Farrell: Your home insurance can't penalize you for purchasing – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Q: Will shopping for insurance lead to higher premiums with my current insurer even if I don't switch to someone else? I have been with my company since 1970 and have had no claim to own a home for 21 years (a storm-damaged roof). But this time around, they want to increase my homeowner's premium from $ 1,800 to $ 2,200, so I'm thinking about poking around. Do the insurance companies have an information exchange system so that if I ask about offers elsewhere, they will know about it? Richard.

ON: I contacted the Insurance Information Institute, an industry-funded consumer education organization, to answer your specific question. Her answer: "Your current insurer is regulated by your state government and can only change the price you pay for insurance based on federally approved criteria. Shopping for insurance is not a federally approved price criterion anywhere in the United States."

Shopping is always a good idea. When you find attractive alternative policies, take this information to your current insurance company or agent to see what they can do to create a competitive policy that suits your needs. Household contents insurance protects your house, its contents and your assets in the event of a disaster such as fire and theft.

"It's always good to do an annual check-up with your insurance agent to make any changes you might want to make," said Tobie Stanger, executive editor at Consumer Reports, who pays the cost of home ownership. "For example, you may have made improvements, especially in the last year."

Perhaps you've done some remodeling projects like adding a patio or installing new windows. You want your insurance coverage to take these improvements into account. Other improvements, like a new roof, can lower your premiums, says Stanger. Review the replacement cost in your policy (and it's smart to have a replacement cost policy).

The replacement cost is different from the market value of your home. The replacement cost estimate is based on construction costs, building material prices, and home improvement (which is likely what caused your premium to go up because those costs have increased). Stanger also recommends checking your liability insurance as the value of your financial assets has likely increased as well.

One way to reduce the cost of home insurance is to increase the deductible.

"Any savings made by increasing your deductible add to your savings plan," says Stanger.

Chris Farrell is Senior Economics Contributor for Marketplace and Economics Commentator for Minnesota Public Radio.

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