7 home insurance lessons we can learn from 'Home Alone'

Kevin McCallister might have pulled one over on The Wet Bandits, but he’s an insurance claims adjuster’s worst nightmare.

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Jennifer GimbelSenior Managing Editor & Home Insurance ExpertJennifer Gimbel is a senior managing editor and home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our homeowners insurance coverage. Previously, she was the managing editor at Finder.com and a content strategist at Babble.com.

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If you’re anything like my family, the minute the calendar hits December, it’s Home Alone binging season until the new year rolls around. Aside from enjoying 8-year-old Macaulay Culkin in his prime, there’s another reason to add this holiday flick to your streaming watchlist: What to do and not to do when it comes to buying home insurance

Since turning 30, I can’t watch Kevin McCallister boobytrap his gorgeous house without dollar signs flashing through my mind at the sheer cost of the home insurance claim the McCallisters and their neighbors had to file. 

So whether you’re a home insurance newbie or have filed more claims than you care to admit, here are a few lessons we can all take away from Home Alone. Thanks, Kevin.

Lesson #1: Install automatic lights inside and outside your home to scare away potential burglars

Kevin was onto something when he turned on all of the lights in the house after he overheard Harry and Marv outside planning to rob it. Installing automatic timers on the lights inside and outside your home as well as other security devices can help keep burglars at bay when you’re away. 

And bonus: You’ll likely get a discount from your home insurance company for the added protection! Some insurers offer up to 15% off your premium for having a home security system.

Lesson #2: Ask your neighbors to keep an eye on your house when you go out of town

There likely wouldn’t have been a Home Alone 2 (:sobbing:) if Old Man Marley didn’t save Kevin from The Wet Bandits at the end of the film. Which brings me to lesson number two: Get to know your neighbors, and ask them to keep an eye on your house when you’re out of town.

Even better — see if they’ll collect your mail, packages, and newspapers every day. Nothing screams, “I’m outta town!” like a stack of letters bursting from your mailbox and packages collecting dust at your front door.

Have Amazon subscriptions that are delivered weekly or monthly? Make sure to pause those for the days or weeks you’re going to be away.

A few other tips? "Don't announce you're going out of town, and don't post pictures on social media until you're back — especially if you have public accounts," licensed property and casualty insurance representative Alexandra Gaines says.

Lesson #3: It pays to prepare for winter storms

Not only did the McCallisters almost miss their flight to Paris due to the power outage caused by a winter storm, but they weren’t able to get through to Kevin by phone to make sure he was OK.

Another potential hazard they dodged? Their sump pump not working and their basement flooding, or their roof caving in due to the weight of ice and sleet.

Taking the proper precautions before a storm hits — from making sure your gutters are clean to keeping your roof well-maintained — can save you a hefty home insurance claim when rain or snow comes a-knockin’. 

Lesson #4: Consider buying a separate flood insurance policy

Thanks to Marv’s genius plan to dub themselves The Wet Bandits, the McCallister’s neighbor’s home was completely flooded from clogged sinks. 

"Your insurance company would likely cover this water damage under the covered peril, vandalism," Gaines says. But keep in mind that most insurance policies don’t cover other types of flood damage — no matter the source. If you live in a high-risk flood zone or have a basement that tends to flood, consider purchasing a separate flood insurance policy to ensure you’re completely protected. 

Lesson #5: Slip-and-falls on your icy doorsteps or driveway are a liability

OK, OK — I know Kevin purposely hosed down his front door steps so that Marv would slip. But there’s still a lesson to be learned here: If you live in an area with frequent snow or ice storms, you’ll want to make sure you have enough personal liability coverage to protect you in the event someone’s injured on your property and sues.

Most insurers offer anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 in personal liability coverage. But if you own a pool, dog, trampoline, or live in an area prone to ice storms, you might want to consider taking out the maximum liability coverage you can since you’re at a greater risk of filing a claim.  

Another option, Gaines says, is to take out a separate personal liability coverage policy that covers a minimum of $1,000,000 — on top of your homeowner policy's separate liability limits.

Lesson #6: Double-check your personal property coverage limits

The odds that your 8-year-old son gets left home alone and has to boobytrap your home to fend off burglars are probably pretty slim. But it’s still a good reminder to double-check your personal property coverage limits in the event you do have to file a claim for damages to your furniture or other property. 

Homeowners with expensive tastes — like valuable jewelry, antique cars, or rare artwork — might want to consider taking out a scheduled personal property endorsement that offers higher coverage limits to reimburse you for high-value items that are destroyed by a covered claim.

Lesson #7: Extended replacement cost coverage could save you thousands of dollars after a claim

From Buzz’s destroyed room, to the tar-covered basement steps, to the fire-damaged kitchen after Harry got a blowtorch to the head, the McCallisters were looking at a dwelling coverage claim in the tens of thousands of dollars.

And their neighbors would likely be on the hook for over $200,000 in dwelling damage due to their flooded first floor and basement.

Here’s where extended replacement cost coverage would come in handy. This optional coverage add-on increases your dwelling coverage limit in increments of 25% to 50%. 

So if you purchase 25% extended replacement coverage on a house that’s insured for $200,000, you’d really have $250,000 in dwelling coverage.

This saves you from having to make up the difference for expensive home insurance claims that surpass your coverage limits after a freak burglary (in Kevin’s case) or a natural disaster.

→ Learn more about holiday disasters your home insurance policy covers

Image: Image Depot Pro / Getty