The Watchdog: 20 ways you can save money on your homeowners insurance

The Watchdog is rolling his eyes with the news that Allstate, Farmers and State Farm are raising the rates for homeowners insurance in Texas. This is an annual ritual in Texas. A charade of public relations.

The companies explain, as they did to Dallas Morning News Austin reporter Terrence Stutz recently, that weather catastrophes and cost of repairs are driving up prices. Meanwhile, the stats show that companies are making tons of money, but they want more.

Farmers wants to jump 15 percent. State Farm seeks a raise close to 10 percent. Allstate comes in at 6.5 percent. New state insurance commissioner Julia Rathgeber gets to make a ruling. It’s her first big test.


Why wait for her? Be your own watchdog. Let’s look at ways you can possibly save on your homeowners insurance now.

The Watchdog sought quick-hit ideas that a homeowner can investigate immediately. No matter who your insurance carrier is, these ideas might show ways to shave dollars. Here goes:

High-tech shopping: Texas state government offers a perk to consumers: an online comparison shopping website that pulls quotes from competitors —

Check around: Experts say that periodically shopping for a new policy usually brings savings. Plans change, so don’t settle for the same ole same ole.

Multi-policy discount: Often when one company handles both homeowners and auto policies, there’s a discount. A company such as USAA gives bigger discounts if customers open checking and savings accounts, too.

Upgrades: Did you get a new heating/air conditioning system or a hot water heater? Upgrade plumbing or home wiring? If so, tell your insurance agent.

Replacement cost: Understand that the best coverage comes when a consumer insures at 100 percent replacement cost. Better rates often accompany stronger types of coverage. So don’t assume that under-insuring will save enough to make it worth it.

Security system: Some companies give discounts for monitored security, fire protection and dead-bolt locks.

New roof: A roof less than 10 years old should be noted on a policy because it will save money. A hail-resistant Class IV roof can mean big savings.

Deductibles: Check them upon renewal. Usually 1 percent of dwelling’s insured value for wind and hail and for perils. But a 2 percent deductible can bring significant savings. If possible, match a deductible amount to the dollar amount guaranteed in a roof warranty contract, too.

Claims history: Check with your insurance agent to make sure you’re getting discounts if you go three to five years without a claim. Some companies offer that incentive.

Personal liability umbrella: Some carriers offer discounts when a customer carries this policy in addition to homeowners.

Job: Some carriers offer a built-in discount for customers with a master’s degree or doctorate, same for engineers, scientists, firefighters, nurses and many others. List your occupation on applications.

Gated community: Some carriers offer discounts.

Fire service: For country residents who live away from city services without hydrants, some carriers offer tank-and-pond discounts to avoid higher unprotected rates.

Mortgage free: Some carriers give a discount for homes that are paid off.

Premiums: Review each annual contract from an insurance company because some companies change amounts from year to year without obvious notification to customers. So check.

Independent broker: Do you buy your insurance from an agent for a company or from a broker who sells for many companies? The more the merrier, especially when it comes to diversity of price and coverage. Find a broker at

Claim filing: If you fear hail damage, ask a roofer’s opinion before contacting an insurance company. That way, if you don’t file a claim because of the lack of damage, nothing goes on your record. Remember that claims that aren’t completed still end up in insurance databases.

Background check: A company’s record, its license status and level of complaints are available at

Credit score: Companies may take your credit score into consideration when offering price quotes, so maintain credit worthiness when possible. Don’t max out credit lines or make late payments.

Beware: Be careful shopping on the Internet. When you fill out personal information on a commercial insurance website, you lose control about where it goes. Companies will do credit checks, and too many checks lower your credit score. Also, don’t pay cash to an insurance agent. Pay with a check or money order made out to the company. Get a receipt.

The Watchdog thanks Janet Spracklen, Lynn R. Allen, Anthony Spangler, the Texas Department of Insurance and Consumer Reports for these quick-hit ideas.
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