A family vacation to South Florida, right before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, turned into a long-term stay for married couple Shane and Alena.
"So, when we were down here, we decided to extend our stay to three months, because the pandemic hit and we were working remotely anyways," said Shane.
MORE HURRICANE SEASON COVERAGE
It didn’t take long before they decided that moving from chilly Philly to our sunny shores was the way to go. So they bought the perfect home here.
"We love Philadelphia, but South Florida has more to offer. We enjoy the weather. It is a paradise," explained Shane. "The move financially was an apples-to-apples move for us."
Then things got a little complicated. When it was time to buy homeowner’s insurance, they were in for a stunning surprise.
“The insurance cost is about 10 times more compared to Pennsylvania," said Shane.
They say their rate jumped from $2,300 a year to a whopping $27,000 a year.
“We didn’t expect it to be that high,” he said.
They live in a flood zone and have coverage for that, but their home is missing out on some roof, window and door deductions.
"Pretty much, this little line of stained glass here and we have one across is what made our house not hurricane proof," said Alena.
Many other South Florida homeowners are also dealing with the high cost of insurance. Some of the hike is due to fraud and litigation, but natural disasters certainly play a role. The skyrocketing price is forcing many to go unprotected, especially when it comes to flood insurance.
Skimping on flood insurance or avoiding it altogether can be a dangerous game to play. Flooding from heavy rain and storm surge can wipe out your house or if you are lucky, make it uninhabitable for quite some time.
"So not only is water the biggest threat to your life in a hurricane, but it’s the biggest threat to your bottom line or your wallet, said Jamie Rhome, from the National Hurricane Center. "If you don’t have flood insurance and you just have a traditional homeowners insurance policy it’s going to be really, really costly because it’s going to be out of pocket."
But there are ways to save because, in Florida, dozens of private flood insurers offer coverage.
"This is a great time to shop your flood coverage because you can see what’s out there, you can see the options, you can see the coverage limits," said Mark Friedlander, with the Insurance Information Institute.
There are some steps you can take to also lower your homeowner’s insurance.
"Get a wind mitigation assessment of your home, and they will lay out for you what they can offer you in terms of discounts if you make these upgrades. You make your home more resistant to storms,” Friedlander said.
Experts say discount-inducing upgrades include improving the condition of your roof, installing impact windows and doors, and getting a reinforced garage door. For most residents of South Florida, including Shane and Alena, investing in the integrity of your home is worth the cost of paradise.
"We think the quality of life, you get what you pay for kind of, and there’s a cost to living in beautiful weather that has hurricane season,” said Shane
Shane and Alena say the move was worth it, but Florida is set to experience even more steep flood insurance rate increases as FEMA rolls out its new risk rating 2.0 system over the next year.
Premiums will now be based on property value, distance from the coast and the risk of rain-related flooding rather than the property’s elevation in a flood zone.