. 

4. What does policy excess mean?

The excess on your policy is a fixed amount that you’ll have to pay towards any claim before your insurer pays the balance. You can’t claim for an amount that’s less than the excess.

The higher your excess, the lower your premium will be. For home insurance, the amount of the excess can vary from insurer to insurer, however it’s normally between €100 and €500 for standard home insurance policies. It should also be noted that the excess for subsidence claims is usually higher. 

For example, if you have an excess of €300 and you make a claim for €1,000 your insurer will pay out €700.

5. What affects the price of home insurance?

There are a number of factors that can influence the price of your home insurance.

Rebuilding cost and value of contents: The higher the rebuild cost of your home, the higher the cost of the insurance policy. Similarly, the greater the insured value of contents, the more expensive your premium will be.  

Age of the home: Home insurance is generally more expensive for older houses. This is due to the fact that their construction and design can make them more vulnerable to damage and be more expensive to repair. 

Location: Insurance providers may charge more for homes that are located in areas with a high crime rate or areas that are prone to flooding. In general, those who have homes located in cities tend to pay more than rural homeowners due to higher burglary rates. 

Security: By having adequate security measures in place, your insurance may be cheaper. Check with your insurer to see what security measures they recommend to lower your premium. 

Your excess: The higher your excess, the lower your home insurance policy will cost.

6. How can I make my house more secure?

There are several ways you can protect your home and make it more secure so that it’s less susceptible to burglary and damage. Here are some ideas:

  • Have a home alarm system in place and make sure it’s visible to deter burglars. If this is a monitored system, you may get an extra discount.
  • Fit security locks on windows and doors.
  • Have fire systems in place. These may include smoke detectors, fire extinguishers/blankets and sprinklers.
  • Have a carbon monoxide alarm installed.
  • Install motion detector lights outside.
  • Put timer switches on your lights so that it looks like you’re at home when you’re not.
  • Hide valuables and keys so that they’re not in plain sight.

Some of these systems may be expensive to install and you might not get a discount with all of them, so check with your insurer. 

It’s always a good idea to calculate how much it would cost to determine whether the investment is worthwhile in comparison to the amount you’d save on your premium.

7. Do I need to tell my insurer if I’m getting major building work done, such as an extension?

Yes, it’s important that you change the amount of your cover to reflect any increase in the rebuilding costs of your home prior to any work being carried out.

You should also inform your insurer about any work being carried out that could increase the risk of damage to your home or its contents. For example, if you’re building an extension, if your home is being significantly refurbished or if your home will be empty for a long time.

In some cases you may need to take out extra insurance. This insurance would be jointly in your name and the name of your contractor and would cover the building work while it is being carried out. 

You don’t need to tell your insurer about work inside the property such as getting a new bathroom or kitchen fitted. Remember though, if this will impact the cost of rebuilding your home, you need to provide your insurer with the new figure.

8. Will I be covered for property stolen from my garden?

Yes, most insurance companies will include cover for property in your garden, such as furniture or damage to outbuildings like garages or sheds. For example, Zurich offers cover up to €750 for garden contents.

If cover for garden items isn’t included in a standard policy, often this can be added for an additional fee. 

It’s also important to note that sometimes cover is only offered if valuable items, such as garden furniture, are kept locked securely in a shed or in the house as opposed to in the garden itself.

It’s best to check with your specific provider and see what they cover. 

9. How much should I insure my contents for?

It’s vital that you get this right as not having enough insurance can mean that all claims payments you receive may be reduced to reflect wear and tear, and in extreme cases your policy may be classed as invalid. 

You should insure your contents for the amount it would cost to completely replace them with new items. Usually, as long as the amount you have selected is roughly correct, you don’t need to worry about insurers unreasonably reducing any claims payments. 

10. Is money automatically covered with contents insurance? 

Most insurance policies will cover a limited amount of money as part of your contents cover. For example, with Zurich it’s up to €400. However, this won’t include any cash that belongs to your business. 

Loss of cash will only be covered for the risks insured under the policy, including theft from the home. 

It’s unlikely that policies will cover cash that is lost or stolen while you’re carrying it on your person. Usually this type of cover can be added as an extension to a standard policy at an extra cost.

11. What if my belongings are lost, stolen or damaged while they are with me away from home? 

Cover for your belongings while you’re away from home is not usually part of a standard contents policy. However insurers offer this as an optional extra for an additional cost. This type of cover is often known as all-risks cover.

Usually, this extra insurance will cover items up to a limit that you choose, so you don’t need to list your belongings individually on the policy. However, there’s generally a limit to the amount of cover for any one particular item. 

Valuable items, in particular, may only be covered if they’re individually listed on your policy. These items may include bikes, laptops and mobile phones and special conditions may apply.

For example, cover for bikes away from your home is normally only provided when they are in your possession or are securely locked to an object that can’t be moved, like a bike rack.

12. I lost some valuables on holiday. Should I claim on my travel insurance or home insurance? 

It’s possible to claim under either or both policies in this situation, however you shouldn’t claim the overall value twice. 

To help you decide which policy to claim under, it’s best to have a look at the different limits and exclusions that may apply to each and check whether the policies have a no-claims discount that you could lose.

Whichever policy you decide to claim under, you must tell the insurer about the other policy and they both might pay a share of the claim. 

Get home insurance on bonkers.ie

At bonkers.ie our goal is to ensure consumers in Ireland aren’t overpaying on their everyday household bills and home insurance is no exception.

It’s quick and easy to sign up for a new home insurance policy on bonkers.ie, meaning you could save hundreds on your annual premium in just minutes. Simply head over to our home insurance page and fill out our straightforward home insurance application form. 

You can decide what features are most important to you, choose the level of excess you want to have and whether you want to add accidental damage cover. You also have the option to add cover for sentimental items, such as an engagement ring. 

Once you’ve submitted your details we’ll instantly provide you with your cover options.

If you’re happy with the price you’ve been quoted you’ll also have the option to purchase multi-year home insurance at a guaranteed price for two or three years. ​​You can learn more about multi-year home insurance in this blog.

You can also compare a variety of other insurance types too on bonkers.ie, including mortgage protection insurance, life insurance and serious illness cover 

Don’t forget to review other everyday household bills too and compare available deals for services such as energy, broadband and banking products to see how much you could save by switching to another provider!

Check out our other insurance guides

If you found this guide helpful, make sure you take a look at the other insurance guides in our series. You may be interested in the following:

You can read more about insurance and discover more helpful tips over on our blogs and guides pages.

Get in touch

If you have any questions about home insurance that we might have missed, feel free to get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help answer them! 

You can contact us over on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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