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What You Should Ask Your Home Insurance Agent: An Interview with Jeff Scott of Carlisle Insurance Service

By Jeff Scott

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Carlisle Insurance Services was started in 1996 by three partners with other agencies (our current sister agencies) in central Pennsylvania. We are an independent agency representing dozens of insurance carriers. 60% of our staff has over 20 years of insurance experience and in December I will have 35. While we are licensed for Life, Accident & Health insurance, we are 99% Property & Casualty insurance which includes all the personal lines (homeowners, auto, mobile homes, motorcycles, boats, farms, etc.) and commercial lines (business insurance - property, liability, business auto, workers compensation, umbrella, and bonding).

Is there something about getting homeowners insurance that you wish more people knew?

When someone is purchasing an older home (over forty years old) the insurance company will need to know that four items have been updated - electrical, plumbing, heating, and roof. Also, for any house with an asphalt or fiberglass shingle roof, there may be a concern if it is over twenty years old. All home buyers should ascertain the year the mechanicals and roof were last updated and to what extent. Home inspections are an advantage when purchasing a home since the home inspector will outline deficiencies and make recommendations prior to the purchase.

How do you help a homeowner figure how the replacement costs for their house and belongings, as well as how much they should ideally be insured for?

Every homeowner should insure their home (and contents) on a replacement cost basis to avoid their loss being depreciated. If you want your home covered on a replacement cost basis you must insure it for its replacement value. Insurance companies use valuation programs to determine this and some can get very sophisticated. Other than type of construction, square footage, number of baths, porches/decks, and basement finished area (if any), they will want the percentage breakdown of type of floor coverings, wall material and finish, and grade of trim and cabinetry in the kitchen and baths. With high value homes, Chubb Insurance Company will actually conduct an on-site survey for a full valuation appraisal. The coverage for personal property (contents) is proportional to the dwelling coverage, usually 70% of the house value, as additional coverage on personal property. For instance, a $200,000 homeowners would include $140,000 coverage for the contents which is usually adequate.

What types of discounts might be available for homeowners in Pennsylvania? Why do home insurance rates/premiums increase?

Most companies provide a discount if they also insure your personal auto. Most often, that is a 10% discount to each policy. There are also newer home discounts, discounts for fire and/or burglary systems, and a couple companies will even give a discount to non-smokers. Most companies in Pennsylvania use credit scoring in the rate determination so better credit can be advantageous in the cost. Why do home insurance rates/premiums increase? Homeowners premiums usually increase a small amount each year primarily due to the coverage amount increasing to keep pace with rising construction costs. Rates can be affected by a higher than normal number of weather related incidents too. Is there any way to prevent this? I am a firm believer in higher deductibles and more so concerned with catastrophic losses rather than making a couple hundred dollar claim. Many insurance companies will surcharge a renewal after two claims are made.

What are some of the most important decisions that new homeowners need to make about their coverage?

Other than mentioned above about insuring to the replacement value, the home location may determine if flood, earthquake, or sinkhole coverage should be considered. There are enhancement coverages that can be added to the policy for additional coverages like backup of sewers and drains, identity theft expense, and equipment breakdown to mention a few but they are usually an additional premium. These should be reviewed as to the importance to that client.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

A five minute phone call to our office (717-241-5995) can determine the initial need, the person to whom the client should be directed, and eliminate many emails back and forth. After the initial contact, e-mail works well and each agent has their own e-mail address. Contact also can always be made directly to me at jeff.scott@carlisleins.net .

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