And the winner is…. Safeco.
Being under-insured at the time of the fire, rebuilding the house was no simple task. If this ever happens to you, I hope you’ll be able to simply sit on your (rental) couch and just answer questions from an interior designer and architect about where you want your bathroom, what colors, which light fixtures, etc. In our case, we had to do as much of the work ourselves that we could, to keep from incurring debilitating debt. The loss of home and property is lame, but having to do much of the rebuild work yourself (while still holding down full-time jobs), is even lamer.
Now that we’re back on our feet with a mostly-done house, we went to refinance and had to decide about insurance. I decided to shop around. But I soon found out that if you’ve suffered such a loss, it’s not easy to just switch carriers. After two years of working closely with the snakey bureaucracy of the insurance company it wasn’t altogether surprising to discover that many insurers wouldn’t cover us because we’ve had a recent loss. That’s right: USAA, Geico, State Farm — all declined our business because we’d had a recent payout on our policy.
Safeco has a similar condition, but in our case it didn’t totally apply (the fire started in our neighbor’s house, not ours). So rather than stumble through online quote generators I worked with Juneau’s oldest insurance agency, Shattuck and Grummett. Turns out, our lovely agent was not only familiar with our story, but she uses it when working with customers as a cautionary tale. We’re happy that our experience is benefitting others, but even happier that the agent was able to work with a Safeco underwriter to get us properly insured.
And not only did we get insured, we got *fully* insured. Instead of the measly $169,000 that the old house was covered for, our new one has $468,000 of coverage. And the best part: it costs the same as Allstate!
So, my advice for Southeast Alaskan homeowners or new home builders:
1) Make sure you’re insured for not just the appraisal cost of your home, but for 20% over what a trusted contractor tells you it would take to rebuild. Down south the rule of thumb is something like $180 per square foot. In Juneau I suggest you use $230 per square foot.
2) Work with Shattuck and Grummett.