Guest Post by Brian Jaegers, ChFC, Insurance Scouts
Buying a home in Mammoth Lakes is an exciting move. But as soon as you dive into the process, all the contracts and logistics can feel overwhelming. I’ve had phone calls with many new home buyers in Mammoth Lakes who are stressed out once the purchase is in motion because they can’t find good insurance. Living in a rural, wildfire-prone area, homeowners insurance isn’t always as straightforward as it is in other places.
Most homeowners in Mammoth need one of two types of home insurance: homeowners insurance (HO3) or condominium unit owners insurance (HO6).
If you’re buying a condo…
Condominium unit owners insurance serves as your homeowners insurance if you’re buying a condo. The buildings and common areas are usually covered for replacement cost to original construction quality by the master policy held by your condo homeowners association. Condo insurance is basically a mini homeowners insurance policy with less coverage for smaller property incidents that occur within your condo’s walls. Most mortgage companies in Mammoth require condo owners to have an HO6 policy for the length of the loan.
A condo insurance policy covers your belongings as well as property damage and liability as the unit owner. It may cover damage to your possessions from fire or theft, and it can cover your building property too (walls, flooring, cabinets, appliances, etc.) We describe these policies as “walls-in.” If you’re found liable for a visitor’s injury, an HO6 policy could cover associated medical expenses, legal fees, and settlement of a claim. The coverage limits can be customized for your individual needs.
If you’re buying a single-family home…
Homeowners insurance for single-family homes can be a bit harder to come by in Mammoth Lakes. If you’re buying in a more rural part of the county like Crowley Lake, June Lake, Bridgeport, or Tom’s Place it can be even harder. In addition to the willingness of insurance carriers to take on the fuel features of the surrounding area (determined through fuel mapping), proximity to fire hydrants/fire stations can play a role. If your home is within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant and 5 miles of a responsible fire station, this helps meet minimum eligibility requirements.
Homes with wood roofs can be harder to insure, as can homes on roads not maintained by the county. Insurance carriers want to see that major systems have been updated or replaced in the last 20 years as well (think plumbing, electrical, heating, roofs, etc.) Homes that show pride of ownership can be easier to insure. But none of these things are hard deal breakers — often an underwriter will approve a home with one of these issues if there’s a plan to fix it quickly once ownership transfers.
A homeowners insurance policy insures the home building itself as well as your belongings inside. Like the condo unit owners policy, it also covers your liability and legal responsibility for any visitors, including any damage caused by your pets to people visiting your home.
With a homeowners policy, damage caused by floods and earthquakes isn’t included and must be purchased separately. In the Eastern Sierra, flood zones aren’t as prevalent as in some areas of California. Flood zones require the purchase of flood insurance. However we’ve all felt an earthquake here, and every time I’ve felt the roll, I know purchasing earthquake insurance is money well spent. We can recommend a separate policy for coverage of one or both of these.
If you plan to use your property as a vacation rental…
If you’re investing in a rental property for vacationers to Mammoth Lakes, your insurance needs change somewhat. We have several carriers that will endorse a home or condo for secondary use by the owner as well as short term rental. This type of occupancy can increase the cost of the policy, but it’s essential to have proper coverage. The last thing you want is an insurance company denying coverage if you have a large claim.
Short term rental insurance was more problematic with insurance carriers a few years ago, but the popularity of Airbnb and VRBO have made this type of coverage more common. I recommend discussing this type of coverage with a local insurance agent.
[From Sonja] I keep a list of insurance referrals for home buyers in Mammoth Lakes. Contact me to talk more about local insurance providers I’ve worked with.