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PROPERTY: Get a good home insurance plan

The possibility of their homes being burgled or damaged by fire or water is not something most home owners would like to consider (for feat of tempting fate). But despite the seemingly remote odds, what if your home does catch fire one day? Even if you take the utmost precaution against a blaze, your neighbours might not, and an inferno next door could very well spread to your unit, too. Therefore, always remember to get a good insurance plan to protect your home.

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Photo: Archibald Insurance

If you live in a HDB flat, you would be somewhat protected under the compulsory HDB Fire Insurance scheme, but that only covers the physical structure of the flat- the four walls and limited fixtures and fittings. What about your designer furniture, valuable collections and expensive art pieces that were consumed by the flames? The damage done would be very costly, which is why a home insurance will transfer the risk of such damages to an insurer.

Your home and its contents could possibly be the biggest financial investment you’ve made, especially if you spent a bundle on renovations and furnishings. So, it is crucial to secure the value of this investment through a suitable home insurance plan. We list your options.

Consider this
With a variety of home plans offered by different insurance companies, how do you choose the right one for you? HDB flat and condominium dwellers are covered by the HDB and condo management corporation respectively, but only against fire damage to the building and common property. It is your responsibility to insure your own renovations and personal effects. Landed property owners should get insurance for the structure, renovations and contents.

When you apply for a new home loan, banks sometimes offer home insurance plans underwritten by insurance firms on a promotional basis. For example, Standard Chartered partners with MSIG Insurance (Singapore) on both its Home Protect and Enhanced Home Protect plans, which offer benefits such as alternative accommodation expenses, personal accident cover, personal liability cover and a 24-hour emergency home assistance service.

If you prefer to shop around, a good starting point is determining the level of protection you require. Choose a plan that offers enough coverage for your home, what the exclusions and extension clauses in the policies are and the competitiveness of its premium. It’s important to know what items the policy excludes and whether the contract includes extension clauses, which are value-added services that supplement the main benefits. For instance, if there has been a theft in your home, AXA’s SmartHome policy will also pay for the replacement of your home’s locks and keys in addition to reimbursing the loss of items covered in the policy.

Plan ahead
Home insurance premiums are actually not as expensive as you might think. There are a variety of policies on the market and, like life insurance plans, their premium climb in tandem with the insured amount or claim limits. Each insurance company usually offers various tiered plans that provide incremental levels of protection. NTUC Income, for instance, offers Standard and Comprehensive plans for both HDB and private homes. The Standard plan for HDBs covers renovations and home contents only, with annual premiums starting at $35.31 for a three-bedroom flat and going up to $75.97 for an Executive Flat or HUDC apartment. The Comprehensive plan tacks on additional coverage for damage to the building. The company’s tiered plans for private homes carry premiums of up to $438.70 a year.

AXA’s SmartHome Essential, meanwhile, offers four tiers of protection. The entry-level tier gives you $50,000 worth of coverage on the same renovation works for $53.50 a year, while the top-level tier ups the coverage on the same renovation to $25.50 a year, while the renovation to $250,000 for $163.18 a year, among a host of other benefits. For more comprehensive coverage, the Optimum plan includes a longer list of benefits with premiums ranging from $112.35 to $353.10.

Companies might also throw in coverage of medical expenses, loss following misuse of ATM or credit cards, loss of personal papers like identity cards, driving license and title documents, emergency cash allowance deterioration of frozen food, loss of domestic pets and even “stress payment”. As a general rule of thumb, the higher the value of your home contents, the higher the claim limits required. One of the ways homeowners can gauge the amount of coverage required is to do an inventory of their belongings.

As water damage is common in Singapore, it would be wise to ensure that your home insurance policy covers this. Some plans also offer customisable options. For example, if your expensive paintings at home are valued above standard claim limits, you might want to consider getting additional itemised coverage for them. For this, AXA offers SmartHome prestige, which is tailored to insure fine art, antiques and valuables such as jewellery, watches, wines, furs and silverware. Premiums for this plan start at $950 a year.

Don’t forget to check the exclusions- whether the policy excluded loss from situations such as flooding, loss or damage by a tenant (for rented properties), wear and tear of the property and the unexplained loss of items. Also, check whether there are any excesses or deductibles in the policy. These two terms are used interchangeably and refer to the amount of money you have to fork out in case of claim, before the policy coverage takes over.

The amount you can claim for each item in your home may be fixed upfront according to your plan. For instance, each insurance company will have its own set of guidelines on claim limits for different items- computers, mobile phones and other valuables such as watches. To make a claim, some insurance require you to keep the receipts as proof of purchase while other top-tier plans may not require you to do so. It’s best to always read the fine print.

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