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What You Should Ask Your Home Insurance Agent: An Interview with Michael Schweitzer of Snyder Insurance

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

We are an independent insurance agency that has been doing business for over 100 years. We represent multiple insurance companies, offering auto, home, life, health and business insurance to our clients. We try to match our client with a company who best fits their individual needs at a competitive price.

Is there something about getting homeowners insurance that you wish more people knew?

Customers need to be careful when shopping and looking for the lowest premium. Not all policies are the same, so shopping for homeowner's insurance is more complicated than in the past. Companies that write homeowners insurance are offering or requiring more deductible options and changing the way they settle certain claims.

How do you help a homeowner figure out how the replacement costs for their house and belongings, as well as how much they should ideally be insured for?

We have programs that take into consideration the size, characteristics and quality of the home to help estimate the cost to rebuild. The most common way to insure a home is for the cost of rebuilding, but there are some cases where a home is insured for the functional replacement cost (rebuilding a very old home with today's methods and materials) or occasionally the market value of the home. Contents are usually covered with a limit that is a percentage, usually 50% or 75% of the limit shown for the home, but can be increased.

What types of discounts might be available for homeowners in Illinois?

There have always been multi-policy discounts, but it seems like more discounts are being added every day. Insurance companies are rating heavily on insurance scores which are based on a person's credit history. The age of the roof and furnace affect the rating of the structure, while a person shopping early, the longevity with the prior carrier and their claim history has an effect based on the client's personal habits.

Why do home insurance rates/premiums increase? Is there any way to prevent this?

The main perils that cause rates to rise are wind, hail and water damage. There is no way to prevent rate increases as all insured's share in the losses that their insurance company pays in the area they live in. An insured can help themselves personally by keeping their property maintained, carrying higher deductibles and by not filing small claims.

What are some of the most important decisions that new homeowners need to make about their coverage?

A homeowner should meet with an agent and make sure they ask questions about the coverage limits, deductibles and perils the policy would provide. A basic policy has limitations on certain items like jewelry, art and furs which can be increased and optional coverage such as sewer & drain back up, earthquake and flood can be added.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

A personal conversation is the best way to communicate, but most business is done over phone and communication by e-mail is getting more popular.

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