Your Guide to Shopping for Home Insurance

Becoming a homeowner is about more than simply finding your dream home. Before closing a deal, you'll have secure your financing, complete inspections and set up your home insurance.

Insurance companies take many factors into consideration when compiling your quote, but they don't all ask the same questions. Quotes can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. The goal when purchasing home insurance isn't just to find the lowest price. It's wise to speak to at least three different insurance companies (or a broker who will present you with quotes from multiple insurers) to compare prices and coverage, so you can find the plan that best suits your needs and budget. 

While some things are out of your control, like the age of your home or the area's risk of water damage or flooding, knowing which questions to ask and which details to provide can help you get the best price for the best coverage. Before you get stuck paying more than you need to, here are a few things to bring up to each company when you're shopping around for a quote.

Your existing policies

GIF of a mom with her child on her lap and a caption: "well, that sounds lie a good idea"Via Giphy

If you have an existing auto or life insurance policy, you could be eligible for a bundle discount. Speak to your existing insurance lender; this will set the bar when it comes to negotiating with other lenders, but don't automatically assume your agent will be giving you the best price.

When I moved from a condo to a detached home, even with bundled auto and home policies, a different insurance lender was able to provide me with a quote of nearly $250 less (for the same amount of coverage) than my existing insurer had quoted me. So always remember to shop around even if your existing lender offers you a discount.

Your credit score

a GIF of a boy handing a credit card over to a clerk with the caption; "put it all on my credit card my good man"Via Giphy

Credit scores aren't something most people think about when purchasing home insurance, but if you and your partner are buying a home together, try putting whoever has the higher score first on the application. For example, when my boyfriend and I swapped out his name for mine (my score is about 40 points higher), we managed to lower our quote by $300.

If you're buying a home solo, work on improving your score as much as possible before you begin the insurance application process. Pay off credit cards and student loans (if possible), and pay your bills on time. The higher your credit score, the more you could save.

Location and other details

GIF of a wolf using a pair of binoculars to search around a valley from the top of a clipVia Giphy

Many factors affect your home's insurability and insurers can't inquire over every detail. Make sure to point out any additional features making your home less of a liability. If you plan to revisit the home before closing, drive around the area and keep an eye out for a few things:

Fire hydrant: A fire hydrant on your property or across the street will lower your premium.

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Sump pump: A sump pump is vital if the area has a high risk of flooding. If your home has a sump pump, your insurer may lower the water damage premium.

Fire or police stations: The closer your home is to a fire and/or police station, the lower your premium will be.

Security system: If the home doesn't have a security system but you'd like the added safety, let your insurer know, and find out which systems are eligible for the best insurance discounts. Installing the cheapest system won't necessarily save you money, but the right one can lower your premium by as much as 15 to 20%.

GIF of a spy obstructed by laser security system with the caption: "McCain we've got a problem."Via Giphy

The roof: Some homeowners forget to inform their insurance company when they make an update, such as replacing the roof. If the insurer has it on file your roof was last replaced in the ‘80s, but the shingles look brand new, have your REALTOR® contact the seller to determine whether they've been replaced recently. The newer the roof, the less of a liability and the lower your insurance premium.

Amount of coverage

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Depending on the home's location and the company you're dealing with, you may be able to choose to increase or decrease the amount of coverage you get for certain parts of the home. For example, if you're moving to a high water-risk zone and your home has a finished basement, coverage will be costlier; but if you plan to strip the basement past the drywall and rebuild it in a year or two, you might not feel the need to have such high coverage.

Once you've found your dream home, the hardest part of your house hunt is over. But you're not done just yet! Now, you still need to inspect it, pay for it, insure it and decorate it. A REALTOR® is a great resource for helping you make informed decisions and navigate the next steps. Armed with this knowledge, you can negotiate for the best possible insurance quote for the best coverage and save yourself money and headaches in the future.


The Burden of Beauty: Instagram-Famous Houses Are a Curse for Residents

It's not hard to see why Rue Crémieux is a hit on Instagram. The stretch of pastel-hued row houses that line the cobblestoned road of Paris' 12th arrondissement is so charming, so picture-perfect, it's become overrun with influencers staging elaborate photoshoots.

Residents are fed up. Antoine, a local resident spoke with radio station France Info about how the Insta tourists have disrupted his daily life.

“We sit down to eat and just outside we have people taking photos—rappers who take two hours to film a video right beneath the window or partygoers who scream for an hour,” he said. “Frankly, it's exhausting.”

There's even an Instagram account that pokes fun at some of the ridiculous photographs taken by tourists on the street. Shots include everything from over-the-top fashion shoots, yoga poses in doorways and flash mobs, to popping champagne bottles… you get the idea.

Via Clubcremieux on Instagram 
Via Clubcremieux on Instagram 
Via Clubcremieux on Instagram 

The candy-coloured houses on Crémieux are a relatively new phenomenon. In 1996, residents began painting their facades in bright hues in contrast to Paris' neutral palette. They could have never predicted their creative vision, emblematic of small-town European charm, would be a target for smartphone-wielding tourists. It's at the point residents are demanding the city close their street to visitors on evenings and on weekends.

Paris isn't the only city dealing with the dilemma of being too pretty for its own good. The picturesque neighbourhood of Notting Hill in London, England has its fair share of Insta-tourists flocking to their quiet neighbourhood, too.

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Local Daphne Lamirel, who lives in the area, told The Standard she found the selfie-takers sweet at first. As their numbers grew, however, so did her annoyance. “The walls are quite thin and you can hear them laughing and directing photos from our living room,” Lamirel said, adding that on weekends, there are “at least four groups taking pictures at the same time.”

Via albabaig on Instagram

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, the colourful Choi Hung apartment complex has gone so far as to post signs forbidding cellphone photoshoots. Vincent Yeung, who has lived at Choi Hung Estate almost his entire life, complained to the New York Times tourists are crowding the public basketball courts in front of his home. “There are too many people taking photos here,” he said. “My friends have gone elsewhere to play.”

Via jutaviajando on InstagramVia helenabordon on Instagram

Other residents aren't phased by the Insta-loving tourists. “It's nostalgic to see an old estate like this now attracting tourists,” explained K. Pang, who spent his childhood in Choi Hung. “I think it's pretty good, to make this place a tourist spot. It's better than not having people here.”

Indeed, it seems Instagram-famous homes and the locals have a dilemma. On the one hand, people love to experience beautiful homes, take photos and share them with the world. On the other hand, should residents have to deal with the added ruckus?

Thankfully, the days of perfectly posed pictures in front of pastel houses may soon be overThe Atlantic reports the carefully staged, candy-coated aesthetic on Instagram is giving way to more authentic, less manufactured images on the platform. As Lynsey Eaton, a co-founder of the influencer-marketing agency Estate Five explains, “the pink wall and avocado toast are just not what people are stopping at anymore.”

Of course, an appreciation for beautiful homes will never go out of style and you're certainly allowed to take photos when you travel. But it’s one thing to snap a picture on a pretty street; it's quite another to sit on the stoop of someone's home or use their windows as the backdrop for your music video.

If you absolutely must snap a photo, be respectful. Don't trespass; porches are private property, not your personal playground. Avoid staging lengthy, elaborate photo shoots and put your camera away if you see locals quietly enjoying their stoops in peace. A little consideration goes a long way.



A Guide to Smart Home Hubs and Devices

As use of smart home technology continues to grow, it's hard to keep up with what's out there, what's compatible and how it all works together. Setting up your smart home can be as simple as putting a device in your living room or as complicated as installing a system of interconnected devices that speak to each other; how intricate you want to get is completely up to you. Keep in mind, however, not every system will be compatible with every product.

Check out our guide to setting up your smart home and control your lighting, security, thermostat, music and more with these smart devices and hubs.

Entertainment and assistants

a smart speaker on a pile of booksPhoto by Andres Urena on Unsplash

The simplest “smart devices” are voice command speakers. Consumers can choose from an assortment of smart home systems, including Amazon's Alexa and EchoGoogle HomeApple HomeKitSamsung's Smart Things and more. These devices are typically voice command-activated and can do things like stream music,read news headlines, set reminders or tell you what the weather is going to be like tomorrow. In some instances, you can link up your smartphone and make hands-free calls, send messages and even answer calls. You can also find nearby open houses with the skill for Amazon Alexa. For those of you not using an Amazon Echo, no problem, simply download the Amazon Alexa app and enable the skill for Alexa to use on your phone!

Security systems

a person using a smartphone to open a smart lock on a front door

Security products like cameras and alarm systems tend to be most people's first foray into home automation. Smart door locks, alarm systems, cameras and movement sensors can offer peace of mind when you're away from home. August Smart Lock is an easy way to lock and unlock your doors remotely through a phone app, making it popular for offices and shared workspaces. The Skybell Doorbell lets you see who's at your door and speak to them through your phone, even if you're not home. Plus there are many alarm system starter kits out there, like Nest SecureGo AbodeSimpliSafe and more.

Energy savers and automation

a smart thermostat on a wallPhoto by Dan LeFebvre on Unsplash

It's nice having things done for us, isn't it? One study suggests 1 in 6 Canadians have invested in some kind of home automation. Some of this automation makes our lives a bit easier—like scheduling the coffee maker to brew when your alarm goes off in the morning—but some can help save energy, too. LIFX smart light bulbs are Wi-Fi enabled and can be programmed to illuminate whenever you want, in a variety of colours. Smart thermostats like those from NestHoneywell and Ecobee, use sensors to help improve your home's energy efficiency by perceiving how many people are in a room and adjusting the temperature accordingly. They also allow you to make adjustments remotely from your smartphone. (In larger homes, you may need additional sensors).

The “home hub”

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All of this technology can get overwhelming pretty quickly. If you want to be able to control everything from a single interface rather than delving into a dozen different apps, you're going to need a home hub. Smart speakers can only communicate directly with devices using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, so if you're trying to automate your light bulbs or thermostat, you might need a software hub to unify your devices.

Most home hubs will be able to discover your other devices. Although technically not classified as hubs, Amazon Echo and Google Home have “Works With Google Assistant” and “Works with Alexa” programs so you'll know which devices will be compatible. (For example, Honeywell, Nest and Ecobee are just a few smart thermostats that work with Alexa). In addition, the Amazon Echo Plus works as a ZigBee hub. ZigBee and Z-Wave are alternatives to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth and operate on a mesh network to control your devices.

It's important to note that while these devices can be helpful, you will need to do your research, as no one app controls every smart device on the market. Prioritize which features matter most and build from there. Before long, you'll have the smartest house on the block.


The trademarks REALTOR®, REALTORS®, and the REALTOR® logo are controlled by The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) and identify real estate professionals who are member’s of CREA. The trademarks MLS®, Multiple Listing Service® and the associated logos are owned by CREA and identify the quality of services provided by real estate professionals who are members of CREA. Used under license.