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What is an endorsement?

When you start out on your quest to find an affordable homeowners insurance policy, remember that The Lord of the Rings ran to three volumes. You have not found what you’re looking for when your online quotes come rolling in. Nor have you arrived at your destination when you read through the policies. The final part of the journey is always dealing with the endorsements.

An endorsement is cover added to your policy. You pay more but get extra protection.

Be warned. You’re the only one with the responsibility to get everything you have adequately covered. Neither the insurance company nor its agent is going to walk you through your home and talk you through all the potential problems. You have to decide what to add to the policy.

To give you an insight into the problems, let’s look at the contents. Most home insurance companies give you blanket cover - an average amount that covers most of the stuff you’ll find in most homes. But if you have anything unusual or more expensive, you should take two steps. The first is to make a detailed schedule of everything you have. This will help you decide whether you should buy more blanket cover. It’s not a good idea to guess. As you identify the more expensive items, you should consider having them appraised and agreeing their value with the insurance company. The more this increases the value of the contents, the more likely it is that you will be asked to improve the security of your home. That brings us to the second issue.

The standard policy terms pay on the actual worth of the property when it is lost. That’s not the replacement cost! There’s this little thing called depreciation (or fair wear and tear) and, unless you have an endorsement, you are not allowed to “make a profit” on the policy by buying new to replace the old. Ask about the cost of an endorsement for replacement no matter what the actual value of the property may be.

Then we have the quite separate problems of whether your policy will cover the property of non-family members while it is in your home, and what you do with a home office. Suppose you bring work home with you on a laptop owned by your employer and one of the children knocks it off the table. Is it covered? If a neighbor lends you some equipment and it breaks down, who pays for its repair or replacement? As to your own home office, the standard policy covers up to about $2,500. If you have more than this, you should either include the specific items or look for separate small business insurance.

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