First-time homeowner? You’re probably wondering where to buy home insurance.
Even if you’re on your second or third home or are shopping around for a better homeowners’ insurance price, if you haven’t purchased home insurance in a few years, things have changed.
In the past, buying home insurance required a trip to a local broker or insurance agency and an hour-long meeting where the broker collected your information and drew up a quote.
If you were lucky, you’d sign the paperwork and leave with a new home insurance policy to show the mortgage company.
If you weren’t, you’d go home and wait for the documents to be faxed or mailed.
Then you’d make another trip to your broker with the signed documents and, finally, you’d have home insurance.
You can still buy home insurance in person. And the process is faster and easier than ever.
But there’s no need to leave your house to buy home insurance anymore.
You have other choices to find the best rates, coverage, and service.
The Age of Digital Insurance Is Here
More people are buying home insurance online than ever before.
According to the Accenture Global Distribution & Marketing Consumer Study (2017), 51% of people have purchased insurance online.
Here in the Coastal office, that number is much higher. We’d estimate that less than 2% of our customers visit our Rocky Point customer experience center to purchase their home insurance policy.
That’s because we make it so easy.
Our customers fill out a simple, two-step form online and our licensed agents shop around for the best possible rates from more than 30 reputable carriers.
When your quote is ready, we send you the documents to sign, digitally, through DocuSign, a secure and trusted electronic signature service.
You can sign your documents anywhere, from any device.
There’s no driving back and forth, waiting for documents in the mail, or trying to find access to a fax machine. This isn’t 1998.
Best of all, you never have to worry about lost paperwork.
DocuSign provides a digital record of your transaction so it’s there when you need it.
Benefits of Buying Insurance Online
When you think about the benefits of buying insurance online, there’s really no reason to leave your home to complete the transaction.
Buying insurance online means:
- Fast and easy quotes
- No phone calls or annoying hold music
- No lost paperwork
- Sign digital insurance documents easily, from any internet-connected device
The answer to where to buy home insurance is simple—and more than half of all American homeowners have already caught on to the secret. Buying insurance is easier than ever before when you can do it online.
But you still may have questions.
Finding an Online Insurance Agent You Can Trust
How do you find an agent online that you can trust?
And how do you know if you’re getting the best rates and the coverage you need?
Choosing the wrong home insurance policy could cost you hundreds of dollars a year.
Not to mention stress and hassle if you ever have to make a claim and you didn’t choose a reputable carrier.
We will help you explore your options when it comes to purchasing home insurance online.
You’ll learn what to look for and how to make this important decision.
Choosing the right insurance agent can help you save money and provide peace-of-mind, knowing that your home and belongings are protected in the event of a sudden catastrophic occurrence.
How to Choose Between an Insurance Carrier or an Insurance Broker
Homeowners have two basic choices when it comes to home insurance policies: You can work with an insurance agent or carrier like Nationwide, State Farm, or Allstate, which typically offer good rates for homeowners with excellent credit in houses in a low-risk category.
Or you can work with an insurance broker who has access to multiple insurance carriers and lines of coverage to find the best policy to meet your needs.
If you live in a home near the water or have less-than-perfect credit or fit any other number of risk profiles, an insurance broker with access to multiple carriers can help you pay less.
Let’s look at some of the other differences between carriers and brokers.
What Is an Insurance Carrier?
A dedicated insurance agent who works for a single-carrier can write you a policy with their company only. Sometimes, carriers will offer different tiers of insurance coverage.
So if you are in a high-risk category you may still be able to write a home insurance policy with one of the bigger carriers.
Well-known carriers can also bundle policies like life, home, and auto insurance together to help you save money.
You may start the quote online and then call a local agent to finalize the transaction, but some carriers do permit online insurance purchases, too.
If you have brand loyalty with a specific carrier or you don’t mind calling multiple agents to find the best value for your home insurance, you can purchase your home insurance from a carrier and know you are working with a trusted company that has been in business for decades.
What Is an Insurance Broker?
An insurance broker, also called an independent insurance agent, is licensed in the state they work to sell insurance but is not affiliated with any specific insurance carrier. Instead, they sell policies from a variety of different insurance companies, providing their customers with more choices.
Like a dedicated insurance agent that works with a single carrier, an independent agent can show you how to bundle your insurance lines to get the lowest premiums and best coverage.
Some brokers may specialize in specific types of buyers, such as homebuyers with a dwelling near the water or those with a high-risk profile for other reasons, such as less-than-excellent credit.
Some brokers operate only online, while others have brick-and-mortar offices in addition to their online presence.
If you want a choice in carriers and want to be sure you are getting the lowest rates for home insurance without checking multiple websites or making many phone calls, you may want to purchase insurance from a broker.
Where to Find a Reputable Insurance Broker
There were close to 40,000 independent insurance agencies operating in 2012, ranging from small firms and single operators to larger names. Finding a broker — especially on Long Island with a population of 6 million people — is easy, but it can be challenging to narrow down your choices to a broker you can trust.
If you’re wondering where to buy home insurance, you may consider using some of the following resources to find a reputable broker.
Most people trust their family and friends more than internet advertising or any other type of outreach a company can do. In fact, 85% of small business owners rely on word-of-mouth marketing to grow their business.
Word-of-mouth isn’t just a favorite marketing tactic of business owners. It works great for consumers, too.
If you want honest opinions about homeowners insurance, ask your friends who writes their home insurance policy and if they are happy with the service.
Don’t focus on how much your friends pay for their homeowners policy. Chances are, their home is not exactly like yours. And even if it is, your credit scores may differ or other factors could affect your rates.
Instead, ask your friends if they have ever had to make a claim, and what that experience was like. Did their broker have a dedicated claims department? Did they receive service promptly?
Also ask about the buying process. Did the broker take the time to answer all their questions and explain coverage levels and deductibles? Did the broker offer a wide range of carriers? What did they like about the agent?
While it’s now possible to buy insurance online with just a few clicks your search may start in the real world by asking your neighbors, co-workers, and friends.
Look for Recommendations on Facebook Groups
If you want to reach several hundred—or even thousands—of friends as well as other Long Island homeowners like yourself post your request for recommendations in a Facebook group.
Facebook users are all too happy to share their recommendations for everything from the best pizza to the best summer camp for kids and, of course, their favorite independent insurance agents.
You can try local business groups, groups specifically devoted to your community, or one of the many Long Island mom’s groups.
If you post publicly, you might get some people recommending their family or friends, and even insurance agents recommending themselves. They may be worth a second look but be sure to do your research before making your decision.
For truly unbiased opinions on home insurance brokers, read online reviews.
Many reviews, including Google reviews, are verified, and it is nearly impossible for businesses to change negative reviews on sites like Yelp.
Since customers are more inclined to speak out on social media when they have a bad experience than a good one, overwhelming numbers of positive, five-star reviews means a company is nearly flawless in its customer service.
Look for an insurance broker with five stars across the board, or close to it, and you can expect the same level of exemplary service as their past and present customers have received.
What to Look for in a Broker
As you’re analyzing all the information and recommendations you’ve received to decide where to buy home insurance, what positive traits should you be looking for in a broker?
Many customers shop on price alone, and that is okay if you never have to make a claim.
But when a tree hits your house, or someone falls on your property, it’s important to know you’re protected.
We have insurance for peace-of-mind. You don’t want to take chances on your coverage. When you make your choice of where to buy home insurance, be sure your broker is reputable, reliable, and can fulfill your specific needs for home insurance.
Ask About Accreditations and A.M. Best Ratings
As in most industries, the insurance industry has standards and certifications that show consumers they are dealing with a reputable company.
Find a broker that is a Trusted Choice member, the organization of Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. Also known as “Big I,” Trusted Choice is a national alliance of more than a quarter million business owners and their employees who offer all types of insurance and financial services products.
Additionally, consider an insurance broker’s A.M. Best rating. A.M. Best is an organization that rates insurance companies. Your choice of broker should have an A+ or better A.M. Best rating.
Finally, check to see that the broker is accredited by the Better Business Bureau with a rating of A or higher. The BBB website offers a wealth of information, including a listing of any complaints about the company and in-depth consumer reviews.
Find a Broker with Strong Local Carrier Ties
An insurance company can only be as good as the carriers it works with. Large online brokers may be able to provide the lowest rates, but a local company has formed partnerships with local carriers who understand the unique insurance needs of Long Islanders.
Whether you need flood insurance, insurance for a high-value home in the Hamptons or on the North Shore, Coastal Insurance works with carriers that regularly serve these niche markets.
In addition, make sure the carriers your broker uses are “admitted” and licensed to do business in New York State. Otherwise, your claims may not be backed by the New York State guaranty fund, which ensures a pay-out on your claim even if the insurance company is not able to pay.
Seek a Large Broker
Larger brokers tend to partner with more carriers, offering you greater choices in your home insurance policies.
A large broker may also have more risk tolerance to insure homeowners who fall into a high-risk category and able to provide insurance at a lower rate for these customers.
When you look for a large, local broker, you’ll get the best of both words: a wide range of choices in carriers with personalized service and insurance agents who understand your needs.
Service Is #1
All of these factors, from accreditations to local offices, point back to one quality: exemplary customer service.
While rates are important, service is what really matters if you ever need to file a claim.
Find out if your broker has a dedicated claims department, and ask if they typically process claims within 24 hours.
Some brokers even offer customers the ability to file claims online, which means you can be assured of fast service, and you can make a claim from anywhere. Having a home insurance claim is never convenient, as it means you’ve been a victim of inconvenient and unfortunate circumstances such as fire, storm damage, or a burglary. Being able to file claims online can make it a little bit easier and less stressful.
Enjoy the Benefits of Buying Home Insurance Online Today
People aren’t just buying insurance online. The internet has changed the entire insurance industry, with online bill pay, online claims, and online service. Buying and insuring a home is more convenient than ever.
Now that you know where to buy home insurance and what to look for in an agent, you, too, can enjoy the benefits of insurance in the digital age.