Should disaster strike, homeowners without enough coverage could find themselves...

Should disaster strike, homeowners without enough coverage could find themselves digging into their wallets to cover the shortfall. Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Aslan Alphan

The cost of home construction is skyrocketing due to inflation, and this could spell trouble for homeowners. Increases in the cost of lumber and other building materials, along with continued supply chain issues and labor shortages, could leave many homeowners underinsured if they need to rebuild after a covered insurance claim.

Should disaster strike, homeowners without enough coverage could find themselves digging into their wallets to cover the shortfall. Now is the time to be certain you have enough insurance to pay the cost of what it would take to rebuild your home.

Know your home’s replacement cost

Insurers use replacement cost calculators to determine how much dwelling coverage is needed to rebuild your home. Information about your home, like its square footage, construction materials and the year it was built, are all incorporated into the estimated replacement cost.

You can also take steps to determine your home’s replacement cost on your own. One method involves multiplying your home’s square footage by the current cost of construction per square foot in your area, said Alan Himmel, a public insurance adjuster in Florida, by email. “You can get an idea of per square foot building costs by calling the builders association in your area, an insurance agent, or even ... contractors.” Most estimates will range from $100 to $200 per square foot, according to HomeAdvisor.

You can also hire a contractor to provide a construction estimate, or have an independent insurance agency pull multiple homeowners insurance quotes to get a sense of what each insurer believes it will cost to rebuild your home.

Be sure to check the declaration page of your policy to see if you’re covered by replacement cost or actual cash value, especially when it comes to your personal property. Replacement cost coverage pays to repair your home or replace your belongings up to your coverage limits, without factoring in depreciation, or the loss of value over time. This means that your insurance company will pay to rebuild your home to the condition it was in before the claim, plus replace your personal property with new items, like paying for a new laptop regardless of the depreciated value of the lost one.

Meanwhile, actual cash value does account for depreciation and will likely mean having to pay the difference between what your policy covers and how much it costs to fully replace your belongings.

Closing gaps in coverage

While you may be able to determine how much it would cost to rebuild your home today, it’s difficult to predict construction costs in the future. A catastrophic storm could greatly increase the cost overnight.

If you want full assurance that your insurer will cover the entire cost to rebuild your home, regardless of how much construction costs increase, consider a guaranteed replacement cost policy. People with such coverage "can sleep better because, come time for a claim, they know they’re getting their house back,”
says Peter Conte, an independent insurance agent in New York City.

Check other coverage options

Many home insurance policies come with an inflation guard, which can offset the possibility of being underinsured due to expected inflation increases. An inflation guard will automatically raise your coverage limits to account for inflation when your policy is renewed.

Your premium may rise due to the inflation guard, but don’t lower your coverage limits just to save on home insurance. “The inflation guard is actually there to help you stay in line with the inflation rate of the U.S. dollar,” says Conte.

If you live in an older home, check your policy for ordinance or law coverage. In the event of a covered claim, this coverage will pay the cost to meet current building codes when rebuilding. Without it, you’ll likely need to pay out of pocket for any work done to abide by building codes, even if you have guaranteed replacement cost coverage.

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