Homeowners Insurance Purchasing Tips

Don’t Forget The Homeowners Insurance

By Stephanie Goedl
June 26, 2019

Don’t Forget The Insurance

Have you ever had a real estate transaction that was held up until the buyer could obtain homeowners insurance? In this episode of our podcast insurance agent Michael Williams of Williams Insurance discusses the importance of starting the insurance process early and situations of fire-risk, flood insurance and past claims that could hold up the transaction.

Why Order The Policy Early?

Homeowners insurance is such a big piece of owning a home but it’s usually one of those last-minute items buyers think of in the home buying process. It really shouldn’t be. Michael suggests that once you open up escrow the buyer should contact their insurance agent. It’s not that hard to get an initial quote even before escrow or the lender start requesting information. One of the main reasons to start the process early is due to the fire exposures in our state. Unfortunately, the wildfires have been tremendous and Michael explained that they are reshaping how the industry works. He said that people are going to be very shocked to see their premiums change and a lot of non-renewals. Houses that you wouldn’t think are fire-risk are going to have a much more difficult time getting coverage.


I was in Sacramento recently for the annual California Association of Realtors conference and this was a hot topic. Fire-risk on properties is impacting the housing affordability. I asked Michael about the how the insurance industry is dealing with this. He explained that there is a system called “Fireline” that assesses the “score” of the house and the likelihood of exposure to a wildfire. That number combined with a special hazard square that they come up with determines whether a carrier wants to write a policy for a house in that area. The mapping for that is changing and also the acceptable scores are changing. Michael said carriers used to be much more lenient than they are now. Houses that you wouldn’t think have a brush exposure are getting denied.

There are a number of things that come into play when a home or area is “scored” through this system. They look at road access, utility quality, the wind and a number of different things that go into deciding whether it’s acceptable. Michael told us about a program the state runs called Fair Plan and how the insurance carriers partner with this government fund for hard-to-place risks. It can be a lot more expensive, on average a 25% increase over what most people expect their premiums to be. They will take higher risk properties but it’s more complicated and there are multiple layers of the policy.

Here’s a scenario that happens more often than you think and it is the exact reason you should encourage your buyers to start the insurance process early:

You’re nearing the close of escrow, the lender is requesting proof of homeowner’s insurance, you’ve removed contingencies and the buyer learns that the property is in what the insurer considers a high-risk area. Two things could derail this transaction – 1) The policy is more expensive than they can afford or 2) The property is uninsurable. What do you do now?

Flood Insurance

Another thing to consider is if the property is going to need flood insurance. Michael explained that they are re-mapping the flood zones which means that flood insurance is another policy that could be required by the lender. Homes that have not been required in the past to get flood insurance are now needing it. He reminded us that this requirement will be an additional cost to the buyer, so it‘s in everyone’s best interest to call the insurance agent as soon as possible to avoid surprises at the close of escrow.

Past Claims

Michael explained that insurance companies also look at “claims history” on the property. The claims history of the property made by the prior owner could affect the eligibility and rate for the buyer. Not all carriers have that stipulation but a number of them do. Another thing to keep in mind is the claims the buyer has had at their current property could actually follow them to the new property they are purchasing. This could also affect the rate and insurability of the property.

We hope this information will help you guide your buyers as they start the homebuying process. You don’t want to hold up an escrow with something that could have been avoided with a little bit of forewarning. Knowing these potential hold ups will allow you to get your buyer on the right track from the start.

Listen to the show to discover more about the insurance process for homebuyers.


Stephanie Goedl

About the author: Stephanie Goedl is Chief Operating Officer and Broker/Owner of CENTURY 21 Discovery. If you are interested in becoming part of the CENTURY 21 Discovery team or would like more information about our services or training we provide contact us at 714.626.2069 or Careers@C21Discovery.com.


Michael Williams is the president of Williams Insurance in Fullerton, California. They have been around since 1941. They are a Property and Casualty Agency that handles home, auto and umbrella policies as well as commercial, health and life insurance. You can reach Michael at 714-526-5588 or mwilliams@williamsinsurance.com.

Closing on a home? Don’t Forget the Insurance

By Michael Williams
April 29, 2016

Congratulations! You found your clients perfect dream home. You used your years of experience, professional expertise and pockets full of patience to satisfy every one of their unique requests. So, why it is still stuck in escrow? Your client is saying it’s that pesky insurance agent!

InsuranceBlogimage1… But the real holdup might be that “perfect home”….

Below is a 3 part checklist that will help you identify potential hang-ups with your client’s home insurance.­­

1.      Location, Location, Location.
It’s not just important to REALTORS®. Insurance companies have three main location related exposures that can complicate securing a policy. Distance from Brush, proximity to Coastline or placement in a Flood Zone.

  • In wonderfully sunny Southern California, we don’t have to worry too much about wind or hail, but we can never forget about brush. A good rule of thumb is to use an online map service such as Google or Bing and measure the distance from open land to the home. A standard acceptable measurement for brush exposure is 1500 ft.
  • For our lucky friends on the coast, the average rule is 500 ft from the shore. Again, the best course of action here is to measure with an online map.
  • Finally, the wild card is a Flood Zone. Because you often cannot visually predict where a flood zone will be, a helpful site is FEMA’s mapping tool. Simply type in the address and it will return a flood zone score.

2.      The claim history matters: both buyers and the home.
This section often surprises many people. But the ability to insure the home is based off the loss history of both the buyer and the home itself. Insurance companies split blame for losses between the owner of the home and the structure itself. For example, when a water loss occurs, a point is assigned to the address and the owners. Getting as complete of a disclosure list as possible can help determine whether that home has a history of losses. In the state of California, water losses are the number one cause of loss and it is now almost universal for preferred market insurers to deny a home because of 2 or more water losses. If this is the case you can assume that insurance will double in cost and take a minimum of one week to place.

3. Good Bones vs. New Homes.
Age of the house is big player in acceptability. Some buyers want new construction and that’s great! But, others want classic charm. That beautiful home built in the 1920’s comes with its own host of potential hiccups. Many insurance companies won’t even write a home built prior to 1950. But the ones that do, require proof of complete upgrades to plumbing, heating, wiring and roofing. And it’s not just the cute cottage that could be a problem. Many Carriers are looking for upgrades on any home older than 20 years! So find out if the bones of that house beyond their useful life.


As every realtor knows, no two purchases are the same. And while the client should always get the house they want, it’s best to build in that little bit of extra time should one of the items above be a potential problem. Simply call the insurance agent a bit early. A little planning can make for a much smoother escrow.


About the Author: Michael Williams is Chief Operating Officer at Williams Insurance Company in Fullerton, CA. If you would like more information about insuring a home please call him at 714.526.5588 or visit the website at www.williamsinsurancefullerton.com

Homeowners Insurance Purchasing Tips

By Stephanie Goedl
July 21, 2015

I recently had the opportunity to interview Michael Williams of Williams Insurance Brokers as part of our Community Conversations Series. He offered some great insight and tips on what to consider when purchasing Homeowners Insurance. Watch the full interview below. Remember, when purchasing Homeowners Insurance always consult your professional insurance agent when you begin the home buying process.

About the author: Stephanie Goedl is the Chief Operating Officer of CENTURY 21 Discovery. For more information about CENTURY 21 Discovery you may call (714) 626-2000.