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Coverage Basics for Vermont Home Insurance:An Interview with Gary Roberts of Farm Country Insurance in St Johnsbury

By Gary Roberts

Tell us a little bit about your experience, company history and the services you offer.

Farm Country Insurance started in 1998. We are an independent insurance agency in St Johnsbury specializing in personal and small business insurance. We represent some of the best insurance companies in the country and strive to fit our clients with the right company and coverage for them.

Is there something about home insurance that most people in Vermont don't know that they should know?

Two points: First, valuable possessions. A standard homeowners policy covers valuable possessions such as jewelry, fine art, firearms and furs but only up to a certain amount. It varies by company, but is typically around $1,000 to $2,000 per item. If you have an item over that amount you want insured, you need to list that separately on the policy.

Another thing that confuses people is replacement cost vs. market value for homes. Most insurance companies will only insure homes for their replacement cost, the cost to rebuild the home. Many people want to insure their home for its' market value, how much it would sell for today. Depending on market conditions and factors such as labor rates and material costs, these can be very different numbers and people get quite frustrated about the variance.

When would a homeowner want to consider high value home insurance?

Generally, we now consider high value homes to be those with a value in excess of $500,000. Homes of this nature often have special coverage needs for which standard policies were not designed. Some of the additional coverages that this type of policy provides are: extended rebuilding cost coverage for the dwelling, replacement cost coverage for contents, backup of sewer and drains, identity fraud protection, electronic data restoration, automatic inclusion of personal injury protection providing coverage for lawsuits arising from false arrest, slander, libel, invasion of privacy and more, liability coverage extended to all owned properties and higher amounts of coverage than standard homeowners policies.

Owners of high value homes may also want to consider such additional coverages as: excess liability and umbrella liability coverage, liability insurance to cover domestic help, workers compensation for any employees, kidnap and ransom insurance and vacation home coverage.

What type of coverage does someone who owns a secondary or vacation home in Vermont need?

Secondary or vacation homes require insurance that protects the home but does not overlap with coverage on your primary home. While liability coverage usually extends from your primary home to the vacation home, there is not usually coverage for the secondary home itself.

A dwelling fire policy is used to insure the secondary or vacation home. It is available in standard, broad and special forms and mirrors the homeowners' policy in the coverage it provides. Note that most companies will only insure a secondary home if they also insure the primary residence.

Be aware that should you wish to rent out your secondary or vacation home part of the time you will need to purchase additional liability insurance for the increased risk.

What's the difference between a vacant and an unoccupied home when it comes to insurance needs?

  • A vacant house is empty of most furnishings and CANNOT be lived in.
  • An unoccupied house is furnished and COULD be lived in.
  • Homeowners' policies are intended for occupied homes and usually have a vacancy clause through which the policy will cancel once a home becomes vacant.
  • Insurance is available for both vacant and unoccupied homes, but will be more expensive for a vacant home than for an unoccupied home.

Do you have a tip for Vermont homeowners to help them save money on their home insurance premium?

  • Bundle your insurance. Most companies offer substantial discounts if both your home and auto are written with them
  • Use an independent insurance agent like Farm Country Insurance. They represent multiple insurance companies, which means more choices and better value for you.
  • What's the best way for people to get in touch with you and your company?

    We are located at 1951 Memorial Drive, St Johnsbury, VT, across the street from the Green Mountain Mall. Our website is www.farmcountry.net and our phone is 802-748-8081.

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