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What You Should Ask Your Home Insurance Agent: An Interview with Kimberly Dickerson, CIC of Dickerson Insurance Agency

By Kimberly Dickerson

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Dickerson Agency was founded by my father, Jerry O. Dickerson, in 1989. Since then we have been family owned and operated, with the second generation of ownership taking over in 2009. Through the years we have had the opportunity to build a solid network of carriers which allows us to offer our clients rates and coverage options unmatched by our competitors. We consider ourselves to be "your one stop shop" for personal and business insurance, and our experienced staff works hard to protect your business and personal assets. A client's home is usually their biggest personal asset and we understand the importance of getting it covered properly.

Is there something about getting homeowners insurance that you wish more people knew?

At Dickerson Agency, Inc., we understand that the general public does not have a "degree in insurance," and typically our customers look at a homeowners' policy as something to satisfy their loan requirements rather than an investment in their future! Our job is to educate our clients on what their insurance covers and what it may not. I would love it if all of my prospects came to me with the understanding that the insurance policy is a contract, and that it will cover them for specific causes of loss. The insurance policy is triggered by what actually caused their loss. For example, if an insured comes home to their home burning down, we have to determine what caused the fire. I remember specifically one instance of a client who was in this predicament only to find out that his ex-wife had started the fire after a fight. This is an example of where "fire" would probably not be covered because it would be considered an intentional act of arson! We also strive to inform our clients of the different coverage that are included in the homeowners' policy. Most people know that their dwelling and personal belongings would be covered in the event of a covered loss, but they often do not realize that there is coverage if they are displaced from their home due to the loss and have to make arrangements for temporary lodging while the home is repaired or rebuilt. I cannot imagine the stress of not knowing how or where I was going to live because my home was uninhabitable due to a loss, which is why we take the time to educate our clients on the different parts of their policies. So that they can have peace of mind that they will not be stranded!

How do you help a homeowner figure out how the replacement costs for their house and belongings, as well as how much they should ideally be insured for?

When evaluating a homeowner's needs, our agents spend time with them to get an understanding of what we will be insuring. We ask a lot of questions pertaining to the home, for example, of what material is the exterior of the home clad or sided? Is there a pool? Have they upgraded the home in any way? We then take the information that we have gathered in our consultation and run the characteristics through an industry standard replacement cost estimator which gives us what the replacement cost of the home would be. Keep in mind that market value is different than replacement cost! What the insurance carrier is placing a valuation on is the cost to rebuild for a total loss. They could potentially have to remove the existing structure, re-grade, pour a new foundation, hire labor, purchase materials without the bulk discount that the original home builder likely enjoyed, etc. Personal belongings are typically covered at a percentage of the value of the dwelling; however, our agents will always ask if there are any collectibles, fine art or jewelry that we need to place on a separate policy. We do this because we know that they will be better protected against loss as these "personal articles" policies provide coverage for broadened causes of loss.

What types of discounts might be available for homeowners in Georgia?

There are several discounts that Georgia residents can enjoy when purchasing a homeowners' policy. The largest discount is the Multi-Policy discount, which applies when the homeowner has another policy with the same carrier, like an auto, umbrella or life insurance policy. There are discounts that could apply based on the characteristics of their home, such as newness of the roof, HVAC or plumbing updates, and the home's construction type. Some of our carriers offer discounts for membership in certain organizations such as AARP, Builders Associations, or Chamber groups.

Why do home insurance rates/premiums increase? Is there any way to prevent this?

We get asked daily, no hourly, why insurance premiums are rising. Most people realize that if they file claims, they could experience an increase in premium but I get asked more frequently about rate increases by my clients who have not filed a claim. The way that I explain rate increases, especially when a homeowner has not personally filed a claim, is this: Insurance is a pool and all policyholders with "X" insurance company put their premiums into the same bucket. If the claims exceed the money in the bucket, the company takes a rate increase, the severity of that increase being largely dependent on the policyholder's rating tier. The goal of an insurance company is to bring in enough premium to offset the claims filed against the risks they insure and ultimately to remain solvent. I would say that a policyholder cannot absolutely prevent a premium increase, but by doing business with an independent agency like Dickerson Agency, they can rest assured that they have experienced professionals one their side, ready and able to provide them with options. With access to a variety of top-rated carriers, our clients never have to feel "stuck" with a rate increase.

What are some of the most important decisions that new homeowners need to make about their coverage?

I believe that the biggest decision that homeowners need to make in purchasing their coverage is who they want to do business with. So many people go with the cheapest price, or with an agency that does not have the experience or access to carriers to properly insure their home. I encourage people to seek out a reputable independent agency with access to several highly regarded carriers staffed with dedicated professionals committed to working with them to keep what is most important to them properly protected. Homeowners should also "go with their gut" when dealing with agents. If the agent does not take the time to understand a client's needs, if the agent is not offering several options of coverage and explaining those options but rather just trying to slap the policy on the books, what makes the homeowner think that agent will be there to service the policy, or worse yet, to assist in a claims situation? It is our job to provide the very best coverage for the very best price based on each individual's needs.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

Homeowners can reach our agency by calling us at 800-580-9178, or by going online to . There is a wealth of information on our website, including our Partners Page. This page is features our business policyholders who provide a service for all of our clients at a discounted rate. Ask for Kimberly Dickerson and make sure you mention this interview!

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