Ensure your vacation home is properly protected as the summer season nears
Swartz, IMG’s vice president & chief operating officer, said there are different types of insurance risks to consider with different kinds of property and their locations, from condos on the oceanfront to single-family homes farther inland.
For starters, insurance companies like to know that your property has been winterized. When the property isn’t being used, you need to drain the water lines, to take the pressure off the plumbing, then turn off the water at the main. That way, if the pipe breaks or a joint fails, there won’t be water running everywhere.
Swartz said it’s remarkable how often this simple rule of thumb is overlooked.
“If somebody locks up in September and comes back in March,” he said, “and the water’s been running, it can be a horrible mess — and that’s happened.”
Another simple but crucial action homeowners should take is making sure that they have got someone — whether it’s a friend, family member or property manager — who can check in on the property once a week.
Along the Maryland and Delaware beaches, a vast majority of vacation condos are purchased with the intent to rent them out. Swartz said it’s critical to get insurance not just for your individual condominium unit but for the entire building.
“Companies insure rental properties differently,” he said, “because the statistics are there to show that people who rent don’t exercise the same degree of care. It’s a much greater risk for rentals.”
Swartz also recommends a thorough screening of your tenants, whether they’re staying for a few days or year-round.
“Doing a good tenant screening is very important, to make sure you’re not going to get a bunch of kids in there who can ruin the place — and then, if that happens, you’re not going to get new renters in for a while,” he said. “Make sure there are quality people doing a background check; there are organizations that will help with that at a minimal cost.”
Talk to your insurance agent about getting amenities insured, as well. Agents can include not only coverage for features like a swimming pool or hot tub but even accessories and equipment, like a slide or diving board.
There are ways to keep costs down when insuring your vacation home. Swartz said you should start by asking your insurer whether they offer credits or price breaks for protective items. Those would include sprinklers and alarm systems, for fire and theft.
Some companies, he added, will help you prevent flooding or water damage, by installing water-detection devices. It’s a technological breakthrough that, when it detects even a small amount of water, can notify you by your cell phone and, in some cases, will even turn off the water main.
Swartz also said many insurers will reduce carrying costs when the homeowner installs steel hurricane shutters, which can prevent costly window replacements, or modern roofing materials, which are built to withstand high wind speeds.
INSURANCE MANAGEMENT GROUP
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