Replacement Cost vs. Market Value – Home Insurance Valuations

It is important to understand the difference between replacement cost and market value and how they relate to your insurance.  This article helps clarify the issues.

Joan Dowd-Liebrock

My home is only worth $120,000. Why does my insurance company want me to insure it for $275,000?

One of the biggest questions consumers have regarding homeowner’s insurance revolves around the amount of insurance to place on their dwelling (home). When purchasing a house, the mortgage company requires the homeowner to obtain insurance prior to closing. Most consumers assume the amount of dwelling coverage will be equal to the amount they paid for their house. This is incorrect in some cases.

There are different methods to determine the value of a house. Market value is the price paid for your house. Replacement cost is the price or cost it will take to rebuild your house in the same spot, same size and same quality of construction, at today’s costs. Insurance companies use the replacement cost valuation. These can be two completely different numbers.

For example, a home purchased in a depressed city neighborhood, may have a market value of $120,000. The exact house, located in a nice suburb, may have a market price of $285,000; however, the cost to rebuild the house after a loss would be the same in either location. The insurance company is looking to insure the home for the full replacement value, not the current market value. Remember, they are going to pay to build you a new home, not buy one for you down the street.

Home in Thriving Suburb   Home in Depressed Neighborhood
Square Foootage of Home 2,500 2,500
Year Built 1920 1920
Market Value $285,000 $120,000
Cost to Replace/Rebuild Home $275,000 $275,000

For insurance purposes, you should insure your home to 100% of it’s replacement cost. This will ensure the ability to rebuild the entire house, the way it is now, in the event of a total loss. One thing to remember, you’re not insuring the land so leave this out of the replacement cost valuation of the dwelling.

Consult with your insurance agent and explain your home in detail regarding: square footage, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, kitchen, basement, fireplace etc. Insurance companies use a formula to generate the correct replacement cost. The coverage amount and the premium might be a bit higher, however you’ll be properly insured. After a claim occurs is not the time to find out your insurance is not adequate. Having 100% replacement cost on the dwelling takes away this possibility.

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