Homeowners Insurance

Parent Q&A

  • Homeowners Insurance Agent

    (7 replies)

    Most of the BPN postings are pretty old so I'm hoping for some current suggestions.  My head is spinning, trying to investigate which insurance company to use, not just to get a good rate but to also find a company who won't screw me if I have a serious claim.  I'm hoping to find a knowledgeable insurance agent located in or near Oakland, primarily for homeowners insurance.  At the moment I have an agent who never calls me back.  The office staff are the only folks who I can reach.  They are nice people and are happy to take payment but can't really answer any detailed questions.  So I'm also hoping to avoid a similar situation.   Thanks!

    RE: Homeowners Insurance Agent ()

    We've used Christine De Asis at Farmers for the last several years, and I'd highly recommend her. We were referred to her by our realtor when we bought our first home in the Berkeley/Oakland area. She offered *much* better rates for home insurance than Mercury, who we originally had our car and renters insurance through, and we've switched over all of our insurance needs to her over the years (car, umbrella policy, extra riders for valuables, etc.). She isn't located in Oakland, but she cheerfully drives out to us whenever is convenient for us (which is usually after work and on the weekends) if we want to discuss something in person. She is incredibly friendly and very responsive.

    Her contact info is:

    Phone: 707-863-9100

    Email: cdeasis [at] farmersagent.com

    RE: Homeowners Insurance Agent ()

    We like Ruth Stroup at Farmers (http://stroupins.com/). I don't know how their pricing compare to others (it was decent 10 years ago, which is why we switched to them), but she's pretty easy to reach and knowledgeable. She has an office on Grand and, as a bonus, is really involved in the community as well.

    RE: Homeowners Insurance Agent ()

    Hi. I’ve lived in East Bay for long time, owned 3 houses over time and had as many insurance companies. I moved to Berkeley 6 years ago. On the advice of my daughter, I ditched the agent and went straight to Amica insurance for home and vehicles. Couldn’t be happier with the rates and service. Plus it’s a mutual — owned by policyholders—so profit benefits insured. All my rates went down. Husband’s car was totaled in freeway (by hit and run driver) and I backed into someone in Berkeley Bowl lot damaging a fender—in same year. Company paid promptly. No rise in rates. Great company. No agent needed. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Travelers vs AAA for Auto and Home Owner's Insurance

Oct 2009

I would like to hear both positive and negative experiences with your auto and home owner's insurances with either AAA, or Travelers. Specifically, I would like to know how your experiences were with
* Customer service (Were you able to reach their customer service promptly when you needed it? Did your claim handled promptly? How is the attitude of the customer service?)
* Length of time to resolve your claim.
* Follow up
* Etc,
Thank you! Mika

We have AAA auto insurance on two cars plus renters' insurance. We have been very happy with their quick customer service. You get a bit of a discount having both kinds of insurance. I also cut cost on the car insurance by having a policy that renews every 6 months and took the ''mature driver course and test'' online (for which most insurance companies offer at least some kind of discount). I think you have to be at least 50 to take it. We had a claim on our car being broken into and lots of stuff stolen. The appraisal on the contents seemed somewhat low, but better than nothing. And, they documented everything well and did a quick job. kl

I recently switched my auto ins from AAA to liberty mutual due to premiums cost and the old age of my car, but after 15 years with AAA, I was perfectly happy with them and still have our homeowner's with them. Have only had to make claims twice - both for car stereo stolen, and everything was quick and efficient, no problems, and it didn't seem to raise our rates. alyson

I had a very large HO claim with AAA in 2006 and it was an absolute nightmare. The adjusters for claims over $50,000 are specially trained to make claimants' lives a living hell so they'll settle for less than they're entitled to. I had a ''guaranteed replacement value'' endorsement that meant nothing. They hired a contractor who builds track homes in Fremont (though my house in the N. Berkely hills was of exceptional quality) a fake engineer -- no kidding! -- to ''evaluate'' foundation cracks, and after repeated demands, a ''mold expert'' who took 2 samples (compared to 30+ by real experts whose livelihoods didn't depend on AAA hiring them again and again). Everyone but the fake engineers agreed the foundation cracks were clearly new; after getting sick every time I was in the house, I had to hire my own indoor air quality team and pay for it out of my own pocket. I was out of my house for 11 months, though the reconstruction took less than 3, because the adjuster kept refusing to acknowledge the scope and valuation of the claim by anyone but their bought- and-paid-for ''experts.'' A big claim is why you have insurance! However much people tell you AAA was wonderful fixing their bumper or their $5K HO claim, it means nothing if it wasn't over $50K! (Mine was about $250K and that didn't include a huge amount I was never reimbursed for, nor the enormous time & energy it took over 18 months to finally settle the whole deal; after I agreed to their lowball reconstruction reimbursement, they took 3+ months to send the check and more than 9 months more arguing about EVERY SINGLE item of personal property I lost and the cost of replacement; their subcontractor insists things shouldn't cost more than something sort of like it -- as if they know what you lost -- from Penny's.) There are horror stories like this about big claims with every company that uses the standard HO-3 policy, which is most of the ones you've heard of. I ultimately switched to Fireman's Fund; Chubb also has a good policy. It may be a little more expensive, but absolutely worth it if you're ever unlucky enough to need it! Good luck and stay away from AAA, whatever you do. FYI, my FF auto includes roadside service and is less expensive than AAA. David Shaffer in Walnut Creek is my broker. Buddhist survivor of AAA

Switching auto and home insurance to save money

Feb 2009

I am thinking of switching our auto and home insurance to save money. We are currently paying $1100 a year for one car and $700 for the other through State Farm and when I went on the Progressive website it looked like I could insure both for about half that and keep the same level of coverage. I am going to investigate that more fully, but what I'm wondering is if anyone knows anything about their homeowners insurance or can recommend the insurance company you use (Geico, etc.) Thanks from a family trying to save some money! Kristin

I have been quite happy with insuring two cars and a house at AAA. They even found me a cheaper deal where I renew every 6 months instead of 12. They honor the senior safe driver discount. kl

I found an auto insurance company through a co-worker who was from back East, and it was literally HALF the cost of any other insurance company I looked into here. We pay $283 for FULL coverage on 1 brand new suv and a 7-yr old bmw. They are called Electric Insurance, I highly recommend them. They are also great at customer service...my old boss has had them for like 15 years and has had nothing but great service as well. (not sure if they do house too, we have ours through liberty mutual...I always like the idea of having a non-local insurance company for house or life insurance, in case of a huge natural disaster) Sandra

We bought our first home in Oct. 2008 and shopped insurance companies quite a bit in advance of closing. We had previously insured two cars with Geico for about 8 years and called to find out if they did any combined coverage for home and cars and learned that they don't do any sort of homeowners insurance yet (they do renters but not homeowners).

After shopping around and comparing prices, we settled on insurance that was recommended to us by our realtor.

Scott Halbrook Insurance Agency with Farmer's Insurance Group is our new insurer for two cars and our home. And, all of it costs less per year than Geico was for only the two cars. In addition we have better coverage and included roadside assistance and it was still less than our Geico policy. We pay, I think, $18 additional per policy period for Scott's services, as opposed to going through Farmer's directly, but he is worth the charge in my opinion.

He came to our (then) apartment at a time convenient for us to meet and explained all the various types of coverages available for both our home-to-be and our cars. He discussed the benefits of choosing certain options over others, pulled out a bunch of different discounts we didn't realize were available to us, and explained some important things about securing our identities from theft while going through the final phases of buying a home (just 'cause he was a nice guy and had been through the process a number of times and had seen a variety of clients have identify theft issues after a home purchase).

Anyway, we've only worked with him for the past few months and haven't had any major claims, but his office is always prompt to return calls and when I had a flat one day, they sent out their towing/tire change guys within about 20 minutes. And I can still pay my bills and view all my policy information online through Farmer's website. Just my two cents...

Scott Halbrook can be reached at halbrookinsuranceagency.com or 510-531-1432 and his office is in Montclair. Best of luck finding the company that suits your needs! Becky

I was using State Farm for my auto insurance and realized that my husband was paying a lot less with Geico. I moved over to Geico and cut my expense in half for the same coverage. I was also able to cut my AAA membership since Geico includes roadside assistance. There towing policy mileage limit is also better. I also signed up for homeowners insurance with Geico. State Farm is much more expensive then many other insurance companies out there. Heidi

Which companies are rated highly?

Oct 2008

We have CSAA Home and Auto insurance and are dissatisfied. I have some been given recommendations, but am seeking specific information for full replacement value home insurance. Does anyone know which home insurance companies were well rated, and which were poorly rated, after the Oakland Fire? Or have you ideas on how I could find out? No self- promotion, please. Thank you. Judy

Try AMICA insurance, local office in Petaluma: 1-800-242-6422, www.amica.com. I've had home and auto insurance with them for over 10 years and have submitted claims and been extremely pleased with their service and response. I don't know AMICA's ratings re the Oakland fire, but the company regularly receives excellent ratings in customer satisfaction. Glenda

Home insurance agent?

Aug 2008

Can anyone recommend a home owners insurance agent in Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito? We are thinking of switching from our distance-agent to someone we can sit down with. Possibly State Farm?

I recommend our State Farm agent, Gary Eason. His office is located at 2150 Shattuck Ave, Ste 125 in Berkeley (by the main entrance to Berkeley BART), his phone number is 510-843-1092. We have several types of insurance with him, and he and his staff have always been available and most helpful with all of our issues. Corina

I highly recommend Tim Hamilton, with Hamilton Sterling Insurance Services. Tim has helped us with home insurance (and car, life...etc.), and we have found him to be excellent. you can check their website for more info. http://hamiltonsterling.com/\\ Toll-free: (866) 962-9088 Pauline

i just shopped around for a home insurance agent. never had to file a claim yet, but i ended up signing up with Allied through Anthony Graziani at Alive Insurance: 510-524-3200. He always returned phone calls/emails promptly and understood that bay area homes were more expensive than the typical $200/sq ft figure many folks use. he's also located on fairmount in el cerrito, so really local. i chose anthony because i had to close escrow really soon and wanted someone who was familiar with the local escrow company.

while shopping around, i found two other great offers. one was Ricardo Javier from Farmers in walnut creek: (925) 933-2304. also on top of everything and really nice.

but the least expensive one (by about 25%) i found was Lalaine DeLeon at Highline Insurance (510 735 2685) who gave me a Fidelity National Property & Casualty policy. not very well-known, but it is a legitimate company and more famous in other parts of this country. i checked extensively, and Lalaine even had a higher-up exec (a VP?) contact me when i had extremely specific questions outside the scope of her range. she wasn't as responsive but still got back to me. the problem was that my new home is rebuilt but is still a 100-year-old house, so i had to show proof of all the updates because it was more than 60-years-old. the thought of going back and forth to get all the permits and work history was too daunting, nor did i have enough time. i didn't think she was as knowledgeable, but if you know how much you want to insure for and are only looking for the lowest rate, i recommend Highline. who knows, i might switch later when i have more time to deal with the binding document.

good luck!! obsessive researcher

I use Scott Halbrook, 1425 Leimert Blvd Ste 100, Oakland. 510-531-1432, scott [at] halbrookinsuranceagency.com. He gives a lot of coverage for a good price. Talia

We just switched from Allstate to State Farm and used Frank Bliss, an agent in Albany. He came to our house, talked about the coverage, recommended improvements to bring costs down, and has responsive staff. We have not had to file a claim so I can't speak to that. Rebecca

Does homeowner's cover floor damage caused by human error?

Nov 2005

Kind of ironic -- yesterday I read up about homeowners insurance in the archives because I'm thinking of switching companies, and today I might have an insurance claim. I had always thought that homeowners insurance basically just covered fire and theft. I was surprised to read in the archives that people got their insurance to cover things like a broken window and damage to floors caused by a household employee using the wrong product. I had no idea this kind of thing would be covered.

So here's my question. We have sustained some damage to our kitchen floor, caused by human error. I'm wondering if our insurance might in fact cover this. Does it make a difference if it's a household employee as opposed to the homeowner? Does it matter if the insurance co. even knew about these new floors (we had them installed a year ago)? In general, under what circumstances does an insurance co. cover human error? Would our rates go up if we claimed this? Is there a chance we could be cancelled?

Thanks very much for any info you can provide. messed up floors

Typically homeowners' policies cover the amount of this kind of damage that exceeds the deductible, as long as it wasn't deliberately inflicted. They are hard to read, but the policy will tell you if you. Look hard at the exclusions. Yes, you can get cancelled if they decide you are stupid enough to be a bad risk. That in turn causes problems getting new insurance. On the other hand, you paid for the coverage--why not use it? Mary Ann

Homeowners Insurance is really for a catastrophy. In my experience thus far, I have made two claims, one for massive windows cracking (15ft tall) and rotted support beam on a four story home. Claims were paid, but the premiums increased to the point that my HOI is now $20,000 year!!! This becomes the true cost of filing a claim. Use it in an emergency. In retrospect I would have paid for repairs out of pocket. DJ in Lafayette

I would absolutely not put in a claim for damaged floors- homeowner's has really become just for major catastrophes- anything under $25,000 and that does not impact your living in the house shouldn't even be on your radar for a claim. Insurance companies will absolutely raise your rates to cover that outlay- and they'll recoup their money in under three years. Also, that claims sits against your social security number and really impacts future claims and even the ability to get insurance. Insurance companies can cancel you at any time for any reason and you'll be forced to pay insurance through your mortgage if you can' get private insurance. Even if your homeowner's covers it, I wouldn't go there. been there and wouldn't risk it again!

I've had experience with this as a TIC owner of a duplex property, for which we had one homeowner's insurance policy. Unbeknowst to the rest of us, one owner (of four) continually claimed small, inconsequential losses on our policy. After four claims, the policy was cancelled. Most of these claims were for losses of theft from her own motor vehicle, like tape decks etc. Our insurance went up after that because we had to change carriers. We were all wiser after that. My general advice is don't claim it if it's under $2500. Homeowner's insurance should be reserved for large unexpected, no-fault losses, such as fire etc. Don't use up your good favor by claiming small petty claims for a stain on the floor or stolen watch. Decide your threshold of bearable loss (for which you've set aside savings) and set your deductible accordingly. You might save money on your policy. In addition, perhaps your household employee has insurance? If not, consider your loss the expense of hiring someone in your home without this coverage. You can be sure that damages will happen, sooner or later. Some housekeepers offer to pay for these, others just grin and . . . apologize, if you're lucky. We've had to fire housekeepers for damages, and we've overlooked some minor ones. It's upsetting, but part of life. Lessons learned the hard way

I did not see the original post, but get the gist of it from the responses and would like to contribute my experience with what I think is a quite similar situation. My experience is apparently the exception to the norm, but it is an interesting story.

About 6 years ago, a housecleaner improperly used a very strong cleaning product on my ''no-wax'' Armstrong vinyl kitchen floor which destroyed the surface ''no-wax'' layer. I also saw some damaged spots (not very big but very ugly) in a highly visible place right by the kitchen door that looked like some of the same cleaning product had been splashed there. I was dismayed at the cost of replacing the whole kitchen floor and having the wood floor resanded, and a friend suggested that I ask my homeowner's insurance co. (CSAA) about coverage.

The adjuster who came out to look was both easy-going and overworked, and had no interest in disputing a claim. She immediately wrote in replacing the kitchen floor. She looked at the wood floor, noted (on her own initiative) that in order to refinish it properly without the newly refinished part standing out, that the whole dining room and living room would need to be refinished- and she added that in!

I mentioned my concern about the dust from the refinishing since I'd had a recent bout of severe asthmatic bronchitis, and she said that they would move all my stuff from those rooms into storage for the duration of the work, give me money to stay in a hotel, and have the whole place thoroughly cleaned before moving my stuff back in. I was about to fall over at this point, and then she said that they would also pay for my 3 dogs to be boarded while I wasn't living there.

All of this, and some other little things that she threw in, eventually added up to something like $20,000.

A couple of years before that, they replaced my main sewer line (the original 1923 galvanized pipe one) with a ''no-trench'' one. The old one had been destroyed by a street tree, and apparently there was some technicality in my policy that covered that situation. That cost about $4500.

Other than that, over the last 18 years, the only other claim I've filed was for about $1500. worth of camera equipment that was stolen from my car.

My premium rates, which are very fair, have never been raised one penny as a result of any of these claims. I wonder, after reading other people's stories, if my experience was a complete fluke, or whether CSAA is more forgiving than other insurers. Has anyone else been as lucky as I was, or should I be much more cautious about considering any future claims? anon

CSAA for auto and some other agency for homeowners?

Nov 2005

We've had CSAA for both home and auto for 5 years and have been pretty satisfied -- no major claims so it's hard to say. But given that CSAA no longer offers guaranteed replacement, I'm wondering if there's any reason to stay with them. So I'm interested in people's experiences with other insurance companies. I suspect we could find lower rates somewhere else. I'd also like to get recommendations of any insurance brokers you've worked with who aren't your stereotypical insurance brokers. Someone who won't try to sell us all kinds of things we don't need. A female insurance broker would be great, but of course not necessary. Thanks. trying to be thrifty

We used to have auto insur. w/ CSAA and homeowners/earthquake with State Farm. Recently, after getting estimates from both companies for complete coverage, we consolidated all coverage with State Farm for three reasons: (1) the coverage was better when you read the fine print; (2) Gary Eason, the agent, was extremely patient in working with us on the item by item analysis; (3) we believe that in a major crisis it will be better to have one agent who is accountable to us as opposed to CSAA where you don't develop a working relationship with any one agent. Gary even provides his home ph. number so he can be reached in a crisis. Contact: Gary Eason, 510-843-1092; 2150 Shattuck Ave., Ste. 125, Berkeley. Kira

Homeowners insurance in Montclair?

May 2005

I have lived in Montclair for 8 years. When we moved here, we learned that many insurers would not insure in Montclair because of the fire and landslide risk. We wound up getting insured by Allstate. We had a landslide within 1 year of moving into our house and filed a claim. I'm sure Allstate paid out at least $50,000 to resolve the claim. Our annual bill from Allstate (on a home worth about $800k) is now $2000 with a $2500 deductible. Everyone I know says this is REALLY HIGH. For those of you who live in Montclair, who insures you and approximately how high is your annual insurance cost?? I would really like to switch from Allstate... Thanks!

I live in Montclair, and I don't think this is particularly high. It would be high for a house that wasn't on a slope, or that was in a less fire-prone area, maybe, or for an area where the real estate value wasn't so high, but it doesn't seem high for Montclair. We pay something similar. anonymous

So Allstate paid over $50,000 on your claim after only one year insured, and you think a $2000 annual premium is too much? Do the math. Not even counting the time value of money or expenses, it would take Allstate 25 years to recoup their costs. Insurance is not welfare - it's a cost spreading mechanism. So if you're not paying off your loss over time, the rest of us are. Besides which, don't you feel some loyalty to an insurer who was fair in settling your claim?

In any event it may be difficult for you to switch insurers. Insurers use a system called CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) to share information about past loss experience by property location. So you can't go to another insurer and tell them you've never had a claim. I think it would be difficult to find another insurer to cover you with such a recent claim unless you had some ''in'', like an association you belong to with group rates. The only group I can think of offhand to which you might belong is California State Automobile Association - the northern California branch of the AAA. They write both auto and homeowner's insurance. You might try there. But you really should have your auto and homeowners with the same carrier, because the discount for doing so is substantial.

For the record, I don't think $2000 is a high premium. It's what I pay in the flats of Berkeley, and I've never had a claim. insurance professional

Hello, We bought our Montclair home in 1999. We pay $1700 a year and our deductible is $1,000. My agent is Stephanie Canessa, State Farm, her office is in the Village, 339-4444. Montclair homeowner

I'm out of the country and they cancelled my homeowner's

Jan 2005

Hello, I wonder if someone can help me get oriented with my homeowners insurance problem. I bought a small house in 1994 and had the same local insurance company till now. In September I accepted a position abroad for ten months. A few days before leaving, I was robbed. When I was making my claim, two things happened: 1) I learned that my insurance company was in total chaos while it was being absorbed into a larger midwestern company, and 2) I asked my agent to tell me how best to handle my house while I was gone--tenant? no tenant? The answer to this question got lost in trying to complete the claim papers, deal with the robbery, her move, my move, etc. Now I am abroad and trying to handle the ensuing mess from here.

Long story short: the agent told the underwriter at the new company that I had rented my house and was gone for over a year. Neither was really true--I had someone watching the house and I didn't know whether I was gone for 6 months or ten months, but definitely not a year. In any case, without confirming the information or notifying me ahead of time, my agent sent me a letter at the end of December saying that my insurance was cancelled as of 12/19 since her new company has no coverage for my situation. This has really troubled my peace of mind--I was so pleased that I was leaving for a few months with all my business in order.

Well, thank you for reading this far.

What is my situation now? I still don't know: from an insurance standpoint, is it better to have the house rented or empty? Is it so terrible to leave for a few months that a longtime insurance company would cancel insurance??????? All her letters were scolding, warning, punitive, I found it completely odd and confusing.

I did some research online and learned two things: 1) I didn't know how to research a property that is renter-occupied for less than a year (this seems to be a special category, different from more than a year), and 2) many companies ask if your insurance has ever been cancelled...and is it true that now I have to say yes and that this is bad?

Oh, I forgot something. My agent sent me a fire-only policy-- more than double the price of the previous full coverage--and said I also have to find homeowners insurance somewhere else...I don't know how to evaluate this or whether I've understood it properly.

In addition to any other guidance, is there a specific company someone can refer me to?

Thanking everyone in advance. Troubled Homeowner Abroad

I really feel for you. I think it would be best to have your insurance agent correct the mistakes he made to have your insurance reinstated since you were not renting your house and were not away for over one year. I would consider reporting your agent to the state of California if he does not help you. The state insurance commissioner is consumer proactice, I believe. It seems unfair for them to cancel your policy on mis-information. Agents make a commission on a policy and the more expensive the policy, the higher their commission. Maybe that's why your agent wants to sell you a fire only policy and not work to correct the incorrect information he gave your company. anon

You should contact the CA dept of Insurance hotline - instate calls are 800-927-4357, out of state calls are 213-897-8921 and file a complaint. A fire only policy is terrible. To help you find a new co. the Ca DOI has a website - http://www.insurance.ca.gov/ that can help you compare companies. I don't know about renter vs. vacant. DOI atty.

I forwarded your message to my sister-in-law, who works in the insurance business and here is what she had to say:

Since I don't have all of the specifics here, I can only make general comments, but I think I can provide this woman with some direction. First of all, if she wants to make a complaint against the insurance company, she can go to the California Department of Insurance. Their website is www.insurance.ca.gov. She could make a case that the prior agent misrepresented her situation to the underwriter and that things got lost in the shuffle during the company's consolidation, resulting in the cancellation. However, that's water under the bridge right now, and may or may not help in the long run (the underwriter may have still wanted to get off the risk with a 6-10 month vacancy/rental).

With respect to her current underwriting situation, she's in a tough spot: she's living abroad (which creates it's own special exposure), she's had a recent! claim, she's been cancelled by another carrier, and her U.S. home is either vacant or rented out. It would be better if the home had a housesitter or was rented because then at least someone would be on site taking care of the premises. Vacant homes are harder to insure. And yes, she does have to disclose that she's been cancelled previously, but she can explain the circumstances.

Her current options are few. She needs some kind of fire policy to cover the main property exposure, but she also needs personal liability (which would come with a full homeowners policy). If she has a family friend or housesitter taking care of the premises (versus a paying tenant or a vacant home), we could probably write a homeowners policy for her to bridge the gap between now and when she returns. If the home is rented out or vacant, she'll have to get a fire policy and a separate personal li! ability policy, and the pricing will be more expensive than a standard homeowners policy. She also needs to ensure that her personal property is covered while she's abroad, which we usually handle via an international policy, but that can be expensive. Her biggest exposure right now is covering the home and her personal liability, so she may want to self insure for property she has while traveling abroad. She's correct that this short-term situation is unique, and that there's no easy way to address the insurance exposure. That's why I asked if the home is being occupied by a non- paying tenant, because in that scenario we may be able to write full homeowners coverage, knowing that the property owner is only away temporarily, and is not leaving the home vacant or renting it to strangers.

If she is renting it out, the fire and personal liability policies will be more expensive than what she w! as paying, but those can be replaced by a standard homeowners policy when she returns. The fact that she's had a recent claim will mean that any replacement coverage will be more expensive than what she was paying, but it sounds like she had a sub-par carrier before, so it's time to upgrade.

Hopefully that helps. - Kerri

I think your agent really let you down. You need a new one. That person should be able to answer all of your questions. The most important thing is that you have the right insurance for! you on a going forward basis. My agent is great. Pete Herman, 415-586-7200 x 237. If he's not available, you can speak to his assistant. Elizabeth

Home policy with guaranteed replacement coverage

Jan 2005

Our insurance company (Amica) recently notified us that they will no longer offer guaranteed replacement cost coverage - instead, they are capping payments at 130% of our policy limit. They said this was due to rising construction costs in the area, and since then, we haven't been able to find anyone who still guarantees replacement regardless of your policy limit. Two questions: (1) can anyone recommend a company that STILL offers this coverage and if so, what's your experience with them? (2) if it's not possible to get this coverage, how in the bejeezus does one determine the $ amount of appropriate coverage? Obviously we don't want to overpay, but we want to be adequately covered. Thanks! Jean

We have an AMAZING insurance agent who helped us with a number of insurance and estate planning needs including life, auto, disability (including foreign travel), and for our business equipment and computers (including full replacement cost with NO deductible or increases in premiums after you make a claim!) She even helped us strategize and do research on refinancing car and student loans even though we didn't use ''her people'' to finance those loans. She is a State Farm agent named Jill Cash, and has an office on Telegraph near Ashby. She's worked some miracles for us, but not just that, she's a wonderful listener, takes her time with us, and has an incredible sense of humor. All of her advice is free, and she offers itgenerously. We will never use another agent! Her phone number is 843-8300.

To the person who wanted information about guaranteed replacement cost she offered this advice: ''To the best of my knowledge, no companies operating in CA today offer policies with guaranteed replacement cost. My recommendation to clients is to seek advice from a variety of sources. If they have had work done on there home in the last few years then consult the contractor for estimated cost per square foot to rebuild. Realtors and architects can also be great sources. The planning and zoning department at the city level can also give area averages. For example in Berkeley and Oakland right now the average is about $250 per square foot and in San Francisco it is about $340. Because of the differences from home to home it is always best to get estimate from someone familiar with the home.'' Rachel M

Looking for homeowners insurance

Nov 2004

We are currently in escrow and looking for homeowners insurance. Does anyone have any good or bad comments/recommendations? We are moving to Albany. Thanks! Juliet

have Calif State Auto Assn for home and car for years (since '79). They have been great when ever there has been a car claim. I have never had to make a claim for my house yet. Be sure to look at policy's that offer home replacement. CSAA is one of they few companies that offer this. If your house burns down you may not be able to rebuild it if your insurance does not cover the current costs. Remember after a disaster the cost of rebuilding goes way up in price. Right now because our country is rebuilding Iraq and China is on a huge building boom the cost of cement and building materials is going sky high. CSAA makes sure my policy keeps up with inflation. I do not have to worry about researching this myself. Judy

AAA for home insurance

May 2003

I am interested in whether anyone uses AAA for home insurance and, if so, what your experience has been. We used to use Allstate for both car and home and then had to switch to AAA for car for a few months (Allstate bounced us after we were a few days late with the payment). It's cheaper to have both policies with one company, so now we're trying to decide whether to have both at AAA, switch back to Allstate for both, or do something else. Any thoughts welcome. Thanks. Phyllida

We have used AAA for our home and car insurance for a number of years and have had no complaint. klevenson

Last year, I would have said go with AAA because they were the ONLY insurers that I knew of that were guaranteeing FULL replacement of your home, even if the cost was far above the ''covered'' value (assuming you insured it for what they considered full value). I just got my new bill. It is more than 35% higher than last year, and now has a limit of 150% of the stated coverage. I don't know how it compares to others. R.K.

I had my car insured with AAA for a very long time (15 yrs) but after I got a point on my record, they raised the policy more than $200 annually for the next tree years (meaning close to $700 increase total). They were very unwilling to work with me in figuring out how to reduce it or even explain it. I now am happily insured, both for my car and my house with AMICA insurance. SOmeone from this post recomended them and I could not be happier. Not only did I get a rate for my car that was lower than before the hike at AAA, but I got another discount for multiple policies, i.e. homeonwers, on top of that. They also have a very friendly customer service deparement and you don't get bounced around from one person to the next, something AAA is notorious for. You can call them at 1-800-242-6422 and they will refer you to the regional office in Petaluma. J. E.

I've had AAA insurance for both car(13 years) and home (1 year). Last year the window in my porch door broke and needed to be replaced. I was very concerned that AAA would cancel my policy if I claimed the door damage (it was around the time you heard that a lot in the news) but I went ahead and called them anyway. They were very helpful and reliable and very nice too. Then we did not agree on what my deductable should be and depending on how you saw it, both sides were actually right. But after only one conversation they agreed to my view and I payed $ 50 instead of $250 as my deductable. It's been about 5 months now and I am still insured with them, so I think the ''getting a cancellation'' fear might have been ungrounded. The only bad thing in this experience was the experience with the company that fixed my window. They were unreliable, unresponsive, did not show up several times and rarely did what they promised. The work was also poorly done. I tried to work things out with them way too long, believing them way too much. The good thing is that AAA contracts with many companies and next time I would probably call AAA right away if there was a problem with a company they contract with. So I have been very happy with AAA, but I'll be more careful next time when dealing with the company they set me up with. Martina

We have had home and auto insurance w/ AAA for several years. When we recenlty moved, we assumed AAA would cover us in the new house. They sent us an unpleasant note saying we had 30 days to find other coverage, and that they were going to cancel our homeowner's policy because the house was not retrofitted. We had coincidentally decided to retrofit, and were in ht eprocess of doing when we got the letterso we told them that and asked that they reconsider. They agreed to keep it, but I will not be shocked if they try to non-renew next year. The home insurance market is in turmoil, due to different reasons. They will tell you they have paid out too much for claims, while others will say they lost too much in the stock market. Whatever the reason, I recommend keeping your home and auto together so you have some leverage over insurance companies. AAA's rates seem to be low, but I have not really tested that notion by shopping kevin

We've had AAA car insurance for years so we used AAA when we bought our house about a year ago. They've been great for us so far, very pleasant to deal with.When we called to replace a fence that blew down, they didn't threaten to raise our rates (which another co. did to our neighbors when they called re their part of the fence). We're happy so far. anon.

I have had CSAA for 16 years on my home and 20+ on my vehicles.

I had a major claim on damage to my floors because of a housecleaner's misuse of a product, and the adjuster gave me many things beyond my original request (they paid for everything to be removed from my house and stored for the duration of the project because I have mild asthmatic bronchitis, they paid money for lodging during the project for me and my dogs and cats, they paid for a professional cleaning of the house after the work, and more- it was amazing. At another time, they replaced my main sewer line for me because of tree root damage, and I have had a couple of small theft claims.

I have had no major claims on a vehicle, just a few very little, minor ones. (I have a perfect driving record so don't know how they would respond if I got any points.)

There have been no repercussions on my policies at all- none.

And, they give me a rider on my vehicles for business use rather than requiring me to get a separate, expensive, commercial policy.

They have been very, very good to me and easy to deal with. My rates rose some (an across the board raise, not specific to me), but not an outrageous amount this year, and I just figured that the cost of everything's going up.

But, I hadn't noticed the 150% limit on replacement and that concerns me. I also would like to know what other insurance cos. are presently doing in this regard and what claims experiences people have had with those cos. It's the claims experience that is really telling I think. Cecelia

Options other than State Farm for insurance?

May 2002

Hey all -- I'm shopping for home insurance and I understand that State Farm is no longer offering home insurance in California. The only recs for home insurance in the archives are for State Farm agents. I would like some recommendations for other companies. Thanks so much, Laurel

We have used Amica for both home & auto insurance. They have always been very helpful & quick to respond to any claims. http://www.amica.com/ KBracken

Sorry but I had to respond to this. I currently have State Farm and my agents assured me they are continuing with their business in California. For awhile they were not taking on new earthquake insurance customers, but that is over. When our renewal came up, they asked us if we wanted it and we also recently put the other house on State Farm as well. The more you have insured with them (houses, cars, motorcycles, and boats) the more of a discount you get. I live in the Fremont area. marianne