It takes a lot of effort to restore a historic home. As a reward for your efforts, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and will be secure in the knowledge that you have contributed to the preservation of the nation’s past emphasis on craftsmanship and design.
The catch is that a standard homeowner’s insurance policy will not cover the replacement of materials such as stately columns, antique doorknobs, and custom woodwork details that distinguish your home and make it worth preserving. Depending on the age of your home, the level of craftsmanship and materials required to restore it after a disaster may be extremely rare.
While some homes built before and up to the 1950s are eligible for inclusion in the historic registry, locating the appropriate brick, stone, and lumber materials from those eras can be difficult. Consider that when it comes to period-correct restorations, federal grants are difficult to come by for individual homeowners.
Insuring historic homes will entail you shouldering the responsibility of caring for your investment as well as American history.
Before issuing a policy, insurers frequently send restoration experts to a given home to ensure that it is properly covered. To arrive at an accurate valuation, these experts examine the architecture details and materials used in the construction of the home.
Standard policies, while covering homes for replacement market value, generally do not take into account the details of historic homes when it comes to replacing antique and hand-crafted features. What is the cost of replacing elaborate crown moldings or intricate plaster work? That is the information you require to know how to proceed when purchasing insurance.
So, how much will it cost to insure my historic property?
Some insurance companies will not even offer you a policy to protect your historic structure. They may believe that any potential payout risk is excessive, so it is up to you to shop around. If you need more information on insuring your historic home, the National Trust for Historic Preservation provides estimates, and state or local historic preservation societies can also help.
While a historic home can be costly to purchase and protect – specialty insurance can cost up to 20% more than a standard homeowners policy – you’re likely the type to put in the extra effort and money. When purchasing your policy, pay close attention to details like documenting previous repairs and restorations. That should help you keep your insurance company on the same page when it comes to any future issues.
Is it your intention to rebuild your historic home exactly as it was before the incident if it is damaged or, God forbid, destroyed? Are historically accurate materials and craftsmanship inexpensive? It’s also possible that if you live in a historic district, you won’t be able to replace elements of your home with modern materials like vinyl siding or some new roofing technologies.
When deciding on the level of homeowners insurance to purchase, consider the following factors:
Are you and your neighbors okay with rebuilding or replacing architectural features of your home with modern or replica materials?
If you insist on using only period materials and workmanship techniques in any rebuilding or repair efforts, you’ll need a much more expensive homeowners insurance policy that includes restoration coverage.
If you buy specialty coverage, you’ll still have to do the thankless task of reading all the fine print, because some policies may only require your insurer to replace your 1800s rough-sawn oak flooring with similar, but modern-made products.
What to Look for in Historic Home Insurance
Coverage for restoration: Pay close attention to the distinctions between how insurers define “restoration” and “replacement.” While those terms appear to cover the same ground, the reality can be quite different. If you’re purchasing expensive historic home insurance, make sure your policy specifies how those terms are defined.
Replacement coverage: While purchasing a homeowners policy that provides “functional replacement” of damaged elements may be less expensive, this path will not preserve what you love about the home and what provides its historical significance.
Why is it more expensive?
Historic home insurance is more expensive than standard homeowners insurance. The higher premiums account for the additional costs of replacing and restoring damages with historically accurate materials. Such materials – and the craftspeople who can install them – are not cheap.
Rebuilding a home built before 1945 is likely to cost 20% or more than rebuilding a home of similar size using modern materials and construction methods. It all boils down to one critical fact: restoring a historic home to its former glory after a disaster with period materials may cost far more than you expect. A professional risk evaluation is required to arrive at a useful valuation of your home before purchasing coverage.
Investigating Historic Home Insurance
Contacting state, local, and national historic preservation groups is a good place to start when looking for restoration insurance. You can also get more information from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.