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June 01, 2008

HINTS ON BUYING INSURANCE

Tips for buying homeowners insurance:

*Shop around. Get quotes from several companies or agents, and consult consumer publications (Consumer Reports) and online sources. Also, ask friends and relatives for recommendations. Note that some banks, employers or special-interest groups offer insurance to members. A buyers guide and rate comparison chart for Maryland can be found at www.md

insurance.state.md.us.

*Get price quotes. Make sure you give each carrier the same information so that you can make "apples-to-apples" comparisons.

*Ask for discounts. Often, you can get lower premiums if you buy your home and auto policy from the same carrier. Others offer discounts if you have smoke detectors or security alarms. Some carriers also offer lower rates for seniors.

*Consider flood insurance. Even if you don't live in a flood zone, it's sometimes a good idea to protect your home from the unexpected. Go to www.floodsmart.gov for a free online guide and risk assessment. The site also provides information about cost, based on your location and level of risk for flooding.

After you buy:

*Take inventory. Shoot photographs or video of everything in your house so that you have a record of your belongings. Store it with a family member or friend so that you can access it easily if your home is destroyed in a fire or storm.

*Review regularly. Check your policy every year or two to make sure you are adequately covered. Inform your carrier of home improvements that might change the replacement cost of your home.

Sources: Maryland Insurance Administration; interviews

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