03 June 2016

Insuring unusual properties: top tips for finding the right cover

Britain has a wealth of beautiful, historic architecture. Who could blame you for daydreaming about buying a little cottage with a thatched roof, a restored windmill or a converted barn?

But the practicalities of living in a house with character may outweigh its charm. With a little research, you can make sure your dream home doesn’t become an unexpected financial burden.

Unearth problems before you commit

In order for premiums to remain affordable, insurers create policies that meet the needs of the majority of people. They tend to assess more unusual properties on a case-by-case basis.

When you have found a home you would like to buy, check with your building insurance provider to see if it's happy to provide cover or whether you need a specialist service – before you arrange your mortgage.

By looking at your insurance needs at the beginning of the home-buying process, you can find out if your premiums will be more expensive than expected so you can budget over the long-term.

History may come at a price

If your property is of particular historical importance, you may find it's listed, which means there are rules about how it must be looked after.

This may mean original features have to be restored or replaced using traditional methods and materials, which can be costly. It’s not always easy to source some types of stone or slate, let alone to find a local tradesperson with the skills to use them.

Unusual is an unknown entity

Britain is strewn with unusual properties, from converted barns and train stations to windmills, lighthouses and underground houses.

While these can make wonderful homes, they aren’t always the easiest to maintain.

For instance, how do you replace a windmill blade damaged in a storm or assess coastal erosion damage to a lighthouse? How do you fix a leak when your home is built underground?

Unusual construction usually means that it often costs more to fix any issues, so expect higher home insurance premiums.

New technology is tricky

We are seeing more eco homes being built in the UK, but because these properties have more technology built into their structure, your insurer will need to account for this.

For instance, they may have solar panels, underground heating, natural fibre insulation or wind turbines as part of, or near, the building structure.

Is the technology connected to the National Grid, and do you collect and store your own rainwater, and what are the risks associated with this set up?

Asking the right questions

By looking into home insurance options in advance, you’ll be well-prepped to check the details of your dream home’s construction and location – and identify the details that might push up your premium early in the process:

  • You might not think a flood in the cellar is a major problem, but if any part of the house floods it could still be considered a future flood claim risk
  • Buying a home on a river bank, beach or cliff might leave you open to the risk of the ground disappearing from beneath your feet
  • Unusual roof coverings could become water traps or fire hazards
  • Large trees often have large roots, which could lead to subsidence
  • The costs of replacing period features in historic or listed buildings could be costly – and it can be difficult to source specialised materials and suppliers.

Find out more about Nationwide’s home insurance

Nationwide home insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited.

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