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Tips for Home Insurance Shoppers: An Interview with Gloria Turan of Jos. Cacciatore & Co. Insurance

By Gloria Turan

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation?

Jos. Cacciatore & Co. Insurance Agency has been insuring Chicagoland since 1906 being one of Chicagoland's oldest insurance agencies. Our agency provides a vast array of insurance products that are highly competitive in price and affording very broad coverage. Our customer service team provides excellent service to our customers. We also represent over 20 "A" rated carriers in order to choose the right customized insurance coverage for you.

What are some of the services your company provides?

We offer free consultation and a complimentary quote for your Home, Auto (Motorcycle & Boats), Personal Umbrella, Valuable Article Schedule, Business Insurance, Life, Health Insurance.

Please explain the idea of home insurance to our readers, what it is and why was it created?

Underwriters for home insurance policies take into account different risk factors. The common home insurance policy covers most risks a home will encounter. Home insurance typically covers explosions, riots, wind, aircraft, fire, lightning, volcanic eruptions, auto accidents, vandalism, theft, smoke, and structural accidents. Home insurance policies can be strengthened by adding additional underwriting for flooding, earthquake and other types of water damage usually for additional costs. Different types of homes call for different policies. A condo insurance policy would only insure the interior structure and cosmetics of the home, because the home owner's association could take care of the exterior through a different policy.

Most home insurance policies cover the basic risks but can be extended to cover more incidents, like snow, rain, or interior water damage, like broken water pipes. It's best to know exactly what your home insurance policy does cover, so you protect your assets.

What facts should I gather about my new house before I start shopping?(ie, age of electrical, energy efficient additions, etc.)

What will affect my homeowner's insurance rates?(By Ben Apple)

You're about to sign the contract on your new home and soon you'll be ready to move in. You've been thinking about the different types of homeowner's insurance policies (also known as home insurance, hazard insurance, or HO3) that can cover losses occurring to the home, its contents, and accidents that can happen in the home. The cost for such coverage can be quite steep with the rates affected by the type of home and its contents, as well as details about you and your credit worthiness. So what are these factors and what can you do to reduce the cost of homeowner's insurance?

Coverage amounts and deductibles
The basic factors that will impact upon the cost of your homeowner's insurance premiums are the level of insurance coverage you take out and the level of your deductible. The deductible is the amount you pay for damage once making a claim, before the insurance kicks in. The higher your deductible, the lower your insurance premium.
Even though you want to be paying the least amount possible in insurance rates, the level of insurance coverage is probably not something that you should be looking to reduce. After all, you will need enough coverage to pay for a replacement house and its contents. As housing costs increase, you might even want to consider being over-insured.

Home age, features and materials
Your homeowner's insurance rates are likely to be affected by the age of your home. Older structures tend to develop problems more frequently than newer ones, particularly problems associated with electrical wiring, plumbing, roofing, the structure's foundation, gas, and so forth. In some cases, it can be worthwhile making some renovations to fix or pre-empt such problems, thereby reducing the cost of the insurance premiums.
Certain features of your home (regardless of its age) can also impact upon your insurance premiums. For example, some insurance companies may associate a higher level of risk with a home that has a swimming pool, hot tub or trampoline. Other features may lower the premiums, such as a burglar alarm, window bars and a fence. Insurance costs may also be linked to the materials used in the construction of the property. For example, wood shingles or siding could be considered a greater risk than those made from other materials as they can catch on fire more easily and can contribute to water problems.
It can be difficult to know what an insurer regards as a risk, so you should disclose as much as possible to them about your home and its features before signing the policy. If you fail to disclose such features, it may become an issue later on if you file a claim related to those features. In addition, if you are looking to renovate your new home, consider the impact any new features or materials may have on the cost of homeowner's insurance.

Location affects your rates
Some home insurers use data about which neighborhoods have more claims than others and they increase their rates accordingly. They also often look at the distance of your home from the nearest fire station and whether the area is prone to earthquakes and flooding (in which case, the policy may not include coverage without an additional rider and premium). It is worthwhile to consider these factors and their impact on the cost of your homeowner's insurance before purchasing your home. You can also shop around and see whether different insurance companies have different criteria in relation to location.

Pets may add to your rate
Many insurance companies will either not insure you or increase your rates if you own certain pets that are considered exotic or dangerous, particularly dogs such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and Pit Bulls. These breeds have been associated with many injuries to humans and are therefore considered by insurers to be a risk. If you own a "high risk" dog, look at options such as warning signs, secure fencing, dog obedience and training certification, when discussing premiums with your insurer. It can also be beneficial to shop around, as different insurers may associate different risks with each pet.

Credit ratings affect rates
Your credit score can affect your home insurance premiums. Industry data has shown that, on average, people with lower credit scores make more insurance claims and insurers change the premiums accordingly. It is therefore worth your while to increase your credit score by consistently paying any bills on time.

Other factors to consider: Other factors that could affect your insurance rates include whether or not you operate a business from home, any expensive items that you own, such as jewelry or furs, and expensive hobbies that may require extra coverage. While insurance can be costly, it remains an essential means of ensuring that you will not suffer a financial loss if something happens to your home.

How do I make sure I am not underinsured? What does it mean to make sure I insure my home to "Replacement value"?

Why do I need a replacement cost for my home?
As a homeowner, your home is probably your most valuable asset, making your home insurance policy the most important safeguard against potential loss. The replacement cost of your home includes all features and materials considered, plus the added fees and considerations of reconstruction in your area. You can then use the estimate as a powerful validation tool when shopping for an insurance policy.

What is Replacement Cost?
Replacement cost is what it would cost to completely replace your home with like kind materials of equal quality and utility, without deducting for depreciation (the expected decrease in value that results from normal wear and tear). Most insurance providers and financial advisers recommend that you insure your home with replacement cost coverage.

Is a Replacement Cost valuation different from a real estate appraisal?
Yes. While a real estate appraisal determines the market value of your home, a replacement cost report determines the reconstruction cost of your home should a major loss occurs. Depending on the local market, rebuilding your home could cost more or less than the home's current market value. Reconstruction cost includes many variables of construction that are not included in a real estate appraisal.

In your personal opinion, is it worth it to get additional coverage for some of the valuable items in your home?

I guess it depends on how much you value these items in the event of a total loss. A personal article floater will require an updated appraisal. The policy will pay for the appraised value with no deductible. It is a separate policy from the homeowners policy. Jos. Cacciatore & Co. Insurance agency has many carriers that can offer a Valuable Article Floaters for your:
Jewelry and engagement rings
Silverware, china and crystal
Fine Art
Stamp and coin collections
Sound equipment (recorders)
Sports equipment (archery, camping, fishing, skiing)
Wedding gifts
Musical instruments
Golf Equipment
Pedigreed dogs
Garden tractors
Political campaign collections

Can I save money on my monthly premium if I add certain safety features to my home?

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. 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.

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.

How Can I ensure that I am Working with a Home Insurance Provider that I Trust?

You can check with the Illinois Department of Insurance to inquire if there are any claims or complaints against the agency and/or the agent.

Jos. Cacciatore & Co. Insurance agency is a company that Chicagoland Trusts and this is why we have been in Business since 1906.

Jos. Cacciatore & Co. Insurance Agency looks forward to helping you with your Personal Insurance Needs!

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