Cost of home insurance expected to rise this year

The cost of home insurance is expected to rise in 2011 for the third straight year.

Premiums are likely to rise an average of 2% to 3%, according to the Insurance Information Institute, with coastal areas seeing the biggest increases. Hurricane losses have been low in recent years, but damage from rain and winter weather and higher prices for materials to repair homes have driven up costs. In turn, insurance premiums have been creeping up.

For 2010, the average premium for home insurance policies rose about 1% to $807, the industry trade group said.

The average Allstate Corp. homeowners' premium rose 7.1% in 2010, and Chief Executive Tom Wilson said recently that "you should expect to see it go up" in 2011 as well. State Farm, the nation's leading writer of home coverage, saw its overall homeowners' rate increase 7.9% in 2010.

What's a policyholder to do? The Consumer Federation of America provides tips at its "Buyer's Guide to Insurance" on its website, consumerfed.org.

The National Assn. of Insurance Commissioners' website, http://www.naic.org, has a feature called Consumer Information Source, where shoppers can find data on complaints about an insurer, licensing information and key financial data. NAIC also runs a website for consumers, http://www.insureuonline.org.

Other resources include consumerreports.org and insure.com, which offers a quick way to get quotes.

The key to getting a good deal is to shop around. Insurance companies generally use three methods to sell their products: independent agents, exclusive agents, or over the Internet or by phone. The Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, iiaba.net, has a "find an agent" tool.

If you want to know what information insurers might have on you, check LexisNexis' C.L.U.E. Personal Property report. It provides a seven-year history of losses associated with individuals and their personal property.

byerak@tribune.com

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