Climate-related extreme weather events are expected to impact more individuals in the U.S. each year. To learn more about severe weather and other property risks to homeowners on the Atlantic Coast, we spoke with Anella Niewenhous, Associate Vice President, Regional Practice Group Leader, Personal Insurance, Burns & Wilcox, Morehead City, North Carolina.
What are some of the greatest risks facing Atlantic Coast homeowners today?
A.N.: The biggest risk up and down the East Coast is hurricane exposure. Everyone holds their breath when hurricane season starts. Homeowners Insurance prices continue to go up as hurricane patterns change, and homeowners need to know if they have the right type of insurance.
What should these homeowners be aware of relative to this risk?
A.N.: They need to understand the area that they are living in. I live in a coastal area that has been hit by hurricanes before, but some homeowners do not fully understand the risk they have living in a coastal area. As we have seen over the past few years, it does not matter where you are living up and down the East Coast. Hurricanes are not picky as to where they land along the coastline. If you are there, it is going to hit at some point; it is just a matter of when.
What should Atlantic Coast residents know about Homeowners Insurance?
A.N.: Understanding what is included and what is excluded in their policy is so important. Flood, for example, is not included in a Homeowners Insurance policy and a lot of homeowners do not understand that. Someone with an oceanfront property is also going to want wind coverage, but there are policies that exclude wind and they may have to get a separate wind policy. Also, just because something is included, there could be limitations around how coverage kicks in. Homeowners should sit down with their broker and go through their policy to figure out the best coverage for each particular situation. Homes also need to be fully insured — if you have a home that will cost $1 million to replace, it needs to be insured for $1 million.
Are there steps that homeowners should take to complement their insurance coverage?
A.N.: They should take an inventory of their house and know what its contents are. If they go through a total loss, there is no way they are going to remember everything that they had. Wind mitigation features, such as hurricane shutters or impact glass, are also important to help protect homes in the event of a storm.
What features of Homeowners Insurance are specific to Burns & Wilcox?
A.N.: We just rolled out a program being attached to a majority of our Homeowners Insurance policies. It is a Cyber Response program in partnership with Node International and the goal of that is to provide clients with a variety of cyber restoration and ID theft support services to aid them in the event of a cyber event.
What are the greatest opportunities for brokers to get into Homeowners Insurance?
A.N.: Educate yourself. Your carrier reps and your underwriters are your main sources of information; get to know them and understand what they offer. Networking is also very important. If I was a new broker wanting to get into Homeowners Insurance, I would become friends with every real estate agent in town and reach out to different local associations from a networking perspective. Also, figure out what type of clientele you are going after. If you are going after high-net-worth affluent clientele, for example, really wrap your head around what that means because they may require different types of insurance than your everyday individual.
What advice would you give brokers to increase their success rates with Homeowners Insurance?
A.N.: Understand who your client is and what it is they are trying to cover. If you have a client with a $1 million beachfront home, they may have a lot of items in that home and that can impact the types of coverage they need. It is about really doing a deep dive into the client and what needs they have specific to their homes.
What advice would you give brokers on targeting people to sell this coverage to?
A.N.: In the area I live in, some of the most successful insurance agencies are in the same building as a real estate agency because they go hand in hand. Make sure that your network is large enough. Billboards and print mail work, but word of mouth is everything.
What questions should brokers be asking clients relative to Homeowners Insurance?
A.N.: Who is living there and how is it going to be occupied? Is there anything else going on at the home that we should be made aware of, such as a home business or a walkout basement used for an Airbnb? What are you looking to get out of your insurance? What does insurance mean to you as a client?
Homeowners Insurance, Atlantic Coast
Why your clients need it: Climate-related extreme weather events are expected to impact more individuals in the U.S. each year. Hurricane exposure is the biggest risk to homeowners along the Atlantic Coast.
Protects against: Damage or destruction of a home and its contents in the event of a hurricane or extreme weather event.
Expert opinion: “Hurricanes are not picky as to where they land along the coastline. If you are there, it is going to hit at some point; it is just a matter of when.” Anella Niewenhous, Associate Vice President, Regional Practice Group Leader, Personal Insurance, Burns & Wilcox