Karl found us insurance!
What we ended up with is a vacant-property policy through the same broker that the sellers were using.
I was gung-ho initially to really understand this insurance mess, to really grok what kind of policy takes care of what sorts of issues. But, alas, that turned out to be murkier than I could have imagined. In fact, I think the insurance might be more daunting than the whole rehab. Thankfully, Karl took the project on and at least found us a policy.
What I do know: For $1,037 — with a $2,500 deductible — we are covered through September 18. Should the house catch on fire, we’re ok. Should the house get robbed, well, that’s another story. We couldn’t find a policy of any sort that would cover theft. So, pray to the gods, old and new, that nobody breaks in to steal our copper. (After all, they will quickly discover we’re plumbing in Pex for just this reason.)
We did try a number of other types of insurance policies, but the stumbling block was always our boarded-up windows and the fact that we weren’t yet living in the house. So we ended up where we started, with vacant property insurance.
For anyone else embarking on this adventure, let me save you some time: Until you have windows in and are living in the house, you will need vacant property insurance. I tried and tried to get just a basic homeowner’s policy, and agent after agent said, “Yeah, sure, no problem,” only to quickly discover that, in fact, it was a problem.
Sadly, very few companies offer these speciality policies — and sometimes they only offer them in certain counties. For example, Farmers makes a big production about how it offers vacant-property insurance. On the website it even says, “Not everybody loves insuring vacant homes. But Farmers does.”
Yeah, it lies. Farmers no longer issues these kinds of policies in Wayne County. In a city where nearly 30% of the housing sits vacant — and people like us need coverage to renovate the homes and bring them back to life — Farmers doesn’t actually love insuring the vacant homes. Thanks for all the help, y’all.
Anyway, you might be able to get away with a regular homeowner’s policy if you have windows — and I mean actual windows; boarded up doesn’t count — but aren’t yet living there. Ask your insurance agent if you can just get a regular policy with a vacant-property rider. Or, if a basic homeowner’s policy will cover you if the house will be vacant for less than 90 days. But the key here is this: 90 days. Insurance companies will work with you below the 90 day mark; after that, the policy gets trickier if not impossible.
But until you have windows, you’re stuck with a vacant property policy. (This is for people like us who are rehabbing a house; if you’re building one from scratch, then you’re looking for builder’s risk insurance.) And there’s no use in lying to the agent: insurance companies often send someone by the house to take pictures for the underwriters. Once they see the boards in the windows, all bets are off.
Pro tip: Have your agent look up your house on Trulia while you’re on the phone. It shows a great street view and the agent can immediately see what type of property you’re trying to insure and determine if there are any obvious concerns for the underwriters.