Need insurance advice.
April 18, 2011 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Renter's insurance. How much does one get, and how do appraisals work? Asking on the higher end of things, broadly speaking.

Right now I have a renter's insurance policy of $X, which I purchased before my SO moved in. We need a new policy, probably somewhere around $2X, maybe higher. We have relationships with a couple of different insurers, and know about getting riders for high-ticket items etc. I've been through the past questions about renter's insurance.

Two questions. First, let's just say your stately abode is inventoried and you know that the valuable items (jewelry, art works, computers, gold bullion, high-powered shotguns, and gilded robots) is $1,000,000 on the nose. What about all the other stuff? The $500 worth of food in your kitchen? The custom frame that you got made for that photo you took of grandma (the photo being worth "nothing," but the frame cost $200)? The linens in your closet? Is the goal to be so fully insured that you would not suffer any economic loss above the deductible? I'm generally risk averse, so I'm not sure what is a rational level of coverage to buy, considering I'm already looking at $2X for the big ticket items alone.

Second, appraisals. How do they work? I've got some art (including this mystery thing--still looking for insights), and my SO has some jewelry and clothes etc. Is the expectation that you schlep all of your appraisable possessions to the appraiser, or will they come to you to do everything at once? It would be a hassle to try to take all the art off the walls, or the SO's collection of mink tiaras all over town. Will one appraiser appraise both my imported Bulgarian furniture AND my golden Belgian teapots, or am I going to have to get different people involved? Or will the person with experience in whatever this thing is be the same person to appraise the value, if any, of that hipster-y lithograph I bought in Brooklyn? How much is this appraisal adventure going to cost? Any recommendations for appraisers in the Boston area?
posted by Admiral Haddock to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
First, I think you're looking at this backwards. Property insurance works by coming up with a lump sum for the "normal" stuff, i.e. standard quality furnishings and personal property, and then specially scheduling unusual or unusually expensive items. Such items may actually be sub-limited or outright excluded from your base limits, e.g. some policies only give you $5,000 for all your jewelry unless you schedule items individually. So just come up with a ballpark figure for the general stuff in your household and talk to your agent about getting the high-ticket items covered, either as part of the standard limit or individually scheduled.

As far as coming up with that base amount, just do a kind of mental inventory, trying to think how much it would cost to replace all the stuff in one room. You'll be surprised at how much that is. Then add like 25-50%, because I guarantee you, you've missed stuff. Your insurer will probably accept this figure without blinking an eye, and you're likely to find the premium to be acceptable too.

Second, appraisals aren't really part of the insurer's function. If you tell them that something is worth $x, they're either going to say "Okay" (and depending on what it is, they very well might) or ask for an appraisal or receipt. Honestly, if you've got receipts, that's probably the easiest way to do this. But insurers generally don't do appraisals themselves. Some appraisers are going to be willing to do the whole thing, e.g. estate appraisers, but if you want accurate FMV for your stuff rather than just a "Look, I can move the lot for $x," you're probably going to need to talk to a number of different people. You may even need more than one art appraisal if you're talking about disparate enough items.

Appraisals themselves aren't all that expensive, but you could easily be looking at $50 per item or lot of items. Still, you're only talking about the most expensive and/or unusual items here, so there may be less to do than you think.
posted by valkyryn at 10:10 AM on April 18, 2011

When I got mine I just went with a generalized sum policy. So electronic, jewelry, funiture. But for the $200 custom frame--why not?
posted by stormpooper at 10:46 AM on April 18, 2011

It can also depend on your policy. I did a full household inventory when we got renter's insurance, and my insurance company just told me to keep a copy somewhere safe but that they didn't need information for anything that wasn't on a rider unless or until such time as I made a claim.
posted by Zophi at 10:51 AM on April 18, 2011

My experience (with homeowners) is similar to valkyryns..

Sure, you're getting renters insurance, but the "coverage of your stuff" is the same, regardless. We had the standard form, spent about an hour with the insurance agent, then went home and took an inventory and went back to do final numbers.

Me ? I own a number of woodworking tools. A very non-trivial replacement cost, so that got an extra line item. Firearms/jewelry came in slightly under their standard value, clothes etc we just took the standard.

But, the stuff in your fridge? I mean, unless you've got 50lb bags of Kona coffee, really .. Some policies have the "food replacement" type coverage for power loss and everything in the fridge/freezer going bad .. But unless you've got a walk-in freezer holding a local-grown-grass-fed-butchered-cow parts that cost $2k, the odds work out better paying out of pocket to buy new food than the premium to cover that rider..

I think everything is negotiable for coverage .. So if you've got a decent camera, take shots of all your stuff (or a movie, and keep a copy of the movie in the safe-deposit with birth certs etc for insurance..) and go over the pics/movies with the insurance agent.

If Tina Turner can get a rider on her legs, you can get a rider on anything you want covered, just expect to pay for it..
posted by k5.user at 11:06 AM on April 18, 2011

For my renters, I kinda ballparked stuff. They gave a guideline of the average amounts for different types of items and I adjusted accordingly (for example, unlike the average Texan (apparently), I don't have several hundred dollars worth of firearms, so I took that to zero). I try to remember how much I paid for the big ticket items and guesstimated more for things like clothes and furniture. I really wouldn't bother trying to insure food in your fridge, etc. Those amounts are going to be trivial when it comes to everything else, unless you have a bunch of caviar or truffles or something.
posted by elpea at 2:32 PM on April 18, 2011

And yes, typically the goal of property insurance is to be restored as fully as possible to your economic state before the loss.
You should also keep in mind that these policies usually also include liability coverage for personal injuries on the property.
posted by elpea at 2:34 PM on April 18, 2011

I've read that, when you're inventorying your own stuff, it can be a good idea to (a) take pictures and (b) write down serial numbers.
posted by kristi at 10:47 AM on April 20, 2011

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