U.S. suburbs are often a first choice for homeowners who want the opportunity to work in a big city while still maintaining a backyard and plenty of space. But how much does it cost to insure your property from one suburb to the next?
To rank home insurance costs in these top U.S. suburbs, we ran quotes with leading U.S. carriers on the same three-bedroom, two-bathroom, 2,000-square-foot home in each community. The only variable? Location. As it turns out, where you are in the U.S. can have you paying up to three times as much for coverage than the owner of a comparable house in another suburb.
What is it about location that impacts home insurance costs so heavily? Risk of natural disaster, local building costs, and the area’s insured loss history have a lot to do with it.
10) Arlington (Dallas), TX: Average premium $1,761
Why it’s high: Dallas’ suburbs are the most expensive of the areas we studied to insure a home: The Dallas area has experienced the highest cost of property damage for the past 10 years for the cities on the list, with $1.601 billion in repairs. It also ranks highest with total Federal Emergency Management Agency-declared disasters. Total insurance premiums may reach even higher because of flood insurance requirements in some areas.
9) Lakewood (Denver), CO: Average premium $1,379
Why it’s high: Although Denver’s natural disaster numbers are relatively low, the area experienced some of the most expensive property damage, piling up nearly $147.782 million during the past 10 years. The Denver area also experiences something called the Denver Convergence Vorticity Zone, an area particularly susceptible to high winds, tornadoes, and other extreme weather. This makes Lakewood, like other Denver suburbs, an expensive place to insure a home.
8) Highland Park (Chicago), IL: Average premium $876
Why it’s high: Located on Lake Michigan in a quaint suburb north of Chicago, Highland Park experiences two extremes. On one hand, the lake can act as a regulating force for temperature swings and storms. On the other, lake effect wind, snow, and ice can become crippling in the winter. This back and forth tug, in addition to the third highest construction costs on our list, keeps Highland Park area premiums high. For example, the sample home we quoted in Highland Park would carry a $352,000 replacement cost price tag. The same home in other cities on our list would cost only about $250,000 to replace. That extra replacement cost coverage has a big impact on premiums.
7) Franklin (Nashville), TN: Average premium $844
Why it’s in the middle: During the past 10 years, FEMA has declared 16 natural disasters for the area – the second greatest number on our list. The county also has experienced $1.593 billion in property damage losses from tornadoes, thunderstorms, and other disasters. On the other hand, local construction costs are lower than in other parts of the country, so the homes in the area don’t require as much dwelling coverage as they would in other cities on the list.
6) Hudson (New York City), NY: Average premium $837
Why it’s in the middle: Hudson shares the Big Apple’s weather problems. Like New York City, it’s pulled between two extremes. Hudson experiences the lowest property damage costs (only $1.434 million during the past 10 years) and fewest total weather events (only 102 since 2004). Nonetheless, it also has the highest number of major disaster declarations by FEMA (22) and some of the highest local construction costs. This give and take is what keeps Hudson squarely in the middle of our list for both premiums and disasters.
Now compare those with some of the lesser expensive suburbs to insure a home- all of which fall below the national average homeowners insurance premium:
5) Merion Station (Philadelphia), PA: Average premium $704
Why it’s in the middle: FEMA has only declared 17 total disasters for Pennsylvania in the past 10 years; that’s the lowest number on our list. Accordingly, Pennsylvania typically sets low rates statewide, second only to Arizona on our list. Relatively high construction costs may counteract some of the low risks involved, however, to bump up your rates. It may not always be sunny in Philadelphia, but at least the homeowners insurance premiums won’t break your bank.
4) Alamo Heights (San Antonio): Average premium $702
Why it’s in the middle: Texas typically has higher statewide rates because it is vulnerable to every major natural disaster: Tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, drought, wildfires, and thunderstorms all plague Texas, causing property damage and considerable insurance risk. San Antonio shares the top number of FEMA-declared natural disasters on our list with Dallas. Nonetheless, Alamo Heights is one of the least expensive on our list for home replacement costs – which means homes in the area require less dwelling coverage. Since insurers know that rebuilding is easier and less expensive than in other parts of the country, premiums typically are lower.
3) West Hollywood (Los Angeles), CA: Average premium $684
Why it’s low: Similar to much of the West Coast, especially recently, West Hollywood frequently experiences dry spells. Droughts, while devastating to local businesses, don’t generate a great deal of insurance claims. The Los Angeles area has only experienced nine natural disaster days with injury in the last 10 years. The clear skies over West Hollywood may lower residents’ premiums below the national average ($831 as of May 31), but the high cost of building in the star-struck town raises it to the middle of our list. Our sample home in West Hollywood had the highest replacement cost compared with the same home in any other city assessed. It required $388,000 in dwelling coverage, so it’s a good thing disaster risk is lower in the area.
2) Chula Vista (San Diego), CA: Average premium $628
Why it’s low: Chula Vista has a relatively low frequency of major natural disaster declarations by FEMA. Additionally, the suburb boasts a low crime rate and Mediterranean-style weather. These pleasant characteristics make Chula Vista a great place to live and a good place to insure a home. The natural disasters that Chula Vista does face include earthquakes, floods, high winds, and wildfires, which bump up the city’s disaster risk significantly. However, insured losses between 2010 and 2013 were low – helping to keep homeowners insurance affordable for the community. (Residents might be required to purchase either earthquake or flood insurance or both, thereby bumping up total insurance costs.)
1) Mesa (Phoenix), AZ: Average premium $555
Why it’s low: Mesa is in the Sonoran Desert, making it hot much of the year but not as prone to violent storm damage. Of the states we evaluated, Arizona had the lowest statewide rates. However, no state is excluded from natural disasters and losses. High winds, wildfires, and even floods impact Arizona from time to time. A standard home insurance policy excludes coverage for flood damage, so residents of Mesa may have to purchase a separate flood insurance policy, therefore bumping up their total insurance costs. In the end, Mesa had a low number of major disaster declarations by FEMA, as well as low insured losses, helping to keep homeowners insurance premiums down.
Where does your suburb measure up? In general, if your area has a high risk of natural disaster, a history of large insured losses, and higher than average building costs- the insurance premiums will reflect it.
1. Average premiums: Proprietary quoting data from HomeInsurance.com. Rates were compared with up to four carriers in each location.
2. Insured loss risk was tabulated from the Verisk Analytics ISO Property Claim Service Map. A rating of 1-10 was assigned based on the risk designations. http://www.verisk.com/property-claim-services/natural-disasters.html
3. Total recorded weather events from Jan. 1, 2004 to Jan.1, 2014 NOAA National Climatic Data Center Storm Events Database from Jan.1, 2004 to Jan. 1, 2014. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/stormevents/
4. Total cost of property damage from Jan. 1, 2004 to Jan.1, 2014: NOAA National Climatic Data Center Storm Events Database from Jan.1, 2004 to Jan. 1, 2014. http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/stormevents/
5. FEMA major disaster declarations from Jan.1, 2004 to Jan.1, 2014. http://www.fema.gov/disasters/grid/state-tribal-government
6. FEMA major disaster declarations from Jan.1, 2004 to Jan.1, 2014. http://www.fema.gov/disasters/grid/state-tribal-government
7. Total weather event days with personal injury or death from Jan. 1, 2004 to Jan.1, 2014: NOAA
8. Dwelling Coverage (Coverage A) was calculated by HomeInsurance.com proprietary quoting tools, using one standard home size in each suburb analyzed. The sample home quoted was a 2000-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom brick house.