Whether you are purchasing or renting a new house, apartment or investment property, you'll need to purchase property & liability insurance. At closing (or lease signing) especially in Manhattan, you have to prove you have an insurance policy effective the moment you take possession. The board, property manager or landlord simply will not permit you to move in without it.
Insurance is an intangible product that's largely misunderstood by the average consumer. Making decisions on what policy to purchase is not something to take lightly. No two insurers (or agents) will offer the same quote. Most policies are built "a la carte" meaning you start with a somewhat standard policy that each insurer has their version of, and it's adjusted by "endorsement" drastically changing the coverage afforded.
There are so many products today where the web and a toll-free number is a great way to bargain shop. For property & liability insurance, it can prove extremely costly. Unlike a bad haircut from an unknown stylist or a native New Yorker's enjoyment of an out-of-state bagel, wrong decisions can cause the inability to properly restore your home. What's worse is that buying the wrong policy can be as effective as buying nothing at all.
Find an insurance agent you can trust, who is personable and interested in a long term relationship.
Seek out someone who understands the local marketplace and your replacement cost needs. No two homes, apartments or townhouses are the same; and in a Manhattan building, you have by-laws and rules that dictate responsibility following an incident. There's no reason to pay for what a condo or co-op building may already be covering, and a qualified agent can help guide the way.
- You open the mailbox to find a letter assessing unit owners in your building $10K due to a recent claim affecting the lobby. Will your policy pay for such a thing?
- Returning from a glorious six week vacation in Europe, you return to find 6 inches of water in the basement of your townhouse. Turns out the pipes burst! Are you covered?
- Has there been a change to the occupancy of your property? Do you still have coverage??
- Will your warping wood floors be replaced following damage caused by a sewer or drain backup?
- Your treasured shoe collection is now floating from the bedroom to your kitchen - and you can almost make out what looks to be the bottom of your upstairs neighbor's tub through a small hole in the ceiling that water is pouring out from. What happens now?
- You return from Denmark to find you're being sued by a hotel alleging that you caused damages to one of their rooms! Does your policy provide worldwide or premise-only coverage? Who is going to cover the legal expenses to defend you?
- Your engagement ring mysteriously has disappeared! Where did it go? In the absence of a break-in, or if out of the country, will you be covered? Was this ring scheduled on your policy with a current appraisal - or from 20 years ago? What kind of payout might you receive?
Our lives are constantly changing, as are our insurance needs. It's vital to stop and revisit your individual situation with someone qualified and trusted. Loyalty and trust versus bargain shopping on the web or through an 800 number can really payoff when you need it most. Make sure the person selling you the policy will take your 2AM call for help - because a good agent/broker doesn't look to just make sales - they look to maintain long term trusted relationships so you refer all your friends and family!