Mother Nature Can Be Kind of a B&#%*
This week has been a tough one for South Carolina. Flooding has taken people by surprise, and the damage is extensive. Though being prepared won't stop Mother Nature, having the right insurance can help in the aftermath. Mother Nature can be kind of a b&#%*. And it’s even worse when you’re moving to a completely different part of the country and don’t know what to expect.
The good news? Your homeowner's insurance is going to help you fix damage from a lot of different types of natural disasters. And there’s usually supplemental insurance you can get to cover anything else. So what should you be looking out for?
Rocky Mountain Region: Wildfire
Fires can happen anywhere, but if you’re moving to a dry area, like California or Colorado, there’s an actual wildfire season. That’s right, a whole season in which you can expect wildfires. Finding the right neighborhood is going to be a big factor in home safety. Ask your real estate agent which areas have a high wildfire risk. And if you’re thinking about upping your property value with some landscaping, you should check with your local fire department for fire safety guidelines. Planting a lot of shrubbery and trees around the home might look great in the Southeast, but in the West, it’s a fire hazard.
West Coast: Earthquakes
When you think of an area with earthquakes you probably immediately think of California, but the truth is there are major fault lines all over the country. Ask what earthquake resistant features your new home has. If there are upgrades available, you can always take out a HELOC to retrofit your home to make it safer. You should also check with the HOA to see what they’re responsible for if an earthquake does hit.
If you’re moving from Florida to New York, your idea of snow might be all snowballs, snowmen, and hot chocolate. But too much snow can actually cause damage to your house. Luckily, your homeowner's insurance will probably cover you if your roof collapses under the weight of the snow, a tree falls on your house, or your pipes burst. But if your house floods because the snow melts too quickly, you’re probably only covered if you have flood insurance.
Flood water is powerful and can happen suddenly. You can always prepare to protect your home with sandbags, but in major floods, your best bet is to grab your family, important documents, and evacuate as quickly as possible. The bad news about floods? Most regular homeowners insurance policies don't cover damage caused by floodwater. So If your house is in the flood zone you might want to consider getting additional insurance. You can learn more about flood insurance and how to get it at http://www.floodsmart.gov.
If you’re new to the area, you might not know what to expect from hurricane season in the Southeast. It can mean anything from a week of rain to fun hurricane parties (it’s a thing, ask your neighbors), to serious damage. If your area does get hit hard with a hurricane, it can mean wind damage and flooding. Check with your homeowner's insurance to see exactly what you’re covered for. Most policies will cover water damage if the wind blows your roof off and it rains in your house, but not if storm surges flood your neighborhood.
Fixing the damage
Not every natural disaster is going to be covered by your homeowner's insurance. So what do you do when you need money to repair your biggest investment? If the President designates your area as a disaster area you can apply for mortgage insurance through the Federal Housing Administration 293 (h) program. And if your area wasn’t hit as hard, but your house still has damage, you can always take out a home equity line of credit (HELOC) to repair the damage--and maybe make some home improvements while you’re at it.