The house insurance annual renewal came in by mail a few weeks ago. The amount had dropped to about $1,800 per year after several uneventful hurricane seasons. Since we hadn’t so much as lost a shingle during those eventful hurricane seasons, we were pretty danged unhappy that our annual insurance premium jumped from $500 a year to over $2,500 per year to pay for the mansions that had sprung up along the coast replacing the previous beach shacks. That, along with the annual property taxes, meant we were paying the cost to replace the structure of the house @ every ten years.
One by one, the insurance companies that covered our homeowner’s insurance (hello, STATE FARM!) left the northeast Florida market even though we’d had no insurance losses. Maybe they all moved in order to cover dwellings in the midwest prior to the large tornado outbreaks. Maybe they then moved to cover the northeast prior to Sandy. I can only hope.
We had just switched insurance companies again last year when yet another company decided to stop covering Florida and move someplace safer, like providing coverage along the San Andreas fault. Our independent insurance agent found this company and we were fairly happy with it, although the premiums were higher than what we liked, but they provided good coverage. SwampMan ripped open the envelope. “$1,800.00!” he cried in anguish. “I ain’t payin’ it. You were supposed to find a better insurance company!”
“We went through this two years ago. There is no better insurance company.”
“What about all that mail that I put on your desk from People’s Trust Insurance Company? Why haven’t you called them?”
“Because anything that has a name like People’s Trust means that they’re in the business of screwing people!” I opined.
“Well, call them tomorrow. And get reduced insurance coverage!”
So, I called them the next day without very high expectations. I was directed to a perky young man. “Hi, we’re looking for a quote on house insurance. We live in a masonry house, and there’s not much that could go wrong with it that we couldn’t fix for $50,000. What’s the lowest rate we could get?” He looked up our house, and told us that they could do $200,000 of coverage with $20,000 for contents, $20,000 for other outbuildings, and $20,000 for loss of use. The deductible was $2,500 and an additional 3% of damage for hurricanes. Our “outbuildings” consist of three largish barns, a small concrete block separate building, and a small frame building.
I was somewhat less than impressed. I didn’t know exactly what our present coverage was, but I knew our present house coverage was @ $300,000, and the contents and outbuilding coverage was far higher than offered by this insurance company.
“Most people don’t need more than $20,000 for contents. Do you have anything more valuable than that?” he asked. Steeeeeerike one. Well, there are my spinning wheels, looms, and wool-processing equipment that I got back in the pre-Obama era when I was making way more money. The wool picker alone would cost $600.00 to replace new. The extra fine drum carder costs $600.00. Then I have hand carders, viking combs, a floor loom and a tabletop loom, two spinning wheels, and assorted accessories. There’s probably $10,000 replacement-cost of wool hobby equipment just in that one room. Could I get the used equipment from, say, Craigslist to replace it? I don’t know but, considering this is Florida, probably NOT. We could probably build most of it, though. Maybe.
Then there are my wood carving tools. The Pfeil gouges, an entire toolbox full of Swiss and German tools. The AMT tools. The Japanese saws. Then there’s my cooking stuff. The pressure cooker. The pressure canners. Are appliances contents or part of the structure of the house, like the built in dishwasher and the double oven which costs over $2,000 to replace? WHAT about my painting tools? The HVLP sprayer? SwampMan’s CNC machine? Well, maybe the insurance premium would be low enough to justify the risk.
“Yeah, we could probably repair everything for that amount!” Except for the outbuildings. And replacing the contents. But SwampMan wanted the lowest possible insurance bill this year.
“Oh, you wouldn’t have to repair it. We send a crew out to do that!” said the helpful young man. Steeeeerike two.
“You send a crew? My husband is a building contractor. You KNOW both of us would be watching the construction crew like hawks and saying “No, sunshine, I don’t THINK so!” whenever we saw them using inferior materials or practices.”
“Oh, our crews only use the very best of materials and they’re very skilled!” Riiiiiight. We build ABOVE code for our own house. The code is minimum standard. They would be following code. If we needed help, we’d rather hire people whose work we know, and purchase our own materials, not rely on some itinerant crew patched together by an insurance company using materials from God knows where who may or may not know their ass from a hole in the ground. In the event of a big disaster like a hurricane or tornado, how long would we have to wait for the crew to arrive to fix the damage?
“So, what’s the premium?”
“Only $1,300 something a year.” Steeeerike three and yer OUT!
He wanted my Email address to send the quote. I gave it to him so that I’d have something to show SwampMan as to how I was right about the name of the company. My Email address is the old one I used to have for the farm in Georgia. “You have a farm?” queried the young man.
“Not really. I used to raise sheep. Now I just have a small hobby flock for the wool and to pay the taxes.” He promised to send the quote out soon.
A few days later, SwampMan asked if I’d EVER gotten around to contacting the insurance company as he’d requested. “Yeah, yeah I did. They offered $200,000 for the house, and $20,000 for the contents.”
“Great. That means the premium is really low, right?”
“A little under $1,400. I don’t remember exactly.”
He took out our existing insurance policy, comparing each detail. “Our insurance policy doesn’t cost much more, and the coverage is far superior”, he observed. “I think we’ll stick with that.”
“Well, they do send out their own construction company and materials to fix any damage!” I offered helpfully.
“Oh, HELL, no!” said SwampMan. “We’ll DEFINITELY stick with our existing coverage!”
“Well, that’s good. They sent another Email cancelling their offer of a policy because we have commercial sheep.”
“Apparently the sheep may rush out and attack visitors.”
“The same sheep that run and hide in the far pasture when our grandkids go out to play?”
“Yep. Stealthy as well as vicious.”
“The sheep that only you can get near?”
“They the ones.”
“So, what are the sheep supposed to do? Gum them? Do these people know that sheep only have bottom teeth for tearing off grass, not human flesh?”
“Maybe they’re afraid that they’ll rush up as a flock, jump on visitors, and smother them with their fleeces?”
“How do they feel about dogs?”
“They didn’t ask.”
“So we can have a pack of rabid pit bulls and get house insurance, but we can have no sheep?
“Looks like, but there may be something against rabid pit bulls in the fine print that I did not read because I didn’t care for the coverage.”
“Well, screw ’em.”