The flood insurance market, before and after Harvey

Express-News columnist Michael Taylor is seen Aug. 11, 2016 in the Express-News photo studio, Photo: William Luther, Staff / © 2016 San Antonio Express-News



Photo: William Luther, Staff

Express-News columnist Michael Taylor is seen Aug. 11, 2016 in the Express-News photo studio,

Express-News columnist Michael Taylor is seen Aug. 11, 2016 in the…

Like everyone with a home mortgage, I have homeowners insurance that covers most catastrophes, although the list of covered catastrophes specifically does not include flooding.

I sometimes worry because my house backs right up to the San Antonio River. Fortunately, my yard and house are outside the boundaries considered to have a 1 percent chance of flooding per year, a so-called 100-year flood plain.


So up until now I’ve never had flood insurance, nor have I been required to have it by my bank.

We’ve recently had a bit of rain here in Texas, which you may have heard about. It got me thinking again about flood insurance, and about how reliable our current risk-assessment methods are.


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As a financial rule, I’m usually in the “don’t buy too much insurance” camp, urging people to self-insure whenever possible. Or as the French might say, I adopt an “après moi, le deluge” approach to many insurable risks – meaning “I don’t care what happens after I’m gone,” according to Wikipedia.

Flood insurance, however, might be in the special category of things for which self-insuring doesn’t work as well. Meaning, even though my house sits outside of the 100-year flood plain, I really cannot afford the unexpected but catastrophic loss of my house due to flooding.

I called up my insurance provider this past week to get a quote on flood insurance for my house. I learned a few things.

I received an annual premium quote of $499 for up to $250,000 in damage to my house, plus an additional $100,000 for personal belongings, subject to a $1,250 deductible in each loss category.

Interestingly, I learned my insurance provider is acting not as the underwriter of flood insurance, but rather as a broker for the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In fact, everyone has to go through a private insurance company to get this federal flood insurance. Almost nobody gets private flood insurance.

I mean, there’s also a private market solution, but barely. I went to one provider online and entered all my data to match the quote I got from my regular insurance provider. The annual premium would be $3,219. So, more than six times as expensive as the FEMA quote. With that difference, you can sort of see why the federal government dominates the market.

Matthew Hartwig, a spokesman for insurance provider USAA, told me that its flood insurance call volumes rose up to nine times its regular rates right before, during and after Hurricane Harvey made landfall Aug. 25. Customer inquiries even now continue at a higher than normal rate, he said.

Unfortunately, none of those flood insurance sales in late August and early September can help Hurricane Harvey victims There’s a 30-day wait rule before recently purchased flood insurance becomes effective. Buying now only helps for the next flood.

Interestingly, engineering and flood risk specialists are re-evaluating how we deal with flood risk these days. The old way of risk assessment is to simply map out whether a property is, or is not, in a 100-year flood plain.

Patrice Melançon, watershed engineering manager for the San Antonio River Authority, described to me at least a few engineering discussions underway in the wake of Harvey.

She cited her counterparts in Houston who are actively discussing whether the right level of “risky” should be to look closely at properties previously considered to be in a so-called “500-year flood plain,” or areas that have only a 0.2 percent chance of flooding per year.

Of course, a common-sense reaction to that news is to wonder whether things have changed, possibly due to climate change, such that previous rainfall data informing the 100-year flood plain is no longer accurate in 2017.

While FEMA still relies on maps that show the 100-year flood plain, it is developing, in conjunction with local partners, a more sophisticated set of maps that show the likelihood of flooding within 30 years, as well as the probabilistic severity of flooding inside and outside the 100-year flood plain.

The new maps are “informational” and “consultative” rather than being used for regulatory purposes like the 100-year flood plain maps, but nevertheless represent the next level of risk analysis.

I’ll be checking out those new maps. Even now, about 25 percent of flood claims occur on houses outside flood zones. That’s on houses that are deemed safely outside the flood plain, like mine.

Finally, Melançon mentioned to me that her agency expects to get, in another three or four weeks, updated computer modeling and analysis of what would occur if Harvey-level rainfall fell on San Antonio. I’m pretty interested in those results, too.

Personally, I don’t want to pay $500 to protect against a thing that’s never going to happen.

On the other hand, “a thing that’s never going to happen” just happened all over the city of Houston and in towns up and down the Texas coast.

Also, four Category 4 and 5 hurricanes were never supposed to make landfall within four weeks of each other until hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria actually smashed all normal expectations of weather patterns. So, yeah, we’re buying flood insurance.

As a scary epilogue, you know what else is not covered by regular homeowners insurance? Property damage due to nuclear war. That’s never going to happen either, right? Anyway, enjoy your morning coffee and breakfast, everybody.

Bundling Your Insurance Policies Offers Some Surprising Savings

If you’re looking for the easiest way to save money on insurance premiums then bundling your policies is probably the best bet.

Faced with an incredibly competitive market, insurance companies usually offer bundling (or multi-policy) discounts for insuring both your home and car with the same provider. It’s perhaps the most popular way to see significant savings. However, as with all things insurance, the depth of those savings will vary depending on what you’re bundling and where you live.

For the fourth year in a row, an insuranceQuotes study, commissioned by Quadrant Information Services, examined the average economic impact of bundling auto insurance with either homeowners, condo or renters insurance. Using a hypothetical 45-year-old married woman with a bachelor’s degree, excellent credit score and no lapses in coverage, the study compared the average premium discount for three types of bundling in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C.

The results were once again intriguing to insurance analysts and experts.

For instance, consumers who bundle auto and homeowners insurance in Mississippi can expect an average annual premium discount of 23.2 percent. However, bundling auto and homeowners insurance in Florida only results in an average premium discount of 6.7 percent.

What’s more, bundling discounts will vary depending on what two policies are combined. For instance, the average national premium discount for bundling auto and homeowners insurance is 16.1 percent, but bundling auto with renters insurance will only save consumers an average of 7.9 percent on an annual premium.

Why does bundling save you money?

There’s more than one answer to this question, but at the end of the day bundling discounts stem from two primary factors: retaining loyal customers and saving insurance companies money in the process.

“This all comes down to competition,” says Tennessee-based insurance broker John Hatcher. “There are so many companies out there that can offer lower rates that it’s become harder to keep customers long-term. But the more policies you have with one insurer the longer you are likely going to stay with that company.

“I see this all the time. Everyone wants as many policies on the books as they can get because that means customers will stay with their agency longer.”

What’s more, customers who bundle multiple policies tend to file fewer claims, which winds up saving the insurance company money in the long run, says Arizona-based insurance broker Charlotte Burr.

“Insurance companies, as a whole, find that customers who have more than one line of business with an insurance company tend to be more stable and tend to stick around longer, allowing the insurance company to collect more in premiums — because it’s always cheaper to retain business than find new business,” says Burr, owner of the AZ Insurance Team.

Bundling discounts for home and auto

Once again, bundling auto and homeowners insurance offers the most substantial discount by far. According to the insuranceQuotes study, the national average premium discount for bundling these two products is 16.1 percent.

There are many reasons why this discount is more significant than bundling an auto policy with either condo or renters insurance, says Natasha Rachel Smith, personal finance expert at TopCashBack.com.

“For starters, although insurance companies offer discounts for bundling auto insurance with renters or condo insurance, the savings are significantly smaller,” Smith says.  

The main reason is that renters and condo insurance policies are cheaper than homeowners insurance, which means insurance companies can only discount so much.”

What’s more, insurance companies view homeowners as generally less risky than those who rent or own a condo. That means homeowners are also less likely to file a claim and are therefore allowed deeper discounts.

“Speaking in broad terms, if you look at the stability, financial resources and credit of someone who owns a single family home versus a condo or renter, there are statistical differences between the three,” Burr says. “Usually a home will cost more than a condo, and it’s harder, from a mortgage perspective, to qualify for a home than a condo. So insurance companies figure that if someone has the credit, income and financial history to get approved for a home, they will also probably file fewer claims and maintain their home better.”

It’s important to note, however, that this discount varies from state to state. Here are the top five states with the greatest average premium discount for bundling auto and homeowners insurance.

  1. Mississippi — 23.2 percent discount
  2. Arkansas — 22.6 percent discount
  3. Missouri — 22.5 percent discount
  4. Illinois — 22.5 percent discount
  5. Minnesota — 22.4 percent discount

Meanwhile, the following five states, on average, showed the smallest percentage premium discount for bundling auto and homeowners insurance.

  1. Florida — 6.7 percent discount.
  2. Hawaii — 10.6 percent discount
  3. New York — 11.5 percent discount
  4. Vermont — 11.6 percent discount.
  5. Connecticut — 12.1 percent discount

As with all matters pertaining to insurance, these state-by-state differences stem from myriad factors.

For instance, Florida’s unique insurance landscape is a result of continually contending with hurricane and tropical storms threats, which makes both home and auto insurance more expensive and prevents insurers in the Sunshine State from offering substantial multi-policy discounts.

What’s more, every large company that sells homeowners insurance in almost any other state also sells auto insurance. In Florida, however, about 35 percent of the market is written by either the Florida Citizens Property Insurance Corp. — a state entity that doesn’t sell auto insurance — or small state and regional insurers that write homeowners insurance but not auto insurance, which means bundling discounts are often off the table.

“While bundling insurance policies to receive a discount seems like a no-brainer, the types of discounts vary by state and company,” Smith says. “Certain states have a unique set of variables that insurers take into consideration. For example, states that have an elevated risk of hurricanes or natural disasters like Florida tend to pay more to insure their home and automobiles.”

Bundling options for condo and auto

According to the insuranceQuotes study, the national average premium discount for bundling your condo and car insurance is 11.6 percent. The savings are significant, but not as dramatic as homeowners insurance.

One of the reasons for the difference is because insuring a condo is different than insuring a home. If you own a condo you are only responsible for insuring whatever is contained within its walls (not the structure itself). More often than not the condo association is responsible for insuring the building, making condo insurance less expensive than homeowners’ insurance and the discounts less significant.

Nonetheless, discounts still differ between states. The following five states show the greatest average premium discount for bundling auto and condo insurance.

  1. South Dakota — 16.5 percent discount
  2. Missouri — 15.8 percent discount
  3. Illinois — 14.9 percent discount
  4. Arkansas — 14.6 percent discount
  5. Kansas — 14.6 percent discount

Meanwhile, the following five states, on average, showed the smallest percentage premium discount for bundling auto and condo insurance.

  1. North Carolina — 6.7 percent discount
  2. Connecticut — 7.4 percent discount
  3. Florida — 7.7 percent discount
  4. New York — 7.9 percent discount
  5. New Jersey — 8.4 percent discount

“While not as much as a house, owning a condo does show a certain amount of financial responsibility and an insurance company will take that into consideration by giving some discount, maybe just not as high as a homeowners discount,” Burr says.

Bundling discounts for auto and renters

Even less expensive than homeowners and condo insurance, renters insurance typically covers nothing more than personal possessions, liability, and, in some cases, additional living expenses if a tenant has to relocate. And because it is the cheapest of the three, the discounts offered for bundling are fairly low.

According to the study, the national average premium discount for bundling auto and renters insurance is just 7.9 percent.

The following five states show the greatest average premium discount for bundling auto and renters insurance.

  1. Minnesota — 13.6 percent discount
  2. Kansas — 12.6 percent discount
  3. Massachusetts — 11.4 percent discount
  4. Indiana — 11.4 percent discount
  5. Missouri — 11.0 percent discount

Meanwhile, the following five states, on average, showed the smallest percentage premium discount for bundling auto and renters insurance.

  1. North Carolina — 4.5 percent discount
  2. New Jersey — 4.9 percent discount
  3. New York — 5.0 percent discount
  4. Vermont — 5.9 percent discount
  5. Connecticut — 6.2 percent discount

Whether you own a home, a condo, or rent your place, bundling discounts are one of the easiest ways to not only save money but to also simplify your overall insurance landscape.

“The obvious benefit to bundling your insurance policies is the money you can save, but another benefit is that bundling policies simplifies policy management,” says Jayson Greene, insurance expert with Carolina Insurance Professionals. 

“Save yourself the hassle of keeping up with multiple statements and renewal dates by combining your policies under a single insurance provider. Bundling policies makes maintaining statements and policy renewals a breeze. It’s a good deal all around.”

This article was originally published on insuranceQuotes.com.

Laura Adams is a personal finance expert, award-winning author, host of the top-rated Money Girl Podcast, and insuranceQuotes’ senior analyst. Join a growing group of thousands who are taking their finances to the next level in her free Dominate Your Dollars private Facebook group.

Bundling home & auto insurance could save up to $322 per year, new study says

The insuranceQuotes study puts the national average savings rate for bundling your home and auto insurance at 16.1%, saving customers an average of $322 per year. (Chart: Quadrant Information Services)
The insuranceQuotes study puts the national average savings rate for bundling your home and auto insurance at 16.1%, saving customers an average of $322 per year. (Chart: Quadrant Information Services)

Bundling your insurance policies is likely the easiest and most popular way to save money on your insurance premiums.

A new study from insuranceQuotes examines just how much you can save, and looks at how rates vary depending on your state and what you are bundling, whether it be auto, homeowners, condo or renters insurance.

The study says the most significant savings come from bundling auto and homeowners insurance policies with the same provider. Customers nationwide can save an average of $322 (16.1%) per year.

Related: Mileage and geography affect how much you pay for auto insurance

insuranceQuotes commissioned a Quadrant Information Services study to examine the average economic impact of bundling auto insurance with either homeowners, condo or renters insurance. The study was conducted for the fourth year in a row, using a hypothetical 45-year-old married woman with a bachelor’s degree, an excellent credit score and no lapses in coverage. The study compared the average premium discount for three types of bundling in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Researchers found the average annual premium discounts varied as much as 16.5% from the states with the highest savings to the lowest.

Why does bundling save you money?

Bundling or multi-policy discounts are offered as a way for insurance companies to compete in a highly competitive market and retain customers. This is one major reason why bundling insurance saves customers money. The second reason is that bundling saves insurance companies money, too.

“This all comes down to competition,” says Tennessee-based insurance broker John Hatcher. “There are so many companies out there that can offer lower rates that it’s become harder to keep customers long-term. But the more policies you have with one insurer the longer you are likely going to stay with that company.”

Arizona-based insurance broker Charlotte Burr says customers who bundle multiple policies tend to file fewer claims, which in turns saves the insurance company money.

“Insurance companies, as a whole, find that customers who have more than one line of business with an insurance company tend to be more stable and tend to stick around longer, allowing the insurance company to collect more in premiums — because it’s always cheaper to retain business than find new business,” says Burr, owner of the AZ Insurance Team.

Related: 10 questions to help assess your clients’ changing insurance needs

Bundling discounts for home and auto

Bundling auto and homeowners insurance averages the largest discounts. The national average premium discount for bundling home and auto insurance is 16.1%, according to the study.

Here are the top five states with the greatest average premium discount for bundling auto and homeowners insurance.States that save the most

  1. Mississippi — 23.2%
  2. Arkansas — 22.6%
  3. Missouri — 22.5%
  4. Illinois — 22.5%
  5. Minnesota — 22.4%

In contrast, the following five states, on average, showed the smallest percentage premium discount for bundling auto and homeowners insurance.

  1. Florida — 6.7%
  2. Hawaii — 10.6%
  3. NewYork — 11.5%
  4. Vermont — 11.6%
  5. Connecticut — 12.1%

These state-by-state differences reflect some of the standard influencing factors across all insurance matters.

For example, states like Florida that are prone to more tumultuous climates naturally have higher home and auto insurance rates, which in turn, prevents insurers from offering substantial multi-policy discounts.

(Image source: insuranceQuotes)

Bundling auto and condo

The national average premium discount for bundling your condo and car insurance is 11.6%, according to the insuranceQuotes study.

The following five states show the greatest average premium discount for bundling auto and condo insurance.

  1. SouthDakota — 16.5%
  2. Missouri — 15.8%
  3. Illinois — 14.9%
  4. Arkansas — 14.6%
  5. Kansas — 14.6%

Meanwhile, the following five states, on average, showed the smallest percentage premium discount for bundling auto and condo insurance.

  1. NorthCarolina — 6.7%
  2. Connecticut — 7.4%
  3. Florida — 7.7%
  4. NewYork — 7.9%
  5. NewJersey — 8.4% 

Related: 6 things you need to know about insuring a condo – before buying one 

Bundling auto and renters insurance

The average national premium discount for bundling auto and renters insurance is 7.9%, insuranceQuotes says.

Related: 5 reasons why renters need insurance 

These five states show the greatest average premium discount for bundling auto and renters insurance.

  1. Minnesota — 13.6%
  2. Kansas — 12.6%
  3. Massachusetts — 11.4%
  4. Indiana — 11.4%
  5. Missouri — 11.0% 

The five states with the smallest percentage premium discount for bundling auto and renters insurance on average are:

  1. NorthCarolina — 4.5%
  2. NewJersey — 4.9%
  3. NewYork — 5.0%
  4. Vermont — 5.9%
  5. Connecticut — 6.2%

Jayson Greene, an insurance expert with Carolina Insurance Professionals, says bundling your insurance is one of the easiest ways to save money, but it’s also a great way to simplify your overall insurance landscape.

“Save yourself the hassle of keeping up with multiple statements and renewal dates by combining your policies under a single insurance provider,” Greene says. “Bundling policies makes maintaining statements and policy renewals a breeze. It’s a good deal all around.”

Related: 18 emerging risks for the insurance industry, its customers and society at large

Lower Your Homeowner’s Insurance Costs

Did you quit smoking last year? Move into a gated community? Do you live within five miles of the nearest fire station?

These factors – and many others – make you a safer bet for your homeowner’s insurer, which means you can get a significant discount on your insurance premium. Something as simple as installing deadbolt locks and smoke detectors could nab you a discount of as much as five percent, experts note.

How to Lower Your Homeowner’s Insurance Costs

Let’s start with the basics – have you combined your homeowners and auto policies? Most companies want as much of your business as they can get, so look for significant discounts when you bundle your coverage with one insurer.

Next, consider the fact that, the more you limit your insurance company’s losses, the less the company needs to charge you. Insurance is all about betting on risk, so lower your risk of having a bad experience – by installing fire, smoke, burglar alarms or any other home monitoring system – and you lower the risk of your insurance company writing a check.

What’s on your roof? Using impact-resistant roofing products on your home can cut your bill, and many types of shingles and roofing systems qualify. This may not be a primary consideration when you buy a home, but if you’re re-roofing your existing dwelling, check with your insurer. Adding impact-resistant roofing means you can earn a five to ten percent discount on your homeowner’s insurance premium.

Are you behind a gate? Gated communities limit access to potential thieves and other hazards. Your homeowner’s insurance costs could be lowered because of this security measure.

Smoke a discount: Are you and your family non-smokers? Smoking is a big cause of structure fires, so if you’ve kicked the habit and kept everyone else in the family from walking a mile for a Camel (or a Lucky, Marlboro or other brand), you could earn a credit of five percent or more. Smoking also affects your life insurance premiums. Get free life insurance quotes and apply for your top choice in minutes using our Life Insurance Quote Comparison Tool.

Pay on time: Paying your bills on time is a huge factor in your credit score, and can play a big role in what you pay for insurance. While a few states outlaw tying credit scores to insurance premiums, most allow it, and insurers claim there is a significant correlation between people with low credit scores and those who file more claims. So take good care of your credit and lower your insurance bill. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips.

Is your home new or renovated? A newer home or one that’s been significantly upgraded in the last few years is considered less of a risk, since wiring, plumbing and other factors all have been installed or brought up to the current local building code, so talk to your agent about a potential discount.

Are you retired? A number of insurance companies offer discounts for clients older than 50, 55 or 65, whether you’re working or not. Nevertheless, once you are off the job, additional discounts may be available. Insurers know a retiree who’s at home is less likely to be burglarized and has lots of time to maintain the property.

Other discounts: According to the insurance agents Swingle Collins & Associates of Dallas, other available discounts include:

  • Jewelry stored in safe deposit box
  • Deadbolt locks
  • Lightning protection
  • Shatterproof windows
  • Storm shutters
  • Interior sprinklers
  • Water detection sensor
  • Water flow alarm
  • Water-valve shut off
  • Temperature monitor
  • Gas leak detector
  • Emergency gas line shut-off
  • Fire station within five miles
  • Fire hydrant within 1000 feet

Bonus tip – got gifts? While you’re checking for discounts, make sure to note any big-ticket items that came into your household during the holidays. If you got some pricey jewelry, camera gear or other expensive gift, it may not be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Check to make sure your new additions are within your coverage limits – if not, you may need to add a rider. Jewelry, antiques and some other items may also need a written appraisal to qualify for coverage.

This article was provided by our partners at moneytips.com.

To Read More From MoneyTips:

The Top 5 Mistakes in Buying Homeowner’s Insurance

Knowing Your Homeowners Insurance Policy

New Tool To Reduce Your Debt Burden

Insurers offer tips for filing claims and starting recovery from fires



Those who suffered losses in the recent North Bay wildfires can begin filing insurance claims to help in the rebuilding and recovery efforts, insurance industry officials said.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones released some preliminary insurance claim numbers on Thursday, which “highlight the active role that the insurance industry is playing in the recovery effort,” an insurance industry association president Mark Sektnan, said.

And, while the numbers are expected to climb as more claims are filed and processed, the preliminary data reflects some 7,000 structures damaged or destroyed and $1.045 billion in losses, commercial and residential structures, personal and commercial vehicles, and agricultural equipment.

“These insurance claims numbers released by Commissioner Jones represent just the beginning of the insurance industry’s efforts to help wildfire survivors in each of the communities hard hit by these unprecedented fires,” he said. “Insurers are already assisting residents who were forced to evacuate with financial assistance for housing and other living expenses, while working quickly to adjust auto insurance claims, so drivers can get new transportation.”

Insurers are on the ground in Santa Rosa, Napa and Yuba counties opening claims, he said, adding that insurers “are ready and financially prepared to fund the recovery from this disaster. Despite record hurricanes, tornados and hail in 2017, the industry is well capitalized with over $700 billion in surplus.”

As part of a standard homeowners insurance policy, insurers provide Additional Living Expenses coverage, so that, if a policyholder looses their home, they should keep their hotel and meal receipts because these costs are reimbursable, he said.

“Insurers have brought in catastrophe response teams from all over the country to provide the resources necessary to assist policyholders,” Sektnan said. “Insurance adjustors are ready to go out to the homes and cars to adjust claims as soon as authorities say it is safe to enter. The road to recovery starts with one click, call or text to your insurer.”

The insurance industry offers the following tips for filing a claim:

• Call your agent or company immediately to begin the claims process. Additional Living Expenses are part of your homeowners policy and will provide you temporary housing as you rebuild.

• If you do not have a home inventory, look through your phone for pictures of the inside of your home or ask friends and family for pictures. This will help with the new plans and scope of work for your new home.

• Adjusters will walk through the claims process, answer questions, estimate damage and settle your claim.

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• Review the new building plans to ensure you are rebuilding with the same number of square feet and finishes. Insurance covers the cost of rebuilding with similar materials.

• Don’t be victimized twice. Be careful when hiring a contractor to rebuild your home. Obtain multiple bids from contractors, require and check references and licenses, get everything in writing.

• Don’t pay everything up front, pay in installments as work is completed and inspected.

• Keep paying your mortgage as you rebuild. Homeowners insurance may cover some of your additional living costs in a rental home.

• Consider purchasing flood insurance to protect your home from flooding and landslides after a wildfire. Soils can loosen with the loss of trees threatening homes during the next rainy season.

5 Tips on Water Damage Repair

Water in your home – whether it's from a flood, a leak, burst pipes, or another source – can lead to extensive damage and expensive repairs if it's not deal with promptly. If you have water damage in your home, you'll want to act quickly to fix the problem. The following water damage repair tips will help you get the situation under control and prevent more complicated problems in the future.

1. You need to act fast. If you have water damage in your home, you need to act quickly to solve the problem. Some cleaning services offer 24-hour emergency services to help you cope with water damage. Calling these experts as soon as you notice a problem will make it easier to minimize any water damage. To prevent mold growth, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends drying out damp or wet areas within 24 to 48 hours. Depending on the cause of the damage, you may also want to contact your homeowners insurance company to see about getting the claim process started.

2. Be cautious. If you've just become aware of a problem with water in your home, there are a few steps you should take. First, if there's a lot of water (such as from flooding), you should turn off your electricity to avoid electrocution. Also, do not use your regular household appliances (such as a vacuum cleaner) to remove water. If the water is contaminated (such as a sewer line), you and your family should leave the home so that you do not get sick. Finally, if the water is from a leak, try to locate the leak's source and turn off the water to prevent further damage.

3. Know the subtler signs of water damage. If you're dealing with a flood or a burst pipe, it's hard to ignore. But in some cases the signs of water damage can be subtle and easy to miss. To prevent hidden water damage, regularly inspect your home for leaks in the bathroom and kitchen. Look for damp or moldy spots in these and other areas, such as around the washing machine or in window frames. Also be on the lookout for soft spots in your walls, which could be a sign of hidden damage.

4. Begin removing the water. Depending on the extent of the water problem, you have a couple of options for removal. For relatively minor situations, letting a damp space air dry may be a good, though slow, approach to water damage repair. To air dry a wet room, open all doors and windows; consider using fans to circulate air, which will speed up drying time. Dehumidifiers may also be helpful. If you have a lot of water, however, you may need to hire a professional to first extract the water from your home.

5. Dry out any valuables. If water has damaged books, photos or other valuables, you'll want to dry those out as soon as possible. In cases of extensive damage, you may need to prioritize which items to care for first, since you'll get better results if you take action within 24 hours of when the damage took place. Professional cleaning services can offer specific advice on salvaging valuables from your damaged home.

More accidents, distracted driving help send insurance rates up in 2016 – News – The Columbus Dispatch

An increase in accidents and more distracted driving have resulted in higher insurance rates for Ohio motorists.

The top 10 insurers by market share in Ohio — which control 76.8 percent of the market — raised rates by an average of 3.1 percent in 2016, according to Ohio Department of Insurance data released Wednesday. That matches 2012 for the biggest increase in the past 10 years.

Rates for this group rose by 2.2 percent in 2015 and 2.5 percent in 2014.

“It’s not a surprise. It’s going up in ’17 (as well). The auto claims have been terrifically high in frequency and in repair costs,” said Larry France, owner of France & Associates insurance agency.

Motorists have been driving more, helped by lower gasoline prices and an improving economy, said Kimberly Schwind, spokeswoman for Ohio AAA. That had led to more accidents. 

“The insurance companies are trying to cover their costs. They’re paying more money out in claims,” she said. “Passing along a 3 percent rate sounds like a lot. The insurance companies are covering their losses.”

Accidents have been on the rise since 2013, according to Ohio Department of Public Safety records.

There were 305,964 accidents last year in Ohio, up nearly 14 percent from 2013. Injury accidents and fatal crashes have been rising as well.

“There’s too many people on cellphones. There’s too much distracted driving,” France said.

In addition to more accidents, repair costs for vehicles and medical costs are higher.

France said just replacing a bumper can now cost as much as $2,000 to $3,000. Medical costs go up regularly because of new medicines and equipment.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria will be a driving factor for higher rates in the future, France said.

Harvey, which struck primarily Texas, flooded about 420,000 insured cars, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, more than from Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012. More than 215,000 claims have been filed from Irma, which whacked Florida and the Southeast.

“We’ll see rates go up in Columbus, Ohio, from Houston losses. Will it be the same impact? No, but there will be an impact,” France said.

USAA, an insurer that provides coverage for those in the military and their families, raised rates the most among the big carriers last year, 14.3 percent. A message seeking comment was left with the insurer.

Liberty Mutual raised raise rates 8.2 percent, and Columbus-based Grange raised rates 7.2 percent.

For homeowners, rates went up 1.9 percent in 2016 among the biggest carriers.

It was the second straight modest increase after seven years of big increases tied to severe storms that struck the state.

“We haven’t had bad storms like that we, so haven’t had any big jumps,” France said.

As the case with auto, though, rates might be headed higher in the future because the hurricanes are driving up the cost of building supplies, he said.

Despite the increases in rates, the amount that Ohioans pay remains well below the national average.

Ohioans pay an average of $797 (ninth lowest) for homeowners insurance and $683 (12th lowest) for auto coverage, the state said, citing the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. The combined average premiums are $518 below the national average.

mawilliams@dispatch.com

@BizMarkWilliams

U.S. homeowners insurance remains growth engine, says Aon

U.S. homeowners insurance has remained a growth engine within the otherwise highly saturated U.S. re/insurance markets, with premiums expected to reach $93 billion in 2017, according to Aon’s Homeowner’s ROE Outlook report.

This represents a $2 billion growth in premiums from 2016, and shows rate of market growth has been stable since 2015, despite a decreasing return on equity (RoE) for insurers.

“Given the year-on-year increase in premiums, US homeowners’ insurance can be considered a growth engine within the industry,” said Greg Heerde, Head of Americas Analytics for Aon Benfield.

Prospective 2017 after-tax RoE for U.S. homeowners’ business was 4.5% on a countrywide average, down from 2016’s 6.7%, and 9.1% excluding the state of Florida.

However, the top 20 U.S. homeowners’ insurers saw an average rate increase of 3% over an 18 month period up to the end ofAugust 2017, the highest average rate increase was 7% experienced in Texas and North Carolina.

Florida insurers’ rates grew by 5% during the period, however the report notes that this increase will likely not be significant enough to maintain current RoE levels as the state’s carriers face growing costs from benefits and claims adjustments.

Heerde commented that at this point it’s difficult to say “whether insurers’ approved rate increases will be sufficient to match their loss and expense inflationary pressures of the future.”

Challenges to the RoE projections include a slowdown in insurers’ rate increases against a backdrop of loss and expense inflation, and an increased A.M. Best capital charge resulting from insurers’ premium and exposure growth, which is currently being offset by reduced reinsurance costs.

For reinsurers, rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) recently said third-quarter 2017 catastrophe losses are likely to erode the sector’s earnings and become a capital event for the space, resulting in rate increases of up to 5% at 1/1.

The series of powerful hurricanes that struck the U.S. East Coast in Q3 are expected to lead to price increases in Florida and other areas that have been heavily impacted with high insured loss levels, potentially leading to rate increases not just amongst U.S. homeowner insurers, but for reinsurers across multiple lines of business.

And although Q3 losses will be a capital event for some firms, with the abundance of excess capital floating in the global market competing to fill any increase in demand, the 2017 losses are not expected to be significant enough to have a material, long-lasting impact on global reinsurance rates.

Many people still waiting for Irma storm insurance claims to be processed

SEBRING, Fla. – More than a month after Hurricane Irma came through Florida, many people are still waiting for insurance claims to be processed.

There have been 626,541 claims filed for residential property, but 441,359 claims are still open as of October 13, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

People like Jacquelyn Young are frustrated. Hurricane Irma ripped a whole in her roof. She said she is waiting for her insurance company to process the claim.

“The rain is actually going through the house,” Young said.

FEMA denied her application for assistance because she told them she had homeowners insurance, Young said.

“So what are we supposed to do?” Young asked. ‘We can’t get help from this end, and we can’t get help from this end, so we’re stuck.”

In total, the state of Florida believes there are nearly $5 million in total estimated insurance losses.

ABC Action  News went to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the agency that operates the Insurance Consumer Advocate hotline, to see what families can do to process their insurance claim faster.

Consumers who need assistance on getting updates from their insurance companies are urged to reach out to our insurance consumer helpline by calling 1-877-693-5236 (1-877-MY FL CFO).

To date, the Department’s Division of Consumer Services has received 2,756 insurance-related calls due to Hurricane Irma, the state said.

The average hold time is 37 seconds. These calls range from requests for assistance with:

  • Company contact information
  • Claims-filing process
  • Coverage Questions – What is Covered, What’s Not
  • Financial Options to Assist with Non-Insured Damage/Hurricane Deductible

When a consumer reaches out to specialists with the Department’s Division of Consumer Services, they will talk with the consumer’s insurance company, on behalf of the consumer, to clear up any questions or concerns the consumer may have had.

The insurance company is required, by statute, to respond to any inquiries that come from the Department within 20 days and more times than not, the cases we bring to the insurance company are closed within 30 days of initiation, the state said.

“Hurricane Irma impacted various parts of our state from Jacksonville down to the Florida Keys. With more than 700,000 claims accounting for a total estimated insured loss of approximately $5 billion, insurance companies have been presented with an influx of consumers who are in need of assistance,” said CFO Jimmy Patronis.

“We strongly encourage any consumers who have any insurance-related questions, complaints or concerns to reach out to the Department’s Insurance Consumer Helpline by calling 1-877-693-5236 so our insurance specialists can provide them with the information and resources needed to ensure their road to recovery isn’t delayed,” Patronis said.

But there are many people who need assistance now.

The American Red Cross is going county by county in some of Florida’s hardest hit areas.

They were at the Lakeshore Mall in Sebring, FL assessing the needs of hundreds of families.

“What do you need to be able to make that next step? So in addition to financial assistance, we also have access to community resources,” said Roberto Baltodano, Red Cross spokesperson.

Many Highlands County residents were able to leave with a pre-paid debit card to be used for essentials, including diapers, food, lodging and clothes that needed to be replaced after the storm.

The Red Cross will also help people who are not able to get immediate aid through FEMA and have homeowners insurance.

People can also get Red Cross help in addition to FEMA help, Baltodano said.

Shares Trading up at $24.40 (UVE) Universal Insurance Holdings, Inc….

UNIVERSAL INSURANCE HOLDINGS IN (NYSE:UVE):

Universal Insurance Holdings, Inc. Subsidiary UPCIC Writes First Homeowners Insurance Policy and Launches Universal Direct in New York.

In the market the company is trading up by 0.62%% since yesterday’s close of 24.25.

Additionally UNIVERSAL INSURANCE HOLDINGS IN recently declared a dividend that will be paid on Tuesday the 24th of October 2017. The dividend will be $0.140 per share for the quarter which is $0.56 annualized. This dividend amount will represent a yield of $2.31. The ex-dividend date will be Monday September 11th, 2017.

Universal Insurance Holdings, Inc. (UVE), launched on November 13, 1990, is a private personal residential homeowners insurance company in Florida. The Company performs substantially all aspects of insurance underwriting, policy issuance, general administration, and claims processing and settlement internally. The Business’s subsidiaries include Universal Property & Casualty Insurance Company (UPCIC) and American Platinum Property and Casualty Insurance Company (APPCIC). UPCIC writes homeowners insurance policies in states, including Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Virginia. UPCIC is also licensed to issue policies in New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. APPCIC writes homeowners and commercial residential insurance policies in Florida..

It is trading at $24.40 which is well above the 50 day moving average which is $21.70 and marginally over the 200 day moving average of $23.65. The 50 day moving average was up by +12.47% and the 200 day average was up $0.75.

UNIVERSAL INSURANCE HOLDINGS IN currently has a P/E ratio of 8.64 and market capitalization is 850.24M. In the last earnings report the EPS was $2.82 and is expected to be $3.18 for the current year with 34,846,000 shares currently outstanding. Next quarter’s EPS is expected be $0.81 and the next full year EPS is anticipated to be $3.43.

Short traders are more bearish on shares of UNIVERSAL INSURANCE HOLDINGS IN recently if you take a look at the change in short interest. The stock experienced a rise in short interest from September 15, 2017 to September 29, 2017 of 1.07%. Short interest grew from 5,181,388 to 5,236,966 over that period. With short interest at 5,236,966 and short average daily volume at 380,993, the short-interest ratio is 14.0 and the percentage of shorted shares was 0.15% on September 29.