Take a minute to protect your home | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Take a minute to protect your home

Lake Tahoe homeowners have a lot to be happy about as it relates to rising real estate values in the basin… with one exception: The price of replacing a home in the case of severe damage, especially in fire-prone forest areas.

While home prices have been climbing dramatically over the last few years – 17 percent in South Lake Tahoe last year, according to one report – homeowners’ policies can fall behind in covering the replacement value of homes. In the case of a catastrophic loss, construction costs are more than likely to exceed $150 per square foot, with many of Tahoe’s homes eclipsing $200 a foot. Older, out-of-date policies may not come close to covering the difference.

At a time when awareness of fire danger should be at an all-time high – this region of the Sierra has seen four major fires in as many years, with a handful of homes lost in Carson City last summer – homeowners should take the time to ensure they are covered.

Catastrophic insurance is a tricky business. Many homeowners prefer minimal policies because of the cost and the likelihood they will never need to use it (according to a report by the Tribune’s Gregory Crofton, one in 20,000 policy holders make a catastrophic claim), and insurance providers compete with each other on price. But adjusting coverage to completely cover a home, and potential construction cost overruns, is worth the relatively small increase in annual premiums. Gambling against nature is always a dangerous bet, especially in densely forested areas.

Of course the easiest way to avoid a big insurance claim, and the extra costs associated, is to plan ahead. Many local and federal agencies are working on long-term plans to clear fire fuels away from populated areas. And many local homeowners have worked toward creating defensible space around their homes and made their homes safer by replacing shingled roofs with composition materials. But the progress is slow.

This year, homeowners should make it a point to update their insurance policies, and take measures to decrease the likelihood of their homes being damaged in fires, earthquakes and floods. It may cost a little more now, but the long run savings will be worth it.

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