Most Common Variables Considered When Calculating Home Insurance Rates

By Amy Nutt

Home insurance provides coverage for homeowners against the risk of loss that may occur from damage, fire or theft. Home insurance rates look at the probability that a loss will occur based on the claims experience of the insured, who is the homeowner.

Home insurance uses individual underwriting standards to assess risk. Risk is the potential for a reduction in value that may occur. When a number of these occurrences happen for a particular insured, the insurance company either raises the rate or drops coverage. It is the hope of the insurance company to not have to pay claims and employ assessment factors to understand better the likelihood that a homeowner is exposed to loss and rates it accordingly.

Certain factors beyond the individual homeowners claim experience include zip code ratings, type of home owned, whether any commercial activity takes place in the home, and the home’s overall value in comparison to similar homes within the area. These factors give the insurer the information needed to calculate the probability off loss and adjust rates accordingly.

Hazards are factors that can lead to a loss. There are three hazards, physical or tangible hazard, moral which is character and morale or indifference. For example homeowner A who buys home insurance policy for a home that is rented out to tenants will pay a higher rate than homeowner B buying home insurance on a similar home in which she resides. That is because homeowner A has a higher morale and physical hazard present in the home than homeowner B does. The tenants are not the owner and may not hold the same regard for the home as the homeowner does. This could lead to physical damage, deterioration or even theft.

A census or zip code assessment looks at the instances of crime and vandalism that occurs in a given area. Homeowners purchasing home insurance in high crime areas face higher premiums than homeowners who live in outlying suburbs. There is some controversy over this type of practice and was the basis of a group action lawsuit in Milwaukee in the late 1980s against American Family Insurance Company. The results of the suit led to changes in the underwriting practices in certain minority communities in the City of Milwaukee.

The likelihood that a loss occurs and the probability associated with it results in the rating factor. The rating factor may be set based on community experience or standards and may be reduced over time where individual claims experience results in better a rating.

All insurance provides an indemnity benefit to reimburse an individual for the value of their loss. An insured who believes that the purpose of insurance is to profit or get more than the fair market value of their property do not have the appropriate understanding of what insurance is for. Insurance is not for making a person rich but rather to keep them from becoming poor. To provide piece of mind risk ratings reflect experience, probability and the presence of other measurable variables that can be statistically tested.

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