How to Negotiate a Change in Your Home Insurance Value

rebuilding a home with building blocks insurance dwelling values
Is the insurance company increasing your dwelling value? What to do if you disagree. dblight / Getty Images

Is Your Home Insurance Too High?

If you're looking at your home insurance policy and wondering why your home insured value seems high, you wouldn't be the first person to do so. Two out of three homes in America are underinsured, yet people still think their insurance is too high. It may be the case, but the only way to know is to review the values listed on your insurance policy every year to make sure that you have the right amount of insurance.

When people think the values are a little low, they can easily get their policy adjusted or add coverages by endorsement.

The biggest problem arises when you look at your insurance policy and feel like your home dwelling value has increased too much and it now looks like you're over-insured. There are several things you can do if you disagree with the insured dwelling value or estimated reconstruction cost of your home to make sure that the insurance value is accurate and that you are not overpaying or over insuring. 

Making Sure You Are Not Over Insuring Your Home

When it comes to a major home insurance claim, most people who run into problems in a claim are the ones who have underinsured their home. Despite this, when we look at the cost of our home insurance, we may be looking at the values for places to cut costs. New homeowners are often surprised to see what their insurance is costing them, and people who have had homes for a long time get frustrated when they see the insurance value of their home increase while the resale value of their home may not be as high.

There are other factors that can help you lower your costs before you consider lowering your insured home value. There may be new discounts to add to your policy or other options like increasing your deductible or improving your home security system to get more discounts. 

Let's look at what you can do if you disagree with the insurance company about the value they want you to insure your home for.

Three Ways Your Home Insurance Dwelling Value Increases  

Before we get into what you can do about a dwelling value that you find too high, it's important to understand the two main reasons your dwelling value may be at the amount it is at. 

Your dwelling value on your home insurance can increase due to one of three factors:

  1. Your home insurance has a clause to protect your from the costs of inflation and increases the dwelling insured value every year accordingly by a small percentage. Over a period of five to 10 years, this inflation increase may become significant, and it might be time for you to review if your dwelling value is still accurate to be sure it is not over "inflated."
  2. You had an evaluator come to your house for an insurance home inspection and the insurance evaluator calculated the cost of reconstruction and recommended an increase in the dwelling value to your home insurer.
  3. You just bought a home and are insuring it for the first time, the agent or insurance broker did some calculations to determine the insured dwelling reconstruction cost using a standard tool and basic information you provided them with.

What You Can Do If You Disagree With the Insured Dwelling Value of Your Home

People often think that just because an insurance company sends them something, it is written in stone.

It can happen that the insurance estimate for reconstruction of your home is wrong, here's how to go about verifying you are not over-insuring. Your insurance is about protecting your assets, so if you feel something is off, you have every right to call your representative and ask questions or request a review.

Very often if you have a good case to present, your insurance broker or agent will submit your request to the insurance underwriter and your case can be reviewed.

Did Your Dwelling Value Increase Due to Inflation Adjustments?

Insurance companies put in place inflation adjustment clauses to protect you when you insure your home. The idea is that if you insure your home and then five years later you have a claim, you won't come up short on the amount of money needed to rebuild after a claim because of this inflation adjustment.

Unfortunately, the accuracy of this method relies on the home having been insured at an appropriate value in the first place, and that the cost of materials and construction have in fact increased due to inflation since you first insured your home. In some cases, these factors may be off.

In the case of standard inflation increases over a long period, it is always a good idea to re-evaluate your dwelling value using current reconstruction rates. Your insurance representative is in a good position to discuss your dwelling value with you, so it's a good idea to call and ask if you have any questions. You may be able to get an adjustment simply by calling and having a discussion.

You Can Use These Tips to Negotiate When Your Dwelling Value Is Increased

If a discussion about the increase does not yield favorable results and you still disagree with the insurance, then you can try and negotiate with the insurance company using these various approaches.

3 Ways to Get a Second Opinion on Insurance Dwelling Value

  • Ask your insurance company to double-check their calculations. Verify the square footage they used and compare the cost per square foot they are using with the general standard in your area according to local builders. You can always try and negotiate with the insurance company on these issues, and sometimes they will offer you a compromise or alternative solution. Remember that your insurance representative is there to help you.
  • Contact another home insurance company or two and ask them to estimate the reconstruction cost of your dwelling and give you a quote. If there is a difference in the cost, they come up with, ask them about it, if all the information is the same as the information your other insurer had the prices should be similar because insurers use similar (if not the same) rating tools to determine reconstruction costs.
  • Hire an independent appraiser who is accepted by insurance companies for insurance appraisals. Before you do this, make sure your insurance company will accept the report your appraiser will provide, you do not want to waste money on this if it will not even be accepted by your insurance company. The appraiser must be using tools and methods that are insurance company approved. You may also want to beware that in most cases these in-house appraisals will be more accurate and therefore may result in higher appraisal amounts. In some cases, they do result in lower appraisal amounts, but the differences would rarely be substantially different. You may want to tell an appraiser before you hire them of the estimate you already have, as well as the cost per square foot your insurer used. A good local appraiser will be able to tell you off the bat if that's in the normal range and may be able to save you money and time.

Review Your Home Insurance Coverage Requirements and Policy Type

Insurance companies often offer several types of insurance coverage for homes.

Understanding Guaranteed Replacement Cost and Dwelling Value

Guaranteed replacement cost insures you to replacement value, plus a certain percentage over the insured dwelling value if the cost of reconstruction ends up being higher than expected in the event of a claim. Some companies may cap the guaranteed value to 125 percent of your insured dwelling value; others may offer guaranteed replacement "no matter what the cost." Ask your insurance representative what kind of home insurance coverage you have. Guaranteed Replacement coverage usually requires you to insure to 100 percent of the evaluated reconstruction cost of your dwelling. This is the best kind of coverage because it protects you no matter what, but you also have other less expensive options.

Understanding Replacement Cost

Replacement cost is different than guaranteed replacement cost because it will not pay out in a claim more than the insured value. If you feel your home insurance dwelling evaluation is too high, and you don't think you need guaranteed replacement cost, and you're convinced a lesser amount than your evaluated dwelling value will cover you sufficiently in a claim, then you can take your chances and ask your insurance company if there is a possibility to lower your insurance cost by getting replacement cost, versus guaranteed replacement cost.

The conditions to get replacement cost are usually that you insure to a certain percentage of the evaluated dwelling value of your home. Different insurers offer different plans, usually ranging in the requirement to insure to 80 or 85 percent of the reconstruction value. Insurance varies by jurisdiction, so be sure and ask about this from your insurer. This could avoid the entire argument about whether or not the value is correct and allows you to have a safe middle ground if you are comfortable with taking on the risk.

How Your Insurance Coverage Changes by Increasing or Reducing Insured Dwelling Value

Many of the coverages on the homeowner insurance policy are allotted as a percentage of the insured dwelling value. For example, your personal belongings and contents may be set at 70 percent of the building value, and your additional living expenses may be set at 10 percent or 20 percent. Any time your insured dwelling value changes, make sure you review how it will impact the rest of the coverages on your policy. Especially where it is related to contents and your personal belongings. Sometimes the value of the items in your home may be worth much more than the average person. In these cases, you want to be careful when you reduce your dwelling value since it will also reduce the related insurance amounts for:

Reducing your home insurance dwelling value does not impact the liability coverage on your home policy, riders or special endorsements, or the special limits within the policy.

What Other Options Are There to Save on Insurance Costs?

If after evaluating the factors and options for why your dwelling insured value is as high as it is you still want to find ways to save on insurance,

  • Consider increasing the deductible on your policy; this could save you up to 40 percent on your insurance costs.
  • Bundle your insurance: You can ask for a quote for your home and car insurance with the same company and take advantage of the cost savings from bundling your insurance. 
  • Get quotes with other companies. A lot of people worry that if they cancel their policy before renewal date, they will get hit with a penalty for canceling. What most people don't realize is that if you are canceling ​a policy mid-term or before your insurance renewal to save money or get more coverages, then it actually pays to cancel your policy early.