Some people who bought homes in unfamiliar areas or have fewer choices in an overheated market have found after the fact that the properties, particularly older, coastal homes, were uninsurable through traditional means. To get coverage, they have to turn to what is called the surplus market, where the rates set by the state insurance regulator do not apply. An insurer in that market can charge whatever it wants.
“Wealthy individuals are buying homes quickly in places like Florida because of a lack of inventory, and before they would have bought a home that was better built for the same price,” Mr. Woodward said. “Then we have a 30- to 60-day close, and we have to get them coverage. A lot of people didn’t envision the cost of that insurance when they made the purchase.”
Insurance on an older $1 million South Florida home that was not built to the region’s codes, which have protections against wind and rain damage, could be $40,000, compared with $3,000 for a similar home elsewhere, Mr. Woodward said. Getting that old home up to code so the premiums would come down, including new windows, doors and roof, can cost $100,000 or more, he said.
Mr. Buchmueller said a friend was building a home in Florida with an eye toward protecting it from extreme weather. The home isn’t in South Florida, so the building codes are looser, but the friend asked that the roof be strapped on and meet the more stringent code.
“The contractor told him that required 29,000 more roof fasteners,” Mr. Buchmueller said. “It’s not a small measure to add the South Florida code to a home.”
Whether it’s a starter home or a $5 million beach house, some owners are more mindful than others about taking care of their house.
“Some people treat their home like it’s their home,” Mr. Woodward said. “But some people treat their home like it’s just a place where they live. And I don’t care what you’re spending.”
Extreme weather may force more homeowners to take better care of their houses — or risk losing their insurance.