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The basics of building insurance cover

Your home is not only one of your most expensive assets, but also one of the most important. While you’ll hopefully never have to make a claim, building insurance could help you get back on your feet if something unexpected happens.

Whether you’re a first home buyer or thinking about switching policies, this guide covers some of the essentials of building insurance to help you find cover for your situation.

What is building insurance?

Building insurance covers your home’s structure, permanent fixtures and fittings from loss or damage. It can cover the cost of repairing, replacing or rebuilding your home after events such as fire, storm damage and flood. Generally, building insurance policies cover things such as:

  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Floors
  • Roofs
  • Doors and windows
  • Fitted kitchens
  • Built-in cupboards and bathroom suites

Items such as garages, solar panels, fences and sheds are sometimes covered as well, depending on the policy.

Many insurance providers offer building insurance on its own or bundled as home and contents insurance, which covers your belongings and furniture inside your house as well as your building.

There are two main types of building insurance:

  • Sum insured: This type of policy provides cover to repair or rebuild your property up to a set amount, chosen by you. Your insurance provider will pay up to this amount if you make a successful claim. 
  • Total replacement: This type of policy is less common and provides cover for the total amount it costs to replace your building after an insured event. Total replacement cover tends to be more expensive than sum insured cover. 

 

Building insurance lingo explained

  • Building replacement value: the amount it would cost to rebuild your property at current market prices.
  • Excess: the amount you pay out of pocket when you make a successful claim. 
  • Exclusion: specific events or things not covered by your policy – for example, deliberate damage.
  • Insured event: an event covered by your policy, such as a fire or storm.
  • Premium: The cost of cover, usually paid monthly or annually.
  • Product disclosure statement (PDS): outlines all the important terms and conditions relating to your insurance policy, including what’s covered and what’s not.
  • Sum insured: the amount your home is covered up to
  • Total replacement: covers the entire cost of rebuilding or repairing your home.

 

What does building insurance cover?

Typically, building insurance covers loss or damage from events such as:

  • Fire and explosion
  • Flood
  • Storm
  • Earthquake
  • Lightning
  • Theft and burglary
  • Malicious damage
  • Impact (such as falling trees)
  • Escape of water or other liquid (such as burst pipes)

Some building insurance policies will also cover things like:

  • Emergency accommodation if your home becomes unliveable
  • Accidental damage – for example, accidentally smashing a window with a cricket ball
  • Debris removal after an insured event

Every policy’s coverage is slightly different, so make sure you read the (PDS) before agreeing to your new policy .

 

What does building insurance exclude?

Depending on your policy provider and the level of cover you’ve chosen, building insurance may exclude cover for damage caused by the following:

  • General wear and tear
  • Neglect of your property
  • Bad workmanship
  • Damage caused by insects, birds or other pests

Leaving your home unoccupied may also exclude you from building insurance cover, however most insurers will continue to cover your home as long as you’re not gone for more than 30 days. Be sure to let your insurance provider know if your home will be vacant for an extended period of time, as there may be some restrictions to your cover.

 

How much building insurance cover do I need?

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want enough cover to rebuild your home at today’s prices. Unless you opt for total replacement cover (which is typically more expensive), you’ll need to figure out your sum insured – that is, how much it would cost to rebuild or replace your property. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a building materials expert to do so. Use our Building Calculator to estimate your rebuild costs and help determine the right level of cover for your home. 

 

What happens if I renovate?

Renovations can affect how much it would cost to repair or rebuild your home, which could change how much cover you need. And, in some cases, you may not be covered if you plan to build, renovate, make alterations or additions, or demolish a building at the site. Most insurance policies require you to notify the insurer of what work you’ll be doing.

So, if you’re thinking about making updates to your home, speak to your insurance provider first.

 

How much does building insurance cost?

This depends on the insurance provider and your policy, but there are some common factors that could affect the cost of your cover:

  • Level of cover: a higher level will generally mean a higher premium
  • Your home’s location: living in an area with a high crime rate, or an area that’s susceptible to flooding or bushfire, could raise your premium.
  • Your home’s age: older homes may be seen as riskier and cost more to insure.
  • Your excess: generally, the higher the excess you choose, the lower your premium will be.
  • Your payment schedule: you can often save on your premium by paying annually rather than monthly.

 

Building insurance is cover you can count on if something unexpected happens. It’s also something you may be required to have upon exchanging contracts or reaching settlement as part of your home loan agreement.

By choosing the right building insurance – and adding contents insurance for your possessions – you can rest assured knowing that your home and its belongings are covered. 

Need Insurance? 

To find out more about St.George’s building insurance, browse our cover here.

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The Detail

The information contained in this article is general information only and is not specific to any product.  

It does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and so you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your personal objectives, financial situation and needs to these factors before acting on it.

Terms, conditions and exclusions apply to any insurance product. Please read the disclosure documents for your selected product or service, including the Terms and Conditions or Product Disclosure Statement, before deciding.

Cover is subject to your application for insurance being accepted.

Product Disclosure Statements (PDS)

Home and Contents Insurance Product Disclosure Statement (PDF 480KB) (applicable to policies issued or renewed on or after 5 April 2021)

Home and Contents Insurance Product Disclosure Statement and Supplementary Product Disclosure Statement (PDF 1MB) (applicable to policies issued or renewed in the period between 1 July 2019 and 4 April 2021)

Product Disclosure Statements (PDS)

Landlord Insurance Product Disclosure Statement (PDF 446KB) (applicable to policies issued or renewed on or after 5 April 2021)

Landlord Insurance Product Disclosure Statement (PDF 2MB) (applicable to policies issued or renewed in the period between 1 July 2019 and 4 April 2021)

This information does not take your personal objectives, circumstances or needs into account. Read the relevant PDS(s) to see if this insurance is right for you.

View the Retail and Business Banking Financial Services Guide, Credit Guide and Privacy Statement. (PDF 147KB)

Home and Contents Insurance is issued by Westpac General Insurance Limited ABN 99 003 719 319 (except workers compensation cover where applicable).  Bank of Melbourne  – a Division of Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 (the Bank) distributes the insurance, but does not guarantee the insurance.