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How to Help New Home Buyers Consider Catastrophes

During this housing market heatwave, insurance agents can be a voice of reason and an educational resource for buyers. Here are four ways independent agents can help buyers assess risk.
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how to help new home buyers consider catastrophes

Like a summer heatwave, the housing market has continued to surge the last few months, leading buyers into a frenzy to find and secure the home of their dreams. Sales of existing homes in July rose 2% from June and, even while the inventory of homes has begun to rise, demand still continues to outpace supply, according to CNBC.

The high demand for housing coupled with limited housing stock is leading to aggressive buying behavior, such as buyers waiving inspections. During this housing market heatwave, insurance agents can be a voice of reason and an educational resource for buyers.

One important aspect agents can help buyers think through is the importance of resiliency and weather-related insurance coverage—preferably prior to diving into the negotiation process.

Here are four strategic ways that independent agents can help buyers assess risk when it comes to catastrophes:

1) Schedule an initial call to discuss overall home resiliency. Home resiliency is key for all prospective homebuyers, and in a quick-moving market such as this one, level heads must prevail before a purchase.

To start, schedule a quick call where you can begin educating homebuyers on the benefits of resilient home measures and ensure they are fully aware of the potential risks to the prospective property.

During the call, review the importance of using resilient materials like a fire-resistant class A roofing shingle, which would be beneficial if the home is in an area prone to wildfires. Once buyers understand resilient materials, they have the ability to identify if a home they are interested in buying was built resiliently.

2) Review the property for potential weather hazards. One of the most important factors in real estate is location. What homebuyers might not be thinking about is how location can play a role in weather events. This is especially relevant if the buyers aren't from the area or region where the home is located.

If the prospective property is in an area prone to weather-related risks, such as hurricanes or wildfires, agents can make the buyers aware of the risks and discuss insurance coverage options prior to the purchase. At this point, the buyers will be educated on the importance of utilizing resilient materials and the potential regional weather risks for the home they are interested in. However, as an insurance agent, you know the importance of being prepared for all risks, including ones that may not be as obvious, and buyers will appreciate your expertise.

3) Educate buyers on the importance of insuring relevant risks. Once buyers know what coverage the home might need, they can start to understand the costs of purchasing and insuring the home.

What buyers sometimes forget is the potential cost of not having insurance in case of a disaster. A trusted insurance agent can walk buyers through insurance options for their situation. For example, even if the home is not in a flood-prone area, it can still be damaged by a flood.

Also, you can educate the buyers on the availability of optional coverages, such as a sewer backup endorsement. For example, sewer backup endorsements could help homeowners that don't live in flood-prone areas, but find themselves with a sewer backup from heavy rain.

Agents know the potential costs of fixing a flooded basement when a home has flood insurance versus when it doesn't—and this kind of specialized knowledge is invaluable to helping novice buyers avoid a potential pitfall.

4) Explain the importance of a risk assessment. An agent knows the importance of a risk assessment and how it can help identify potential weather-related risk exposures. Agents can advise buyers to have a risk assessment where the inspector will check the status of critical areas such as the roof and the home foundation.

Depending on what kind of inspection the buyers request, the assessment report will typically show what areas need to be updated prior to the home purchase as well as radon gas levels, the placement of HVAC and electrical systems in potentially flood-prone areas, and overall earthquake and flood resilience. Agents can talk to the buyers about additional insurance options to help cover any other risk areas identified during the assessment.

Bryan Wood is a senior catastrophe risk analyst at American Modern Insurance Group.

Monday, October 25, 2021