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Strange Earthquakes Have Homeowners Wondering

EarthquakeLast week’s strange earthquake has many homeowners shaking in their boots.  What if their home isn’t covered in similar situations?  This is a valid question for anyone that owns a home or is getting ready to move and buy a new homeowner’s insurance policy.

What can start as a subtle vibration can quickly turn into a giant cracking sound, wavy undulations, and violent shaking.  Earthquakes are no laughing matter.  Just look at what happened in Japan earlier this year causing thousands of deaths and forcing many people to relocate from their homes.  While many of us think that an earthquake can’t rock our world because of where we live, we are sadly mistaken.

Last week we saw two very unusual earthquakes – a 5.3 in southeast Colorado and a 5.8 in Virginia.  The latter was felt as far south as Georgia, as far west as Illinois, and as far north as Canada.  Perhaps the most notable area to have felt the quake was New York City.  This is very disconcerting as a lot of people move to the Big Apple each year but without the fear of the “big one” as people in San Francisco often worry about.

But, did you know that the United States gets about 5,000 earthquakes each year, and that’s not just in California.  So, no matter where you live or where you might relocate to, you may be at risk of experiencing an earthquake.

Though there wasn’t as much damage as you might expect in some of the outlying areas of the quake’s epicenter, that’s not to say there wasn’t any at all.  The National Cathedral in Washington, DC now has a leaning tower.  Buildings close to the epicenter also had broken windows and cracked foundations.  With this event bringing the earthquake threat into sharp focus, many homeowners are wondering about their own preparedness.

In most cases, homeowners insurance does not offer coverage for earthquakes – neither does business insurance.  If you are moving to an earthquake zone, or even one that might be just outside one, you can ask your insurance company if they offer earthquake coverage as an additional rider.  If you’re moving to California, you can get quake insurance from the California Earthquake Authority.

But, do you really need earthquake insurance?  Basically, if you are buying a house or already have one, you best address this question.  Your decision will likely be based on the value of your property, the amount of equity in your home, how close the fault line is, the type of home construction, your location, and how valuable your belongings are.

If you do decide that you need earthquake insurance, be aware that most policies are calculated not as an actual dollar amount but as a percentage.  This percentage can range anywhere from 2% to 20% of the costs to replace the damaged buildings.  The amount you pay for this type of insurance will vary by region and the insurance company.

Jon Huser

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