Homeowners warned over increased risk of underinsurance as house prices fall but rebuild costs rise

Millions of home owners could be at risk of underinsurance according to new research that found just 4.8% intend to increase the level of cover for rebuild costs in their home insurance.

Related topics:  insurance,  Protection,  home insurance
Warren Lewis
15th February 2023
"Although house prices are falling, inflation is sending rebuild costs ever higher, so now is not the time to be reducing rebuild cover"

The data comes from a new poll by home insurer, NFU Mutual, which also found that a significantly greater number of homeowners – 7.9% - intended to reduce their rebuild cost cover, while the vast majority – 87% - would keep cover the same.

This highlights an area of confusion for many, as falling house prices reduce the value of people’s homes but inflationary rises in the cost of materials and labour greatly increase the cost to rebuild a property which has been destroyed.

House prices have dropped by over 4% since their peak last year, with many analysts predicting further reductions to come. However, inflation and supply chain problems have driven up the cost of both labour and materials used in property construction and repairs. Rebuild costs have outstripped inflation, rising 19% from 2022 to 2023, according to the BCIS rebuilding cost index.

What to consider when calculating rebuild cost

The insurance value isn't based on a mortgage valuation or a percentage of market value – neither of these is an indication of what it will cost to reinstate the property and are therefore likely to be an inaccurate estimate for rebuilding costs.

The age of the property should be considered, particularly properties that have Listed Building status or are in a conservation area, which may require additional permissions and specialist craftsmen and materials and could result in a higher sum insured being required.

The property’s construction materials should be taken into account - for example, stone or non-standard materials such as ‘green or high tech’ or thatched roofing, can be unique and difficult to obtain. Check your insurer has the expertise and network to adequately obtain these materials.

Extensive outbuildings, garages, store sheds, brick walls, courtyards, driveways and even tennis courts also need to be included in the valuation.

The fixtures and fittings within the property and any recent extensions, alterations or refurbishments as well as the location and access to the building and site.

Andrew Chalk, Home Insurance Specialist at NFU Mutual, comments: “Although house prices are falling, inflation is sending rebuild costs ever higher, so now is not the time to be reducing rebuild cover.

“With the vast majority of respondents saying they intend to keep cover the same, this poll suggests that most people are not falling into the trap of confusing property value with rebuild cost.

“However, the soaring cost of construction could mean that these people could also find themselves underinsured, particularly if they haven’t changed their rebuild cost cover for a number of years.

“If anything, homeowners should check whether this should be increased to ensure they are fully protected should the worst happen. As only 4.8% indicated they intended to do this, there could be a worrying number of homeowners exposing themselves to the risk of underinsurance and not being able to reinstate their home should it be destroyed.

“We urge everyone not to confuse house prices with rebuild costs and to check with your insurer, a chartered surveyor, or on the BCIS Public Rebuild Calculator to make sure you are not underinsured. Those in older properties, listed buildings or with unusual construction like thatched roofs should remember that the cost of reinstatement is likely to be more due to the specialist skills and equipment needed to rebuild the property.”

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