Marin Home Insurance

Buying Home Insurance, also known as Homeowners Insurance in Marin county can be a complex task.   Read this article to properly insure yourself.

  • The Biggest Insurance Issue facing Marin Homes.
  • Why Saving money might not be the best bet.
  • The five different types of home insurance in this area.

Home Insurance San Francisco Bay Area and Marin County

Many people incorrectly assume that the lowest cost insurer is your best choice, often this is not the case.  For some finding a solid preferred carrier will be their ultimate goal, for others just finding any home insurance may be the chore.  For a surprisingly large percentage of homeowners in this county though -an Affluent Carrier may be their best bet.

I have broken down homeowners insurance in Marin into five basic categories with the first two being obviously specific general exceptions to what many will consider true home insurance.  It is important to note that not all home policies are the same, finding a good agent that can make solid and experienced recommendations is often a consumer’s best bet.

Marin Home Insurance Option One:  Renters Insurance:

Believe it or not, renters insurance is a form of homeowners insurance.  Renters insurance is for those that rent or lease a house, apartment, or even condominium.  If you do not own it, you need renters insurance.  Short term, long term – it does not matter the need.

Renters insurance will cover you for a few important items: Liability, Personal Property, and Loss of Use.  Yes there are other coverages involved in most policies, but these three are the most important.

Marin Home Insurance Option Two:  Condo Insurance

Homeowners insurance for condominiums are their own world.  Condo insurance could further be broken down into their own sub categories but for simplicity’s sake we keep it as one here.  Condos are not the same as typical home insurance policies and they need to be written completely differently.

Condo insurance policies need to be written with an eye toward the master governing document and the master condo association policy.

In Marin County, condo policies face numerous hurdles because many insurers do not wish to write the interior condo coverage that is appropriate with most of the units in this county.

Homeowners Insurance Types

Marin Home Insurance Option Three:  Captive and Independent Preferred Homeowners Insurance:

The category of Preferred Home Insurance in the San Francisco Bay area can loosely be broken down into two sub categories:  Captive and Independent carriers.   For the record most of the home insures that you have hear of, fall into the category of Captive Agent Insurers.

Captive insurers are insurance companies whose agents solely sell their product (technically at least having the right of first refusal.)  Companies that make up this category are State Farm, Farmers, Allstate, USAA, and Nationwide, among others.   These agents are seasoned in their companies underwriting policies and rules and regulations.

Independent carriers work with independent agents and brokers.  There is no right of first refusal as an independent broker or agent can write the policy with whom they and their client choose. Examples of independent insurers are: Safeco, Allied, Hartford, Pacific Specialty, and Travelers, to name just a few.  [Typically Independent Agents though cannot sell Captive Insurance Agent companies.]

Quite frankly both sub types carry great insurance, generally speaking.  The major difference is often the pricing power that either the captive or independent will have.   As discussed the captive cannot run quotes with dozens of companies while the independent can sometimes not get the deep discount that a captive might have.  Therefore their are really advantages to both, with sometimes the prevailing best practice being to find the best agent.

When procuring a preferred insurance policy in Tiburon, Sausalito, Novato, etc – one of the main issues that many consumers have is that “most” of these carriers are unwilling to write the home insurance valuation (often called Coverage A) at the appropriate levels.   It is not uncommon for me to see current home coverage A dwelling amounts no able to rebuild someone’s kitchen let alone their entire house.

Without getting too deep into the weeds on this topic – the Coverage A combined with the Extended Endorsement needs to be enough to completely rebuild the structure even when accounting for the issues of Demand Surge.  Very few homes in this county are truly covered for this.  The insurers and a few notable computer algorithms determine their view of the cost to rebuild your home.  Generally speaking and in my opinion – these algorithms do not work well for the San Francisco Bay Area.

The main benefit to preferred carriers is that they usually offer affordable coverage when combined with your auto, and umbrella insurance.   And yes, if you own a home in Marin County most certainly you should have an umbrella policy.

Marin Home Insurance Option Four:  Hard to Place Homeowners Insurance:

Clients that live in West Marin, Mill Valley, and other Marin areas often have issues finding any home insurance because of several factors.  The most common of these reasons is because the home is built in a higher wildfire area.   Other reasons that consumers need these policies are if the insured’s have had lots or large past claims.  Have a viscous dog breed, have a unfenced pool, have structure build characteristics that insurers do not like.   The list is endless.   I get these calls each and every day.

The solution to these clients is typically two options:  Non Standard or Non Admitted Home Insurance.

Non Standard (admitted) insurance is insurance provided by a company that you will not have heard of.  This insurer will be ruled and regulated by the state of California (called admitted.)  The policy form will often be less than is typical of a preferred carrier (hence why they are not called preferred.)  The cost will be higher all this being equal – but at least you will have insurance.   Carriers that offer this type of insurance may include:  American Modern, American Reliable, Foremost, etc.   The classic example of this policy is a home that is built out in West Marin County that is in a high wild fire area.

Non Admitted Insurance is provided by a few players including Lloyds of London and Lexington Insurance group.   These policies are not ruled (to the same extent) by the state of California and because of this have to pay extra taxes.  These policies are exclusive for people that do not have the ability to get an admitted policy.  These policies are much more limited in coverage at a much higher cost.  The classic example of a home requiring this is a Second home, that may be rented out, that is built on stilts and has had past insurance claims and is worth $1,400,000.  It is very hard to find a preferred carrier that will write a policy such as this.

I never make the suggestion that someone buy a non admitted insurance policy lightly.

Marin Home Insurance Option Five:  Affluent Homeowners Insurance:

Many Marin Consumers have no idea that a different form of homeowners insurance exists. However, it does.  When and where the cut off for affluent homeowners insurance is largely debatable.   Really any home that has a coverage A rebuild or more than about $750K should stop and consider these policies.

The first thing to know that is obvious about affluent carriers is that they cost more in yearly premium.

The second thing to know is that although they may cost more, they provide a lot more coverage, therefore in the event that you have a large claim, the net difference may be one in which you come out in a far better ending.

Many homes that are built in Belevedere, Mill Valley, Tiburon, Sausalito, Ross, Kentfield, Greenbrae, San Anselmo, and San Rafael are great candidates for these policies.  There are numerous advantages of the affluent carriers they include:

  • Acceptance of Million Dollar Home Valuations
  • Increased Extended Endorsement Coverages of 100%
  • Increased Building Ordinance and Law Coverage of 100%
  • checkConsideration of a Different Lifestyle – Such as Multi Homes
  • checkAccess to a potential Private Firefighting Group in case of a wildfire
  • checkA detailed home rebuild valuation with an onsite visit
  • checkA more thorough Overall Property Coverage Form
  • checkA broader liability Coverage Form.

Homeowners Insurance for wealthy in Marin County

These affluent home policies are typically written as part of a larger package such as an auto, umbrella, or other insurance policies.

Great Examples of home written with these policies include many of the more expensive homes build in Southern Marin County.

Many San Francisco Bay Area residents will incorrectly assume that just because they have been insured by State Farm for fifteen years and have never had an issue that they are properly covered.   Sad as it is to point out, not having had issues (while never having filed a total loss claim) does not demonstrate proper coverage.   One merely needs to look at their coverage A on their homeowners declaration and ask a contractor “Can I rebuild My house with this?” to see that they are often massively miss insured.  I am not joking when I say that I have seen Coverage A dwelling amounts that could not rebuild a modern Marin kitchen.

Who Offers Home Insurance in Marin County:

There are numerous providers of home insurance in Marin County.  However many of them will only insure a TINY sliver of the county.  Below is a partial list of admitted carriers as of November 2019:

  • AAA ( CSAA)
  • Aegis
  • Allied
  • Allstate
  • AIG
  • Amica
  • American Modern
  • Bamboo
  • Chubb
  • CSE
  • Farmers
  • First American
  • Foremost
  • Guard (Amguard)
  • Hartford
  • Hippo
  • Kemper
  • Lemonade
  • Liberty Mutual
  • Mapre
  • Mercury
  • Metlife
  • Nat Gen
  • Nationwide
  • Nationwide Private Client Service
  • Pacific Specialty
  • Progressive
  • PURE
  • Safeco
  • State Farm
  • Stillwater
  • Topa
  • Travelers
  • USAA
  • Wawanesa

(The above list references insurers that we sell and represent and ones that we do not.  It is intended to be a consumer resource.)  Keep in mind that some insurance companies choose not to do any P&C business in California and hence might not be included.

Another Potential Consideration for the San Francisco Bay Area:

Technically speaking there are other sub categories that I could add to this listing, the most notable being someone called the FAIR plan.  The California FAIR plan is for those that are having trouble finding home insurance in California.  It works somewhat in concert with a typical home insurance policy.  Basically you would buy a FAIR plan and a Home Insurance plan together to cover you.   The system is complex and I do have access to the program.  However, I rarely find this product provides insurance better than a non admitted homeowners form.

Dwelling Fire policies, typically for those that own the home but rent it out, were excluded as well. These are not considered Homeowners policies and hence were omitted.

General Homeowners Exclusions for Marin County:

Homeowners insurance has numerous exclusions.  Not all policies are the exact same.

The big exclusions that are eminently insurable via endorsement or separate policies in California are:  Flood,  and Earthquake.  Both Flood and Earthquake are excluded from home insurance policies.

Landslides are also not covered, but… in theory could be insured via a separate policy – although this has become very very hard to source.

Coverages for things like Mold, Fungi, Water Backup – may be able to have a limited amount of coverage often via an endorsment.

Many things though, such as Pest, Mold, Riot, War, Random Acts of God, Neglect, Intentional, Power Failure, Governmental Action, Nuclear – these are things that are just flat out excluded from most home insurance policies.

Coverages for your personal property is a separate concept – just because your building is covered from a peril – does not mean that your personal property will be.

There are Lots of Other Exclusions – Please Read your insurance or proposed insurance policy.

About Marin County:

If you are reading this article and do not live in Marin County, let me briefly describe this county for your benefit.  Marin is an affluent county just north of San Francisco with acres of open space.   Marin residents are some of the healthiest Americans based on numerous studies.  Because of our terrific weather and the proximity to both San Francisco and Silicon Valley – homes are super expensive here.  The average median home price in in the range of $1 Million US Dollars and most of those homes come without a functioning garage and need to be completely remodeled.

Marin county is a peninsula surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.  Most of the laborers come from outside the county and hence everything is rather expensive to build here.   The environmental laws in this county are some of the strongest in the nation.  Our inspections are some of the most difficult in the state, based on my opinion.  Most things cost significantly more than in just about any other county.

A Summary on Home Insurance in Marin County, USA:

Marin is expensive, would it surprise you if home insurance in the county is pricey too?  Marin has a special unique topography that can make securing home insurance more difficult. Many insurers do not like it here. Getting the best policy, loaded with the appropriate endorsements is not as simple as it is in Kansas or Texas.  Things are different out here in Marin.

Thanks for Reading:

Thanks for reading about home and homeowners insurance in this county.  Many of the concepts explained here are not that different with other wealthier counties.   Most of the counties surrounding the SF Bay will be the same, such as San Mateo and Contra Costa counties.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

A 2022 Marin Home Insurance Update:

Home insurance nonrenewals are up significantly in this state.  The typical solutions FAIR/DIC and nonadmitted insurers are far more common now than they were at the time of the writing of this article.  Home insurance issuance in Marin county remains as elusive today as it was several years ago, if not more so.