As you might expect, there are lots of ways to keep your home insurance from getting out of hand. Your best chance to take action is when you are in the planning stages of building a new structure. There are of course some improvements that can be retrofitted later, but they usually prove more costly.
Location, location, location are said to be the three most important considerations in the realtor's world of buying and selling homes but location does carry weight with future insurance premiums as well. For instance, building in a flood zone will add to your expense. The same is true if you build a home in a remote or difficult to reach location. This is mainly due to the response time of the fire department and the increased risk of wild fires. Other location considerations include loss claims due to crime, landslide risk, earthquake risk and the distance to the ocean or large bodies of water, among others. Strong storms, such as hurricanes and the risk of storm surge also factor into close ocean (or large bodies of water) proximity. Many insurers refuse to quote buildings within a 1 mile distance of the ocean and some will even decline any building structures within 3 miles of an ocean. Fortunately there are carriers that will write coverage either way, just fewer of them. There is only so much one can do to build in a safe place, but building on a hill, rather then a depression and building out of flood zones can go a long way in reducing your future insurance rates. Most lenders require the buyer to carry flood insurance in flood zones, so it's best to avoid this situation all together if possible.
The next thing to consider is the building materials and methods. Since there are too many to discuss here, I will cover just four of them.
In general, I have found that manufactured homes have fewer options for insurers, and fewer still when wood burning heat is included and unfortunately as the manufactured home ages (about 5 years+) additional carriers refuse to quote or insure them.
Stick-built construction is the most common home type in the US and thus is widely accepted by most insurers. Adding fire suppression, such as interior fire sprinklers can make an appreciable difference with your insurance premium. Adding fire resistant exterior siding, such as cement fiber planks or panels can also be a good move when it is time to reside your existing home. Adding a metal roof is often an insurance premium saver and a good move if you live in a forest or a heavily treed environment. Some insurers may charge more to cover a home with a metal roof, because of the perceived risk from hail damage or because of the value added to the rebuild cost, so be sure to check around and avoid insurers that surcharge you for self-preservation.
Making your home design complex, with unique roofing, window or decking features for example may also drive up the rebuild cost and your insurance premium along with it.
Energy efficient construction is becoming more popular, as people realize that they can cut future energy bills significantly, without adding a bunch of of money into the building costs.
There are many choices out there but many "net zero" or "zero net" homes seem to obtain most of their energy savings from Structural Insulated Panels (SIPS) or ICF construction. I know little about SIPS, but they are basically two larger OSB plywood pieces with foam insulation inside them, resembling an ice cream sandwich, that snap tightly together into a pre-configured position. From the online videos I have seen it appears that they are very efficient and assemble fairly quickly.
My personal favorite method and material is often referred to as Insulated Concrete Forms (ICF). These are foam blocks that are stacked (kinda like Lego blocks) to make your home's walls and then filled with concrete and rebar for strength. The interior and exterior have insulation built in from the beginning, which has a big impact on sound reduction and energy savings. These ICF homes also benefit from reduced fire insurance expense, as you might expect and a reduced risk from wind damage and pest damage (since there is no room for pests to crawl between the walls and nibble on wires).
Ultimately, building your home in a city, on a flat surface, out of a flood zone, with a solid, fire resistant home and flame resistant roof surface should go along way to save you money and stress. It's good to remember that one may eventually pay off the house, but one never pays off the insurance; so it makes sense to keep continual costs, such as energy costs and insurance down from the very beginning.
Consider the greatest hazards in your area and build to reduce your risks or exposures to those hazards.
If you would like more savings ideas give me a call or an email, I would be glad to help.