Homeowners insurance for historic homes: What you need to know

Homeowners insurance for historic homes is typically more expensive than homeowners insurance for newer homes.

Kara McGinley

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Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®

Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®

Certified Financial Planner

Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, he was a financial advisor at MetLife and MassMutual.

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If you own a historic home, you know they come with unique features, lots of character, and a few quirks. Although you may love your home for those very reasons, its novelty and vintage features can make it difficult to cover with standard homeowners insurance.

Whether you bought your dream historic home to settle down or you intend to renovate the property and flip it, you’ll need to protect it with homeowners insurance. Historic homes can be more expensive and trickier to insure than newer homes because insurance companies see them as high risk due to their older age and pricier building materials.

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If you have a historic home, you may be able to find homeowners insurance through the National Trust Insurance Services, a program created to help historic homeowners find property insurance for their specific needs.

What is a historic home?

To be considered an officially designated historic home or site, your home must meet certain criteria established by the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places. [1]

The National Register of Historic Places is a national program dedicated to preserving historical properties across the U.S. Additionally, states and municipalities can designate homes or neighborhoods as historic.

When evaluating your property, the National Register will consider three areas:

  • Age: Your home must be over 50 years old to be considered historic.

  • Integrity: Your home must look similar to how it looked when it was built.

  • Significance: Your home must have some sort of cultural significance — that might mean an important person lived there, a historical figure was associated with the property, or it exemplifies architectural or engineering excellence from a particular time period.

Homes that qualify as historic landmarks or buildings often receive perks like tax breaks and low-interest loans. In return, you as the homeowner are responsible for preserving and protecting the home’s integrity and heritage.

Historic preservation can result in expensive rates from insurance companies

Say one of your home’s window frames is damaged in a break-in. Because of the regulations surrounding designated historic sites, you may be required to use similar materials in order to replicate the original style of the home. And since historic homes have old and rare architectural stylings that cost more to rebuild, insurers typically charge more for homeowners insurance to reflect those expensive rebuild costs.

Why are historic homes more expensive to insure?

Your homeowners insurance is based off your home's replacement cost value, which is the amount it would cost to rebuild your house from the ground up with similar building materials. A main reason historic homes are more expensive to insure than modern homes is because they generally have high replacement cost values due to their rare building materials. They may also pose a greater liability risk because of how they’re constructed.

Let's take a look at an example.

Say you own a farm house that dates back to the early 1900s. It’d likely be constructed with older, rarer, and more expensive materials that aren’t common in modern homebuilding.

Older materials, like plaster walls or wooden beams, are more expensive and often not up to code. Because the rebuild materials cost more, your rates are going to be more expensive than a house built with more modern materials, like drywall and sheetrock.

And if your home is built with materials that are now considered dangerous — like aluminum wiring — your rates may also be higher, and you may even be required to replace it with copper wiring.

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Average home insurance rates for historic homes

Here's the average cost of home insurance from a few popular insurance companies in 2022 for homes that are 50+ years old:

Company

Average annual rate for historic homes

AAA

$2,068

AIG

$1,312

Allstate

$1,695

American Family

$1,857

ASI Progressive

$1,840

Auto-Owners Insurance

$1,512

Chubb

$1,785

Country Financial

$2,634

Erie

$1,591

Farmers

$1,912

Mercury

$1,837

Nationwide

$2,092

State Farm

$1,940

Travelers

$6,063

USAA

$1,530

Methodology: Average annual rates are based on our analysis of home insurance premiums provided by Quadrant Information Services in March 2022 for ZIP codes in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. for policyholders with homes 50+ years old.

4 tips for insuring your historic home

Here are a few tips for purchasing homeowners insurance for your historic home, according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. [2]

1. Use the National Trust Insurance Services

Consider finding specialized historic homeowners insurance through the National Trust Insurance Services (NTIS), an organization that helps homeowners find insurers that specialize in covering the unique risks associated with older homes. The NTIS works with different insurance companies and can connect you with the right carrier for your historic home’s needs.

2. Consider a high-value homeowners insurance company

Some insurance companies specialize in covering high-value homes, including historic houses. Here are two high-value insurance companies that you may want to consider if they’re available in your area:

  • Chubb: Chubb offers extended replacement cost policies at no additional cost, as well as replacement cost personal property coverage.

  • AIG: AIG offers guaranteed replacement cost policies, unlimited water backup coverage, and complimentary home consultation services for homes built before 1945.

3. Consider an HO-8 policy

An HO-8 policy, also called modified coverage insurance, is a type of homeowners insurance designed for older homes or homes with a rebuild cost that's higher than their market value.

HO-8 policies are geared toward protecting older homes that don’t meet the standard for regular homeowners insurance coverage. Unlike a standard home insurance policy, HO-8 policies don’t require four-point inspections. And you may not have to update details of your home — like your old pipes or wiring — to qualify for coverage.

The one downside? HO-8 policies only pay out for the actual cash value of your home and belongings, meaning depreciation is factored into your claim payout after a covered loss.

4. Add extended replacement or guaranteed replacement cost coverage

Extended replacement cost coverage is a coverage add-on that increases your dwelling coverage limits an additional 25% to 50% if the cost to rebuild your home ends up being higher than your policy limit.

Guaranteed replacement coverage is similar to extended replacement cost, but it reimburses you for the full amount of rebuild costs — regardless of the price. That means if your home is completely destroyed, the insurance company would pay the full amount that it will cost to rebuild your home from the ground up.

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How to lower home insurance rates for your historic home

Although homeowners insurance is typically more expensive for historic homes, you can still find ways to lower your premiums.

  • Raise your deductible. Your home insurance deductible is the out-of-pocket cost you have to pay when you file a claim before your insurance company kicks in to cover the rest. The higher your deductible, the lower your rates.

  • Update your home with modern pipes and wiring. Since outdated home systems are the most common cause of accidental fires and water damage, replacing old pipes, upgrading your electrical from aluminum or knob and tube wiring to copper, and installing a new heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system or water heater could all lead to lower rates.

  • Bundle your home and car insurance. Policygenius has saved customers an average of $1,250 per year over what they were paying for both home and auto insurance by bundling their policies together.

  • Think twice before filing a small-dollar claim. Filing a home insurance claim can increase your premiums as much as 10% — just from one single claim. That's why experts recommend that you only file a claim for repairs or damage that you can't afford to pay out of pocket.

  • Choose an insurer that offers lots of discounts you qualify for. Home insurance companies offer a range of discounts, including savings for being married, having a high credit score, not smoking, paying your premiums in full, and having select safety devices installed throughout your home. with a discount for taking preventative safety measures.

Frequently asked questions

How can I get home insurance for an older home?

To get home insurance for an older home, you can start by reaching out to a licensed expert at Policygenius who can help you compare quotes from several home insurance companies. Depending on how old your home is, they might be able to give you quotes from traditional home insurance companies. Otherwise, they might refer you to a specialty insurer that exclusively writes policies for older, historic homes.

What affects the price of insuring older homes?

A few factors that affect the price of insuring an older home include its plumbing and electrical systems, the age and material of the roof, the type of building materials used to construct the home, and the condition of the home itself. Outdated home systems and high-cost or rare materials can all lead to higher insurance premiums, since it will cost more to repair or rebuild your home after a covered loss.

How old must your home be to be classified as "historic"?

To be considered an officially designated historic home or site, your home must meet certain criteria established by the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places. This includes being at least 50 years old, looking similar to how it looked when it was built, and having some sort of cultural or historical significance.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

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  1. National Register of Historic Places

    . "

    Publications of the National Register of Historic Places

    ." Accessed December 17, 2021.

  2. National Trust for Historic Preservation

    . "

    7 Insurance Tips for Historic Home Owners

    ." Accessed May 31, 2022.

Author

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

Expert reviewer

Certified Financial Planner

Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®

Certified Financial Planner

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Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, he was a financial advisor at MetLife and MassMutual.

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