The topography and climate of the Pacific Northwest state of Washington presents some unique challenges for homeowners looking to insure their property and belongings. Washington homeowners should purchase a comprehensive home insurance policy in order to fully protect themselves against the elements and unforeseen events.
How Much Does Home Insurance Cost?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2010, the average annual premium for homeowners insurance in Washington was $595. But insurance companies consider numerous factors when deciding the cost of a homeowner’s insurance, including the age, location, and construction materials of a home.
For example, the amount of coverage a person purchases will affect their cost of insurance. If a homeowner wants more coverage, they will need to pay more for it. If a home is located in a high-crime area or a region that is frequently hit by windstorms, then it will be more expensive to insure. If the structure is made from brick or other fire-resistant materials, it will be less expensive to insure than a home made from wood. Finally, a person’s credit score and claims history is used as well in determining premiums.
What Does It Cover?
Home insurance in Washington covers you from damage to your property caused by forces outside of your control. A typical policy pays for the replacement or repair of your dwelling, including your deck and garage, other structures on your property, as well as furniture, clothing, and appliances. Most insurance companies replace property at their actual cash value, or their current value instead of their original value. For the most part, your home and personal property are covered from perils like fire and lightning, smoke, windstorm, hail, explosion, vehicles, aircraft, and falling objects damage, as well as vandalism and theft, up to the policy limit. Insurance also provides liability protection if you’re found at fault for injuring someone or damaging their property. Protection against flooding, earthquakes, and volcanic activity are not covered in most policies.
Do I Have to Get Home Insurance?
Home insurance is not required by law in Washington. However, buying insurance can help protect your house and property against damage from unforeseen circumstances, and liability for accidents that injure other people or damage their property. The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner has more information for consumers about homeowner’s insurance.
Optional Coverage to Consider
- Flood. Flooding is one of the most serious risks to homeowners in Washington. The average annual precipitation in Washington is 38.15 inches per year, although significant areas in the western half of the state receive an average of more than 100 inches of rain. Because damage to property caused by flooding isn’t covered by regular policies, Washington homeowners should consider purchasing a flood insurance policy. Flood insurance is available from insurance companies and for participating communities the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
- Earthquake. Washington experienced 424 earthquakes of at least a 3.5 magnitude between 1974 and 2003, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Therefore, if you own property in Washington, especially in the western half of the state, you may want to consider purchasing earthquake insurance. According to The New York Times, the average cost of earthquake insurance in Washington is $1 to $3 per $1,000 of coverage for a wood-framed home, while one made of brick may cost $3 to $15 per $1,000 of coverage. Wood-framed buildings are less susceptible to damage from shaking.
- Volcano. Washington is home to five potentially active volcanoes, including Mt. St. Helens, which killed 57 people when it erupted in 1980. Damage caused by ash, dust, lava flow, particle matter, and the initial removal of ash from inside and outside of your home is typically covered by a standard Washington homeowner’s policy while damage caused by earth movement, landslides, shock waves, and tremors are not. Make sure to check your policy and consult with your agent to see if you have an appropriate amount of coverage in the event of a volcano or volcanic activity.
Mobile Home Insurance
Similar to home insurance, mobile home insurance functions similarly to regular home insurance in that it protects the structure and the property within it, including furniture, clothes, and appliances. Although every insurance policy is different, most mobile or manufactured home policies include liability and theft protection. Coverage for flood and earthquake damage is typically not included.