Homeowners Putting Off Home Upkeep, Risking Damage

New Agency Forward survey suggests many U.S. homeowners are not prioritizing maintenance, even if it jeopardizes their property.

Source: Nationwide | Published on August 18, 2023

millions of homeowners uninsured

It is easier to prevent a problem than to repair a bigger issue—mitigating risk is an important part of homeownership.

The latest Nationwide Agency Forward survey on U.S. homeowners reveals many homeowners are not taking preventative steps with necessary maintenance in the home before it becomes a major issue. Additionally, a quarter of homeowners (26%) are unaware that delaying necessary home maintenance can have implications for their homeowner’s policy.

Delaying inevitable home maintenance is not cost savings
Within the past year, 44% of homeowners said they have delayed performing routine maintenance tasks and 31% are delaying necessary renovations and repairs—with 78% of these individuals saying they have deferred necessary maintenance because of inflation and rising prices.

Among these individuals, the most common types of home maintenance or renovations that are being delayed are roof repair/replacement and kitchen/bathroom remodeling. Baby boomers (38%) are less likely than Gen X (50%) and Millennial (52%) homeowners to have delayed home maintenance needs.

“As a homeowner, it’s important to protect your property from further damage when there is a known issue,” said Beth Riczko, Nationwide’s President of P&C Personal Lines. “When a claim is filed, there are many factors reviewed during the investigation that may impact whether the claim is covered, including if the insured followed policy conditions. For example, when shingles are damaged on a roof and aren’t repaired causing interior damage, there could be coverage impacts.”

Ensure you have the right insurance coverage
71% of agents reported that customers are reducing their homeowner’s coverage to save money. The most common homeowners claim seen by agents stem from weather-related damage and fire damage—with most agents reporting an increase in these types of claims over the past year. No one plans to file a home insurance claim, yet the survey found that 43% of homeowners have filed a claim. More than half (56%) were related to weather, 37% for water damage, and 13% for fire damage.

More than 8 in 10 homeowners believe their home is insured to the right value (87%), but many are still concerned that their policy might not cover certain types of damages or incidents (54%) or that they may not have enough coverage in case of a major loss or catastrophe (47%).

“Homeowners should assess coverage needs and determine if they have enough coverage to reflect rising repair costs due to inflation,” said Riczko. “Taking proactive steps not only protects their investment but also provides peace of mind knowing they are better prepared for any challenges that may arise. It’s good practice to do an annual coverage review with your agent, to go over any updates or changes to your home or belongings and craft a policy that provides adequate protection.”

When in doubt, ask an agent
Insurance can provide policyholders peace of mind regardless of whether severe weather is in the forecast. Most homeowners are aware of some of the basic coverage available through homeowners policies including fire (89%), liability (83%) and personal property replacement protection (79%), but struggle to understand the full range of options available to them.

In addition to covering the home, a standard home policy will offer various levels of liability and personal property protection. With all the choices available, it is important policyholders talk with their agent to ensure they have adequate coverage in the event of a loss.

Insurance 101, what does homeowners insurance cover

  • Liability limits can range from $100,000 to $1,000,000, adding an umbrella policy may help give additional liability coverage of $1,000,000 to $5,000,000
  • A person who injures themselves on a homeowner’s property might claim that the homeowner is legally liable. In the event the injured person makes a claim or files a lawsuit, liability coverage under the homeowner’s policy may provide protection.
  • Personal Property, replacement cost vs actual cash value
  • Most policies will cover the current value of personal possessions. As home items keep getting more expensive, current value will not be enough to cover the cost to replace items with new ones.  Additional personal property insurance may help provide funds to repair or replace home belongings after a loss.

“Homeowners should speak with an agent to ensure they have an informed understanding of their home protection and additional ways they can supplement coverage,” added Riczko. “Also inform your agent about any home renovations you do; this will help make sure these new additions have the proper coverage. There are cases where certain updates may even help reduce your premium.”