Garage Insurance
March 18, 2012 7:53 AM   Subscribe

We have a property with a house and garage, and we are going to have the unrepairable house torn down. Our insurance company says they can't insure an outbuilding, because they only insure houses. We really don't want to leave the house standing, but the garage is new and we'd like to keep it. Any suggestions?
posted by mezzanote to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
Is it an option to leave one wall of the house standing? I've seen people do that for tax purposes, maybe it works for insurance, as well? I am not an insurance agent, or a construction fore-person.
posted by kellyblah at 8:31 AM on March 18, 2012

I would think it is better to leave up an uninsured garage than to tear down a perfectly good one because you have no insurance.
posted by AugustWest at 8:40 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Convert the garage into a residence? You'd just need to add about 40 square feet for a bathroom and incorporate a kitchen counter with range and fridge down one wall. A motel combination unit may suffice for a kitchen while taking up minimal space. And a bathroom is a very handy thing to have in a garage; especially one without a house handy.

But easier would be to consult with a broker. Surely someone is willing to insure a standalone workshop (rather than an outbuilding, terminology might be everything.)
posted by Mitheral at 8:43 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Obvious question, but have you tried talking to other insurance companies about a nonresidential property insurance policy? Lots of companies (at least in the US--your question and profile don't specify, but U.S. property insurance is all I know about) offer this for noncommercial properties like boat houses, barns, equipment sheds, pool houses, and garages. The trick is to search for nonresidential property insurance and then specify noncommercial property.
posted by crush-onastick at 8:46 AM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

seconding crush-onastick. I think your insurance company should work harder on this with you, and if they don't find one that will. We had no problem doing something similar with American Family. Maybe work with an agent, if you're not already?
posted by werkzeuger at 9:00 AM on March 18, 2012

State Farm (farm probably the operative word here) insures two free-standing barns/equipment shelters for us with no house involved.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 9:29 AM on March 18, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks crush-onastick - I did call another insurer, but they told me the same thing as my current one (AAA), so I thought I was stuck. And when I asked AAA and the other company for options, they were reluctant to refer me elsewhere. The only suggestion they had was to leave the house standing and insure with them.

And I will definitely also try workshop insurance, since there is a car mechanic's section in the garage.

Thanks for the help, guys! I'll post back once I try these options.

Also, we are in the US ( Northern Illinois) I forgot to add that to my question when I was typing it up.

Any other suggestions appreciated, thanks so much!
posted by mezzanote at 9:50 AM on March 18, 2012

You really need to get in touch with an independent agent. What you're asking for is a bit outside the norm, but insurers have a wide variety of products and services available, so many that a lot of agents don't actually know what they all are. So the problem is that you're likely asking for a specific product which only handles traditional exposures and isn't set up for this non-traditional exposure.

But I guarantee you, if there's a risk which can be identified, someone out there has figured out how to insure it. So rather than say "I need product [x] to do [y]," which it may in fact not do, you need to talk about this in terms of exposure. Say "Hey, I've got [x], and I need to insure it." Let the agent figure out which product you want. That's his job.
posted by valkyryn at 11:18 AM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm in Illinois and with State Farm; my outbuilding garage is insured separately from the house. If you're rebuilding a house I fail to see any problem; if its going to be JUST a garage that's more unusual, but farm buildings, hunting buildings, non-habitable recreational property buildings, workshops, etc., are insured all the time. Try a local State Farm agent.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:27 PM on March 18, 2012

Response by poster: Part of the problem seems to be that the property is classed 'residential'. I guess if it was a farm property, it wouldn't have been so off-the-wall.

And construction insurance was offered as a possibility, but we have no immediate plans in the works for that, and I'd rather not have to choose between rushing a house project or leaving the garage uninsured.Leaving the house standing is an option, but not a very attractive one.

State Farm is on may short list, as is American Modern and Farmers, who have a 'specialty home' category.

Thanks again for all the help.
posted by mezzanote at 2:02 PM on March 18, 2012

Response by poster: Just a quick update in case anyone is reading this...

So I tried a local State Farm agent, and was told that they couldn't insure me.
Tried a Farmer's agent, who said the same thing...
I am currently in limbo, waiting to hear back from Country Companies and some mysterious insurer connected with State Farm who handles 'these kinds of cases'.

At least everyone has been more helpful with referrals this time around. And it was quite nice of Brandon to do all that calling around on my behalf - Thanks, Brandon!
posted by mezzanote at 7:13 AM on March 21, 2012

Response by poster: Another update:

If you're in a similar situation as mine, DO NOT cancel your current insurance while you are looking for a new policy - American Modern told me that they wouldn't insure the structure because it had been uninsured for 31 days. Quite a cop-out, imho.
posted by mezzanote at 11:02 AM on April 2, 2012

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