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10 Ways To Cut Your Homeowners Insurance

The coverage offered in the standard homeowners insurance policy might be more than you need -- or not enough.

When it comes to homeowners insurance premiums, most of us just pay what the insurance company bills us. But homeowners (and renters) have many options that can save them money. That said, you don't want the cheapest policy -- you want the best policy for the best price. Here's how to get it:

1. Decide what coverage you need. The standard homeowners (or separate renters) policy pays for a lot -- but excludes or limits a lot, too. So it's up to you to look over a policy and ask your agent about exclusions -- or some extra coverage.

For instance, if you live near water, you may want flood insurance. (Mortgage lenders will require it on homes within designated flood zones.) The National Flood Insurance Program offers guidance, or ask your local insurance agent; many of them are qualified to issue these government-backed policies.

Some computers, valuable jewelry, electronic gear, or works of art in your home may exceed a standard policy's payout limits. In this case, you may want to pay extra to insure these items for higher amounts.

2. Be flexible. Don't relax once you've set up your neat little package. Rates change all the time. Your life will change, as well, and even subtle moves can affect your policy. What if you install smoke detectors or decide you must own a Rottweiler? The former could lower your rate; the latter could get you canceled.

3. Raise your deductible. The deductible is the amount you pay toward a loss before the insurer starts to pay. Deductibles on homeowners policies typically start at $250. By increasing your deductible to $500, you could save up to 12%; raise it to $1,000, and you could save up to 24%.

4. Aggregate your coverage under one insurer. Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will cut 5% to 15% off your bill if you buy at least two policies from them.

5. Buy a newly constructed house. Because a new home's electrical, heating and plumbing systems and overall structure are likely to be in better shape than those of an older house, insurers may offer you a discount of as much as 15% from what they'd charge on an older home of similar value.

6. Buy the "right" type of construction. Brick homes can earn you a discount in the eastern United States because they're less susceptible to wind and hurricane damage. Likewise, frame homes in western states are better able to withstand earthquake damage.

7. Beef up home security. You often can get discounts of at least 5% for a smoke detector, burglar alarm or dead-bolt locks.

8. Stop smoking. Smoking accounts for more than 24,000 residential fires a year. That's why some insurers offer to reduce premiums if no one in the house smokes.

9. Take the loyalty test. Some insurers will trim their rates once you've been with them for a certain number of years. But don't let loyalty blind you to a better deal elsewhere.

10. Consider group coverage. Some alumni, fraternal and business organizations may offer group coverage that's cheaper than your individual coverage.

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