Compare home and contents insurance to find the right cover for your home and treasured possessions.
You’ve spent years making your house a home, from the hand-me-down teacups in your grandma’s hutch to that IKEA shelf which took hours to assemble. But what would you do if someone broke in and swiped your entire antique record collection? How upset would you be if a storm ripped through your neighbourhood and decided to be especially unkind to your home?
When things just aren't going your way, home and contents insurance is there to pick you up again.
We break down why it's so important, what to look for in a policy, and tips and tricks on how to save those dollar dollar bills.
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Why do I need home and contents insurance?
There are several very important reasons why you should seriously consider investing in home and contents cover, including:
- It protects your most valuable asset. You spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy your home, so why would you even consider leaving it uninsured? Home insurance can help you repair or rebuild when something goes wrong.
- It protects all your most important belongings. Could you afford to replace everything you own if it was completely destroyed in a fire? With contents insurance cover in place, you won’t be left out of pocket if disaster strikes.
- You can’t predict the future. Accidents and unexpected mishaps can occur at any time, so every day without some level of home and contents insurance protection in place is a gamble.
- It offers critical financial support. The cost of rebuilding your home or replacing all your contents would be crippling for many of us, so the financial protection home and contents insurance offers is essential.
- It guarantees peace of mind. Hopefully you’ll never have to make a claim on your home and contents insurance, but having cover in place gives you the peace of mind of knowing you have a financial safety net in place if you ever need it.
What does home and contents insurance cover?
When mother nature gets vicious, home and contents insurance is like your saving grace. It protects your home and possessions from a bunch of risks. It'll cover you for the cost of repairing, rebuilding, or replacing your home if it's damaged by events like:
- Storms and rainwater
- Sudden and unexpected escape of liquid (aka: 'Oh s**t, I left the bath running')
- Lightning damage
- Impact at the home (a fallen tree, for example)
- Wind damage
- Malicious damage and vandalism
- Damage caused during a robbery
Need more cover than this? An accidental damage policy might be up your alley.
In a normal home insurance policy, you're generally only covered for events listed on your certificate of insurance.
But what if you spill red wine all over your white carpet? Or the kids decide to go rogue and make the walls their new canvas?
Well, accidental cover has your back. This is an optional extra that you can purchase on top of your home and contents policy. It offers protection for those unforeseen events that just can't be predicted.
With this in mind, every insurer will define accidental incidents differently. Ensure you have a good read of the PDS so you know what you are and aren't covered for. As a general rule, if an event isn't mentioned in the exclusions, you're probably covered for it.
How much will I actually be covered for?
When you take out a policy, you'll list a sum insured figure. This is the cost to completely repair, rebuild and replace everything. You'll need to give a sum insured for both your building and your possessions.
Many policies also offer a safety net where you are also covered as much as 30% above the sum insured amount. This is great to avoid underinsurance.
If disaster strikes (knock on wood) and you have to start from scratch, it's not just the replacement cost of your possessions that you need to be concerned about. There are a bunch of other costs to take into account like demolition fees, architect's fees, charges from the council, and even the cost of accommodation while you rebuild. Many insurers will also cover a portion of these costs. Boo-yah!
How to avoid underinsurance
There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that you choose the right level of home and contents insurance for your requirements:
- Calculate how much cover you need. When you apply for a sum-insured home insurance policy, you’re asked to decide how much you want to insure your home and contents for. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time or the specialist knowledge required to accurately calculate this figure. Some insurers offer online calculators to help you, while it’s also worth looking into the formulas available to help you reach an accurate figure. Choosing a policy that guarantees to cover total replacement costs is an easy way around this problem. As for your contents, making a detailed list of everything you own and its value can help you work out how much contents insurance you need.
- Don’t try to cut corners. Choosing a lower sum insured or a lower level of cover is an easy way to lower your premiums, but it’s also fraught with danger. While you may save a few bucks on your premiums, it could cost you thousands of dollars in the long run if you need to make a claim.
- Review cover regularly. There’s a tendency for many of us to simply renew our policy without checking on the level of cover it provides. Building costs and replacement costs are always changing, so reviewing your policy regularly can help ensure that you always have sufficient cover.
Do I need any additional benefits?
Many insurers also offer a number of additional benefits that can be included on your policy for an additional premium. These include:
- Motor burnout cover. This benefit covers the burnout or fusing of electric motors in household equipment or appliances, for example refrigerators and washing machines.
- Accidental damage cover. While this benefit is included as standard on some policies, other insurers offer it as an extra-cost option. It covers loss or damage that occurs in and around your home without intent.
- Personal contents cover. This option provides cover against accidental damage to items you regularly take with you when away from home, including jewellery, sporting goods, laptops and smartphones.
- Pet cover. If you purchase this optional extra, you’ll receive a benefit to help cover veterinary bills when your dog or cat suffers an accidental injury.
What won't I be covered for?
There are a number of situations and circumstances where home and contents insurance will not provide any cover, such as if:
- You leave your home unoccupied for an extended period. Going overseas for a three-month holiday? You’ll want to notify your insurer, as many policies won’t provide cover if you leave your home unoccupied for more than 60 consecutive days.
- You break the law. If your claim arises because you commit an unlawful act or fail to comply with any government regulations (such as those surrounding pool fencing and smoke alarms), it will be rejected by your insurer.
- You fail to look after your home or contents. You have a responsibility under your insurance contracts to make sure your home and contents are kept in good repair and condition. This includes repairing leaks, fixing holes in walls and ceilings, and staying on top of pest control. Claims that arise because you fail to fulfil your obligations won’t be paid.
- You’re renovating. Most policies won’t cover you if your home or contents are damaged due to significant renovation works, for example if rainwater enters your home through an opening made for construction works and destroys your TV. If you’re planning a renovation or extension, make sure you have adequate construction insurance.
- Your claim is for wear and tear. Claims that arise due to wear and tear, gradual deterioration, rust, mould, mildew and the like, such as wear and tear of carpets or fading curtains, are not covered.
- Your home is damaged by termites. Damage caused by termites and other pests is typically not covered by home and contents insurance. This is because pest control is the homeowner’s responsibility and part of the normal care and maintenance of a home.
- Your home or contents are damaged by flood. Never assume that your home and contents insurance automatically covers flood damage. Some policies exclude flood damage from cover, so check the fine print to find out whether or not you’re protected.
Check out our guide to home insurance exclusions for information about more situations when your policy won’t provide any cover.
How to make a home and contents claim
If you need to make a claim on your home and contents policy, there are some simple steps you need to follow:
- Contact your insurer as soon as possible after the event or incident occurs
- Submit a claim form with details of what has happened. This can often be done over the phone or online
- You may need to supply supporting evidence, such as photographs, proof of ownership, receipts and the like
- The insurer may send someone out to assess the damage, arrange emergency repairs (if required) and obtain repair quotes
- Your claim will be processed and the insurer will notify you of the outcome as soon as possible
How much does home and contents insurance cost?
The cost of home and contents insurance is influenced by multiple factors, including:
- The level of cover you select. The higher the sum insured for your home and contents, the more you’ll need to pay for cover. Many insurers also offer multiple levels of cover – basic, medium and comprehensive – which are priced according to the range of benefits they offer.
- Any additional benefits you select. If you add optional extras such as fusion cover or accidental damage cover to your policy, this will increase your premium.
- Your home. It probably won’t surprise you to learn that a six-bedroom mansion will usually cost more to insure than a tiny studio apartment. However, insurers will also consider the age of your home and the materials used in its construction when calculating your premiums. For example, if you live in an area prone to severe storms, some roofing materials are better equipped to withstand hail and wind damage.
- Where you live. Home and contents insurance risks can vary depending on the suburb and region where you live. For example, there may be a higher risk of break-ins and theft in some postcodes, while other areas could be prone to severe storms or flooding.
- When you pay your premium. It costs more to pay your premiums by the month than as an annual lump sum with some insurers.
- The age of the people who live in your home. As a general rule, older policyholders are considered less likely to claim than their younger counterparts. So an empty-nester couple in their 50s will generally pay less than a couple in their 20s would pay to insure the same home.
- The excess you choose. Many insurers allow you to adjust your excess when you apply for a policy. A higher excess means cheaper premiums, while reducing your excess will drive premiums up.
- Any discounts that apply. From online discounts to loyalty discounts for long-term customers, there are several ways you can cut down the cost of cover.
As you can see, the myriad factors that can affect your premium mean it’s not really possible to give an accurate guide as to the average cost of home insurance. To find out how much cover will cost you, obtain quotes from multiple insurers and see how they compare.
How to save money on home and contents insurance
There are plenty of simple things you can do to reduce your home and contents insurance premiums, such as:
- Shop around. This is the easiest and most effective way to save on the cost of cover. By comparing the features and cost of a range of policies, you can track down affordable cover that meets all your needs.
- Avoid options you don’t need. If you’re considering adding any extra-cost options to your policy, make sure they offer cover you genuinely need.
- Install a security system. Consider adding security measures that deter thieves, for example security screens on doors and burglar alarms. This can help reduce your home and contents insurance premiums.
- Choose a higher excess. By agreeing to pay a higher excess whenever you make a claim, you can enjoy reduced premiums.
- Take advantage of discounts. Home and contents insurers in Australia provide a range of discounts, such as:
- Online discounts when you buy cover online rather than over the phone
- Seniors discounts for policyholders over the age of 55
- Multi-policy discounts for customers who also hold other types of insurance (e.g. car insurance)
- Loyalty discounts to reward long-term customers for their ongoing business
- Premium discounts for customers who pay their premium annually rather than by the month
- Special home insurance promo codes
How do I choose the right home and contents insurance policy?
With so much choice available, finding the right home and contents cover can be a difficult task. Ask yourself the following questions to help narrow down your choices to the right policy:
- How much cover do I need? Think about how much it would cost you to completely rebuild your home and replace all of your possessions.
- Are there any specific risks I need protection against? For example, do you live in an area prone to bushfires, severe storms or floods?
- What’s my budget? How much can you afford to pay for cover?
Once you’ve answered the questions above, you can then start comparing your policy options. Remember to look at:
- What’s covered
- Cover limits
- What’s not covered
- Additional options available
- The cost of cover
Assessing all these factors will help you determine which home and contents insurer offers the ideal policy for your needs.
Many Aussies are in danger
83% of Australians don’t have enough insurance cover for their home and contents – that’s what research from the Insurance Council of Australia has revealed. This is a phenomenon known as underinsurance, and it can have serious financial consequences if your home or contents are damaged or destroyed by an unexpected event.
The problem of underinsurance arises when you don’t have enough home and contents insurance to:
- Completely rebuild your home if it is destroyed;
- Cover other costs (for example temporary accommodation) while your claim is assessed and your home rebuilt; and
- Replace all your possessions and personal belongings
If you don’t have adequate cover, you could have significant out-of-pocket costs should disaster strike your home or contents.
It’s also important to be aware of any limits that apply to your contents insurance. For example, while you may keep $10,000 worth of jewellery at home, the maximum benefit your policy will pay for loss or damage to your jewellery collection could be $2,000. Check these limits to make sure you don’t end up underinsured, as you may need to apply for additional cover for valuable items.
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