BANG! My car had just been violently hit and the side view mirror hung broken and shattered at my driver side door. As it turned out, the entire side was damaged from bumper to bumper and would need extensive repair.
I'd been parked at a meter on Mountain Boulevard in Montclair, minding my own business, deep in conversation on an email chain so hadn't expected this unhappy event AT ALL! I literally jumped in my seat, let out a few expletives, as in, "What the #$*&!?", and tried to quickly collect my thoughts.
Gratefully, the driver who hit me, pulled into the bank parking lot and began to apologize profusely. (Her parents trained her well.) "I'm so sorry," the young woman began, "the roads here are really narrow and I'm not use to them. I was squeezed in by another car and was looking to turn up ahead . . . "
And then she paused for a second, "Do you think insurance will cover it?" she said as she held back her tears.
"Yes," I replied, recognizing that this sweet girl, just a year older than my younger son, was more shaken than I was, and that this unfortunate incident was probably her first real accident. (Sadly, not mine.)
"No one was hurt and cars can be repaired," I assured her. "This is exactly what insurance is for."
And so it is . . .
When it comes to our homes, good coverage is even more important (your home is a much BIGGER investment than your car), but with the recent catastrophic fires in both Northern and Southern California, not to mention those inconvenient earthquakes our state is prone to, added to the increasingly devastating events in OTHER regions of the country (tornados, hurricanes, floods, you name it . . .), acquiring homeowners' insurance can be tougher than it's ever been on new home purchases. (Evidently, insurance companies only want to insure your home if your are never going to make a claim.)
Yesterday, I met with a prospective Seller who lives in St. Helena but has a family house to sell in Berkeley, and although his St. Helena home wasn't affected by the recent fires, he lives high up on a hill, which makes his property a prime target for future blazes. So even though he didn't make a claim and in fact, has never made a claim to his insurer, he received a notice of cancellation nonetheless, and now has a finite window of time to find a new carrier. Good luck.
Here's the thing, if you are getting a loan for your home (and the vast majority of home purchases are accompanied by a loan), the lender will require insurance to be in place prior to funding. Which means that before you sign away ALL of your contingencies - including insurability - you might want to make sure that you can get your new home insured first!
This is especially important for homes up in the hills, those that lie in a floodplain, and residences that fall within the "earthquake zone," (Although let's be real, if the "BIG ONE" hits, we're all going to feel it, whether or not our properties are technically identified as being in the 'earthquake zone.') Lest you think that floodplains only apply to homes near a river, ocean or delta, think again. Homes near man-made reservoirs and dams often get dinged for being in "floodplains," on the off chance that IF the reservoir were to break (in one of those earthquakes mentioned above) it could send millions of gallons of water down on the neighborhoods below. WATER!!!
BTW - flood insurance is not standard; it will cost you more $$, as will earthquake insurance.
Moreover, once insured, "Acts of God" are not covered in most policies, thus water damage to your wood floors from your refrigerator is covered, while water damage from torrential rainfall probably isn't (as I unfortunately learned last year), so you'll want to read the fine print. I don't know where mudslides fall in the list of covered, or not covered, but I'm certain the insurance brokers do.
Finally, having renovated my own home just a few years ago from the stem to stern, I can say with full authority that there's no way my structure could be rebuilt in its current state for the coverage the insurance company suggested, let alone cover the contents within it. So Cliff and I upped our premium - just in case. I don't plan on a MAJOR life event occurring, but no one ever does. . . right?
Like all insurance programs, be it health, life, disability, auto or home, they only pay you back when something catastrophic happens, (God forbid), but when it does, you're going to want to be fully covered and you'll be grateful that you were, and while I'm not a fan of insurance companies as a whole, I have to say that the insurance brokers I know bend over backwards to make sure my policies are always current.
Happily, the young driver who hit me was also insured (at least her parents were) and now my car is at Uptown Body and Fender where I know it's in very good hands. (Thank you Giovanna.) I'll see it in a couple of weeks. In the meantime . . .
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.