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Whether you’re buying your first home or looking to save money on your homeowners insurance, shopping for a policy can seem like a big task. Fortunately, there are just a few steps to follow to make sure you get the home insurance coverage you need.

Before you shop for home insurance, you need to know how much coverage you need. From there it’s a matter of gathering quotes, comparing rates and companies and selecting the right policy.

Learn how to buy home insurance with expert tips below.

Key Takeaways

  • Before you shop for home insurance, figure out how much coverage you need.
  • Compare quotes from three to five companies, or more if you have time, to find the best price.
  • Research the companies you’re considering to make sure they have a solid reputation.

How to shop for home insurance

Shopping for home insurance isn’t hard, but doing it right does involve a few steps. Following each of the steps below will help you buy the right policy at a price you can afford.

1. Decide how much coverage you need

Generally, most insurance policies protect:

  • The dwelling or house and other structures on the property
  • Personal property, which includes everything in the house and all of your valuables
  • Additional living expenses if you need to live somewhere else while your home is being repaired
  • Liability expenses and guest medical

Here’s a breakdown of how much coverage you need.

Dwelling coverage

Your dwelling coverage should provide for the replacement of your home at today’s prices if it needs to be completely rebuilt. A standard home insurance policy provides replacement cost coverage that is calculated based on all of the details of your home’s construction. You can use our replacement cost calculator to estimate the replacement cost value of your home.

You may also want to add extra coverage. There are two options to provide extra replacement cost:

  • Extended replacement cost. If you have an extended replacement cost endorsement on your homeowners insurance policy, your insurer will cover your home’s replacement cost up to a certain percentage above your dwelling coverage limit.
  • Guaranteed replacement cost. With this type of endorsement, you are guaranteed to have the rebuild or repair of your home covered, no matter the cost.

Other structures coverage

This section of the policy covers any structures on the property that are not permanently attached to the house. That includes detached garages, sheds and fences. The standard coverage limit is 10% of the dwelling coverage. You may need more coverage if you have a lot of outdoor features like an outdoor kitchen, pool and poolhouse or even a guest house on your property.

Personal property coverage

Home insurance covers your personal property, with the limit usually set at 50% to 70% of the dwelling coverage amount. You can increase this coverage as necessary. Standard home insurance policies place special limits on certain categories of personal property, like jewelry, art, collectibles and computer equipment. You can raise these limits or purchase a scheduled personal property endorsement or floater to cover high-value items.

Additional living expenses (ALE)

Additional living expenses coverage pays for your accommodations, meals and other costs while you wait for your home to be rebuilt or repaired after extensive damage, such as a fire. However, there are limits — most home insurance policies include 20% of your dwelling coverage in additional living expenses coverage.

Personal liability

Standard home insurance policies include $100,000 of liability coverage. This type of coverage protects you if you or a household member are responsible for injuries to someone else or damage to their property. Liability coverage will help you out, up to your coverage limits, for things like legal costs and court damages, too.

Experts recommend carrying at least $300,000 in liability insurance or more if you have a lot of assets to protect. If you need more liability coverage than the standard home insurance policy offers, consider umbrella insurance.

Guest medical payments

Guest medical payments cover medical costs for guests if they are injured in a minor incident. This coverage is usually a small amount of up to $5,000 and applies regardless of fault.

2. Gather documentation

Before you request home insurance quotes, make sure you have all the right information and documentation at hand. You’ll need to know:

  • Age, construction type and square footage of home
  • If there is a security alarm or other safety equipment
  • Age of roof
  • Age of mechanicals like HVAC, water heater, etc.
  • Recent upgrades, especially to major components
  • Basics of the interior like the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the type of flooring and countertops and special features like fireplaces or jetted tubs
  • Who lives in the home, and the names and social security numbers of adults who will be named on the policy
  • Proximity to a hydrant and fire department
  • What other structures are on the property
  • Pets in the home and their breed

3. Request quotes from multiple insurers

Different insurers offer different rates, so comparing quotes from multiple insurers will help you get the lowest rate for your profile.

You can request quotes online or by calling insurance companies individually. You can also choose to work with an agent or broker to get multiple quotes at once or use an online quote comparison service.

Make sure all of your quotes are based on the same coverage as much as possible. Each insurance company will likely calculate your dwelling coverage a little differently; that’s ok as long as they aren’t too far off from what you have estimated.

Ask about discounts and ensure everything you qualify for is applied to the quote.

4. Review and compare quotes and companies

With insurance quotes in hand, take the time to review and compare them, and not just on price. Does one company include extended replacement cost coverage at no additional cost? Does another provide more coverage for personal property?

Beyond the quotes themselves, take the time to compare the companies. Look at AM Best financial strength ratings and customer reviews from trusted sources like J.D. Power.

5. Pick your policy and complete the purchase

After careful comparison, choose the policy that best suits your needs and budget. In some cases, you can complete the process online; most online quotes are good for 30 days while you consider your options. Some companies will pass your online quote on to an agent to complete the purchase.

If you’re working with an agent to get quotes, they will be able to help you finish up the paperwork. Either way, all that’s left is to sign and pay your premium to get your coverage in place.

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Geoff Williams
Contributing Researcher


Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and author in Loveland, Ohio. He has been writing about insurance and personal finance since the mid-2000s. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Life magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, The Washington Post, CNNMoney, Entrepreneur, and U.S. News & World Report.