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Changes to Georgia Property Insurance

How They Affect You

As an insurance agency with multiple property insurance carriers, we have seen a significant tightening of underwriting standards with homeowner’s and landlord policies in Woodstock or Macon, Georgia. These new standards have been enacted to reduce carriers’ losses on property insurance. We have seen several key places where carriers have tightened underwriting standards: roof age, roof condition, and prior claims. Whether you are considering roof repair, roof replacement, looking to purchase a new home or property, filing a claim against your property insurance, or considering alternatives for your property insurance, this article will explain the factors that carriers are evaluating and the challenges presented in the current market, to help you make a more informed decision.

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Georgia Property Insurance Market Overview

Over the last several years, property & casualty insurance companies have seen significant losses because of claims and rising replacement/repair costs. According to Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia, Inc. (the state association for insurance agents), Georgia homeowner insurance carriers saw loss ratios 2022 of 106%, even with the rising cost of insurance premiums. Loss ratios are the amount of money paid out vs. the amount of premiums collected, so in Georgia, carriers incurred higher costs than they collected in insurance premiums. This has been driven by widespread, high inflation, an increase in severe storms in recent years, and supply chain issues. The year 2022 was not a one-year anomaly – the loss ratio for 2021 also exceeded 100%, and we have been told the numbers for 2023, when released, will also exceed 100%.

 

The first-way carriers combat losses are by raising the cost of premiums for insurance. However, the Georgia Insurance Commissioner regulates these premium increases and limits how much carriers can increase prices in the state in a single calendar year. Because Woodstock property insurance companies are capped on how much they can increase prices each year, they do not expect a return to profitability until at least the end of 2025. The second method they use to combat rising losses is tightening underwriting standards. The largest claim type on home and property insurance is wind and hail damage to roofs, causing insurance companies to pay for repairs or replacements to roofs. Because of this, this is the primary area in which they have tightened their underwriting. Below, I list the primary changes to underwriting standards and then outline a guide for you to use when shopping for a new home or property, things to consider as a current property owner, and things to do when shopping for property insurance.

Changes in Georgia Home owner’s Insurance Underwriting Standards

  1. Roof Age: The first way we have seen carriers tighten underwriting is by limiting the age of roofs they will insure. In previous years, most carriers would insure roofs up to 20 years old. In the last year, we have seen many of those same companies only insure roofs up to 10 years old, with one of the largest insurance companies in the US limiting it to 5 years. Meaning, if the roof is 4 years old, they will insure the property, but after the 5-year mark, they will not issue a policy. Along with not insuring roofs over certain ages, they have lowered the roof age limit to converting to an ACV (Actual Cash Value) payout for roofs. Typically, when a roof is covered, it is covered for replacement cost – the total cost to replace that roof with a brand new one if sufficiently damaged. Actual Cash Value, however, only insures that roof for its current cash value, which is less than the cost to replace it. Previously, we would see most carriers insure with replacement cost valuation to 15 or 20 years, and then once a roof reaches that age limit, the coverage would convert to ACV. Now we see those timelines much shorter… replacement cost to 10 years and then at 10-year-old roof age, converting to ACV. If a claim is paid out as ACV, it can leave the property owner with large, out-of-pocket expenses to fully replace the roof.

 

  1. Roof Condition: Just like with roof age, carriers are getting much stricter with enforcing roof condition standards. Things like limbs hanging over the roof, existing wind, hail, and storm damage, etc. will have the carrier cancel the policy if it was a newly written policy. Carriers use many different tools to evaluate a property both prior to, and after, issuing a policy: Satellite imagery, drive-by inspections, property records, and permit records. We have seen cases of a policy being issued for a property, then after issuance, the carrier sending cancellation notice because they reviewed satellite imagery and found large, overhanging branches over the roof. We have also seen similar cases of cancellation for even minor damage that existed prior to the policy being issued – missing shingles, damaged flashing, minor hail damage, and more.

 

  1. Prior Claims: Carriers have widely continued to lower the number of prior claims a homeowner can have in their claims history to be eligible for coverage. If you currently have property insurance, and have a claims history, when shopping for new insurance, carriers negatively factor this into their quotes. While this may seem unfair – how can you prevent something like a storm? – it is a new reality of the property insurance market. Prior claims indicate a higher risk for future claims, so the carriers oftentimes charge higher rates for extensive claims history.

An Action Plan for Georgia Homeowner’s and Landlords

What can you, a property owner or insurance buyer do to proactively address these changes, and secure property insurance at the best possible rate?

  • First, when shopping for property – home or commercial – evaluate the age and condition of the roof. Negotiate with the seller to make repairs, remove overhanging limbs, and address existing issues to make the property more insurable when the time comes to purchase insurance.
  • Second, as a current property owner, ensure that you are upkeeping your property. Carriers will conduct underwriting reviews at renewal, reviewing satellite imagery, conducting new drive-by inspections, etc., and can factor the condition of your property into your renewal rate or to non-renew the policy.
  • Third, don’t submit unnecessary claims. If the claim is extensive, and costs to make the repairs are high, then absolutely use your insurance. But if it is a minor claim, and you can afford to pay out of pocket for the minor repair, you may determine that it is more cost effective in the long run to pay personally and not have to pay higher insurance rates for multiple years in the future. Even calling your carrier to discuss a potential claim, without actually submitting a claim, can cause your rate to be negatively impacted.
  • Fourth, you can reduce the likelihood of an incident by conducting property checks and maintenance. Do you have things like overloaded outlets, rusted or damaged pipes and water heaters, warped flashing on your roof, overhanging limbs, critters in your attic, etc.? All of these increase your risk of having an incident that would cause undue stress and a claim filed against your insurance. By proactively addressing, you can reduce the likelihood of having an incident.
  • Lastly, and possibly the most important, begin the process of shopping for insurance before financially committing to a new home or property. By getting insurance prices early in the process, you will be more informed, have more negotiating tools, and not be caught with a higher-than-expected cost for insurance days before closing. By going with an independent agent, like us at White Oak, you can get multiple different insurance carriers priced at once.
Three houses on a residential block illustrating how different houses could require different types of homeowners insurance.

In summary, the property insurance market in Georgia has seen multiple changes in the last several years, that we expect to continue for several more years, including higher prices, tighter underwriting, and more strict coverages on property are affecting all home coverage types. Even with these challenges, there are proactive steps you can take as a property owner and insurance client to reduce the impact these changes have on your cost of insurance, give you more tools for negotiating when buying a property, and reduce your overall risk of having a major incident that would require filing a claim.

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As your insurance agent, it is our job to regularly educate ourselves on these market trends that affect our Woodstock and Warner Robins, Georgia, clients regarding any new underwriting standards, evaluate and identify new options for our clients, and help steward the process for you of securing excellent coverage for your family’s home or your investment properties. As professionals, we want to ensure that we are able to educate our clients on the important factors that affect your insurance and help you make the most well-informed decision you can for your insurance needs.

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Home insurance In Woodstock, GA, provides financial protection for damage or loss to your home and its contents. When you purchase a home insurance policy, you pay a premium to the insurance company, which then agrees to cover certain risks associated with your property. These risks typically include fire, theft, vandalism, and natural disasters such as storms or earthquakes. In the event of a covered loss, you would file a claim with your insurance company, and they would reimburse you for the cost of repairs or replacement up to the limits outlined in your policy. It is essential to review and understand the terms and conditions of your policy to ensure that you have adequate coverage for your specific needs. Home insurance may also provide liability coverage in case someone is injured on your property. Overall, home insurance offers peace of mind, knowing you are financially protected against unexpected events that could result in significant financial loss.

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WillManning
Meet Will Manning, General Manager at White Oak Insurance Services in Warner Robins, Georgia. A dedicated puzzle-solver, Will's expertise in personal and commercial insurance is matched only by his commitment to his clients' security. With roots in Bonaire, GA, and a career sparked by familial inspiration, he's passionate about crafting coverage plans that ensure stability in the face of life’s uncertainties. At White Oak, he's known for his approachable demeanor and steadfast resolve to create a culture of support. Will's mission is clear: to guide clients towards informed insurance choices, ensuring they're well-equipped for recovery after any loss.

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