Best Homeowners Insurance for Historic Houses in Charleston SC
By: Jacob “Jake” Gussin, Insurance Intern, Student at the University of Georgia, Terry College of Business
June 9, 2016
Buying a historic home in downtown Charleston? You’ll want to do your research on how to insure it. Homeowners insurance premiums are dependent on the type of home in consideration and the likelihood of a loss. Because of this, the older the home, the more prone to a loss, and therefore more likely to have a higher premium. But if you’re worried about where to begin searching for homeowner’s insurance, don’t be. The Triest Agency is here to help. We understand that historic homes must be insured differently than other homes, and know how to provide the right policy for you. In this post, I’ll note some tips Triest offers to find the best policy for your home.
First of all, one of the most essential differences in insuring historic homes in contrast to new homes is the ordinance or law exposure unique to historic homes. What this means is if a structure in your historic home is damaged and needs repair, often it must be repaired in accordance with historic preservation codes. For example, if a window breaks, it will need to be restored with glass that is the same as the glass made in the 1800’s when the home was built. This will cost substantially more than new glass made today. If your policy doesn’t address the ordinance or law coverage, you could be largely underinsured, forced to pay out of pocket for these expensive repairs. Triest highly recommends addressing this coverage for any historic home to cope with the more expensive repairs if necessary.
Another reason costs are higher on historic homes is because of the location of these historic homes. The historic district in downtown Charleston offers contractors little to no space to store materials and work on repairs due to the close proximity of all the homes. This makes the cost of repair more expensive because it'll take more skilled contractors, more time to complete, and more transportation of materials.
Additionally, a tip Triest offers in regards to historic homeowner’s insurance is to update the “guts” of the house, such as the electrical, HVAC, and plumbing. Not only will your home be more safe and secure for you to live in, but your insurance premium will be significantly reduced as well. Adding preventative safety features like smoke detectors and alarm systems to a historic home will only make the home safer for you to live in, while making insurance more feasible to obtain from a carrier.
If those features are updated already, it is still important to know that these historic homes will likely not have the wind mitigation features that new homes have. Features like tie downs for the roof to the structure and ties from the structure to the foundation are probably not present in the home. Nor would glass that can sustain strong hurricane winds be present. This could open up an exposure for a substantial loss.
On another note, it is critical to understand the difference between replacement cost value and actual cash value when insuring a historic home. The replacement cost of a historic home might be much higher than the market value, or actual cash value due to the unique design, detail, and architecture of historic homes. In response to this, we recommend that the house is appraised by a licensed SC home appraiser. Some of the companies we work with, like The AIG Private Client Group will provide detailed replacement cost value estimates. This is critical for high value homes, and makes a world of difference in the event of a loss. If you have just purchased a historic home, chances are you value the fine detail of the craftsmanship. Understandably, you will want the home to be restored back to the exact same way it was before the loss. This is why replacement cost value is an imperative concept to note in a historic homeowner’s policy.
Another recommendation Triest offers is to be sure to consider earthquake coverage. You might think an earthquake will never hit you here in Charleston, but the 1886 Charleston Earthquake alerts us to beware of this complacency. As one of the most traumatic earthquakes to hit the east coast, the quake destroyed most all of the buildings in Charleston. Many had to be completely rebuilt. You might notice large bolts on the outside of historic buildings in downtown Charleston that are a result of this earthquake. These bolts were put in to the buildings stretching through the walls to try to strengthen the buildings. As well as physical damage from the quake, fires resulted and burned many structures as well. In the absence of earthquake coverage, the fire resulting from the earthquake would be excluded from policies. This is why Triest recommends adding coverage for earthquakes as a policy rider or an additional policy, in order to be completely protected.
Aside from making improvements, and paying attention to details of the policy, a final tip to find the best insurance is to use an experienced independent agency like Triest. Writing insurance in Charleston since 1903, our licensed agents understand historic homes better than anyone, and will do the searching for you to find the right policy.
Representing insurers like the Hartford that can offer discounts for seniors and for bundling multiple lines of insurance, Triest has the insurers that you’ll want to cover you. Additionally, we have access to the syndicates of Lloyd’s of London which are sure to have the appetite to write your historic homeowner’s policy. Not only will we include all the discounts and credits possible so that policy can be affordable, but we will genuinely find the best policy for your home.
Insuring historic homes is an entirely different ball game than insuring traditional homes. Do you really want someone with less experience than Triest handling it? I don't think so. Don’t waste any more time. Give us a call today.
Homebuyers are looking for value, security, and trust. Well, look no further. Triest will offer you the team of agents to settle all your woes. Call us today, 800-474-5062 and ask to speak to one of Triest's licensed insurance agents who would love to quote your insurance.
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