If you’re a first-time homeowner, congratulations! Welcome to a world without landlords, roommates, or security deposits. You found your perfect place and successfully navigated the mortgage paperwork (which should be an Olympic sport).
Now that you’ve made a huge life purchase, it’s important to make sure that your investment is protected. Whether it’s preparing for unexpected repairs, severe weather, or accidents, make sure you’re ready to handle any curveballs that life may throw your way.
Prepare for repairs
It’s never fun to think about “what if.” But if an appliance breaks or your roof leaks, it’s better to be prepared. Here are a few things you can do:
Build repair costs into your budget
Imagine this: it’s the middle of summer and your central air breaks. A new unit could cost you up to $7,000 — not exactly pocket change. Having money set aside for costly repairs can help protect you from financial stress. Experts recommend stashing away 1 to 2 percent of the purchase price of your home for these types of situations. For example, if your home was $300,000, you should budget $3,000 to $6,000 per year, or $250 to $500 per month.
Make routine maintenance a priority
You take your car into the shop for regular upkeep. Shouldn’t your home receive the same care? Routine maintenance allows your property to retain its value. Regularly replace your heat and air conditioning filters to keep systems running at peak performance. Safely check your roof at least twice a year for signs of damage. And while you’re up there, remember to sweep away any debris and clean your gutters too.
Get familiar with your homeowners insurance policy
You don’t need to memorize every sentence, but having a basic understanding of what’s covered will help you feel even more confident when something needs fixing.
Prepare for severe weather
Mother Nature is known for her powerful storms, yet a recent Esurance survey found that only 25 percent of respondents proactively prepare for potentially damaging weather events. Take these steps to ensure your home is ready:
If a storm is expected in the next few days, get ready
Keep an eye on the forecast and remember, storms can be dangerous. It doesn’t hurt to have an emergency kit on hand. Basic items include a flashlight, batteries, first-aid supplies, a can opener, a whistle, nonperishable food, and a hand-crank radio.
If you have enough time, install special storm windows and trim any weak tree branches that could fall on your home. Clean out your rain gutters so they’re fully operational. Get familiar with your circuit breaker and water supply in case you need to shut off either one. Make sure you review an emergency plan with your family or household.
If a storm is headed your way, act fast
Use your best judgement depending on the type of weather and severity. Move any outdoor furniture or accessories into your garage. Relocate your belongings away from windows. Make sure a fire extinguisher is close at hand and evacuate if you need to. No matter what you’re dealing with, try to stay calm.
After the storm, assess damage
In the aftermath of a storm, carefully assess any damage. While filing a claim can feel daunting — especially as a first-time homeowner — reliable insurers like Esurance are there to help make the process easier so you can get back to your life.
Prepare for accidents
It’s bound to happen — a big “oops.” But you can take efforts to help ensure you and your home are protected against life’s mishaps:
Take fire safety seriously
Between 2011 and 2015, there were more than 350,000 house fires each year across the U.S. Burning candles, using fireplaces, and cooking at high heats can all lead to disaster if you’re not keeping a watchful eye. Make sure smoke alarms are fully operational. When burning candles, position them away from curtains, furniture, and other flammable materials. And never leave your kitchen unattended while cooking.
Know your coverages
Let’s say your son’s friend falls off your swing set and breaks his arm. An innocent accident. But your home insurance may include something called family liability protection. Translation: if someone gets hurt on your property and you’re legally on the hook, your insurance can help protect you.
Understanding when your homeowners insurance has your back can give you some much-needed peace of mind. Because you can’t predict if a dead tree branch will fall through your roof. Or if the mailperson will slip and fall on your sidewalk. Life happens. But by taking steps to make sure you’re prepared and understand the basics of your homeowners insurance policy, you’ll be ready for just about anything.
Eric Brandt is the Managing Director and Chief Claims Officer at Esurance. He has more than 20 years of experience in the insurance industry as a claims leader for personal, commercial, specialty, and disability lines of business. Eric draws on his experience in claims leadership to write on a variety of auto and home insurance-related topics. To learn more about Esurance’s home insurance policies, visit their website.