Your property is likely to be your most valuable asset, so it goes without saying that you'd want to insure it. If anything were to happen, like a fire or natural disaster, it can be hugely stressful emotionally and financially.
Lately, many insurance companies have been reviewing the way they insure and what they charge as premiums, as natural events are only becoming more common worldwide. If you're looking to buy or sell, it's important to think carefully about your insurance options.
"Insurance needs to be right up there on your 'to do' list when buying a home. A reputable lender will usually want proof that you've arranged property insurance before settlement," says Kevin Lampen-Smith, chief executive of the Real Estate Authority (REA).
Finding out about a property's 'insurability' starts with talking to different insurance companies to get quotes. Consider meeting with an insurance broker – an independent insurance expert who doesn't work for any particular insurance company.
If you haven't owned a property before but you have contents insurance, contact the company that this insurance is with. Having an existing relationship with an insurer can help show others that you're a 'good risk'.
An insurer will want to know details about the property, such as its address, age, condition and what materials it's made from.
"If there's a licensed real estate agent selling the property, they can help you with this information. You can also ask if the property is currently insured and whether there have been any incidents at the property that could affect its chances of being reinsured in the future," Lampen-Smith says.
Ask whether the property has been subject to an Earthquake Commission (EQC) claim. If it has, request more information and seek legal advice. Be aware that insurance companies are reassessing how they cover coastal or clifftop properties due to the increasing risk of environmental damage.
"As the risk changes, the cost of premiums may increase, exclusions may be added, or insurance cover may be withdrawn for some properties," he says.
The most common type of insurance cover is 'sum insured' – you decide how much cover you want, based on what it would cost to completely rebuild the property.
"It's important to get this number right," Lampen-Smith says. "Set it too high and you could be paying for insurance you don't need, but set it too low and the payout may not be enough to rebuild the home,"
While earthquake damage is covered by EQC, in order to qualify for it you must have valid private home and/or contents insurance that includes fire insurance. If you're looking at an apartment, this insurance will usually be included in the annual body corporate fee.
"Check this carefully before you make the offer."
If you cannot find a company willing to insure a property you're interested in, it may be safer to walk away.
"Don't leave any insurance matters to the last minute or fail to read the fine print," Lampen-Smith says.
If the insurer agrees to cover the property, and your offer is accepted, let your lender know immediately.