Leaving the Nest: College Students and Renters Insurance

Why $12 a month on renters insurance will be one of the smartest investments you’ll make.

By Shannon Ireland

College students live for summer. They get a much-needed break from reading dense textbooks and studying for exam after exam.

However, after months spent at home with Mom and Dad, they’re typically ready to head back to campus and regain their freedom when the fall semester rolls around.

Back-to-school shopping typically includes new clothes, upgraded laptops, and textbooks. But don’t forget about one crucial item to shop for this summer: renters insurance.

Here’s the deal with coverage

Students who live on campus are typically covered by their parents’ insurance policies. So if their items are broken, lost, or stolen, Mom and Dad’s insurance can come to the rescue.

But what about those who live off campus in rented apartments or homes? The story is a little different. Not only will their parents’ policies likely not protect their belongings, but their landlord’s policy typically won’t, either.

When students move off campus, they’re no longer considered a dependent, which is why their parents’ insurance goes away. And a landlord’s insurance usually only covers the structure of the property. A student’s belongings are his/her responsibility, and that’s where renters insurance comes into play.

Oh, and don’t expect your roommate’s policy to cover your stuff, either. Renters insurance only protects the person listed on the policy.

What is renters insurance?

Renters insurance is a policy that offers protection for your belongings, such as furniture, electronics, clothes, and kitchenware, and liability in case someone is injured while on your property.

So if fire, smoke, windstorm, lightning, water damage (excluding flood damage), theft, burglary, or an explosion (yes, explosion) leaves your apartment in shambles, your policy can help pay for repairs or replacements of your belongings.

Or if you throw a party and someone falls down the stairs and breaks a bone, your coverage can assist with the medical or legal fees that arise.

Some policies even include additional living expenses coverage in the event that you’re displaced while repairs are made due to damage from a covered claim.

Is renters insurance necessary?

Technically, no, unless your landlord requires you to have it.

However, foregoing the purchase of renters insurance will leave you paying to repair or replace all of your belongings by yourself if they’re damaged or destroyed by perils, such as fire or lightning. And think about how quickly that sum can add up when you factor in a laptop, TV, bed, and the entirety of your closet.

The Insurance Information Institute found that 95 percent of homeowners had homeowners insurance in 2015, while only 40 percent of renters sought coverage.

How much coverage do I need?

That depends on how much you own.

The average renter owns between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of belongings. And the easiest way to figure out how much you need to protect your belongings is to compile a home inventory — an itemized list of everything you own, including photos or videos and receipts or listed values.

If you have an extensive collection of family heirloom jewelry or other high-value items, you may need to purchase a floater policy to properly insure them, because policies typically have a cap on coverage for high-value items (usually $1,500).

Once you figure out how much protection you’ll need, shop for a policy that reflects that. And make sure it includes a minimum of $100,000 in liability coverage.

That sounds expensive …

Renters insurance is actually very affordable. Your landlord is taking on the expensive burden of insuring the structure and the costs associated with rebuilding. Renters insurance protects your belongings, so your premiums just reflect that value.

For context, homeowners insurance for the structure of the house is set at the amount necessary to rebuild it from the ground up, including building materials, while contents coverage (protection for a homeowner’s belongings) is set between 50 and 70 percent of the structure coverage amount.

The average cost of renters insurance is just $12 per month, according to the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.

The bottom line

Factor the $12 fee into your monthly budget.

Renters insurance may not be necessary, but students have enough to worry about during the school year without trying to scrape together money to pay for damaged or stolen belongings, or hospital bills resulting from their dog biting a guest. To put things in perspective, did you know that the average dog bite claim was $37,214 in 2015?

So, do yourself a favor and make sure you’re covered with a renters insurance policy for the school year.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Joel McHale Lists Hollywood Hills Home

The $2.395-million listing offers an attractive exterior, and a pretty “Great Indoors,” too.

Joel McHale — actor, comedian, and star of the upcoming CBS series “The Great Indoors” — and wife Sarah recently put their Hollywood Hills home on the market for $2.395 million.

shutterstock_349385552The 3,500-square foot, 4-bedroom, 5-bath home is located within a short driving distance from the famous Griffith Observatory.

Traditional in its architecture but with a modern interior, the home features open living spaces, dark hardwoods throughout, recessed lighting, and patterned wallpaper on many walls and ceilings.

The eat-in kitchen is well-equipped for any home chef, with ample storage space in crisp, white cabinets, a spacious farmhouse sink, and top-of-the-line appliances.

The home also features a formal dining room, adorned with wainscoting and wallpaper with a woodsy feeling to it. The dining room is drenched in light, thanks to a wall of windows and French doors leading out to the backyard.

The living areas’ built-in shelving creates a cozy and relaxed atmosphere perfect for hanging out and enjoying the stunning canyon views. The bedrooms are quite large for a home built in 1947, and, like the living spaces, are flooded with light.

The backyard, similar to many other Southern California homes, supports an indoor-outdoor lifestyle with beautifully designed brick patio and space for an outdoor living and dining set near the fireplace. The yard has a serene and private feeling to it, with shrubs and trees in abundance.

The home’s listing agent is Carrie Berkman Lewis with Partners Trust.

See more about the Hollywood Hills neighborhood:

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Joel McHale Lists Hollywood Hills Home

The $2.395-million listing offers an attractive exterior, and a pretty “Great Indoors,” too.

Joel McHale — actor, comedian, and star of the upcoming CBS series “The Great Indoors” — and wife Sarah recently put their Hollywood Hills home on the market for $2.395 million.

shutterstock_349385552The 3,500-square foot, 4-bedroom, 5-bath home is located within a short driving distance from the famous Griffith Observatory.

Traditional in its architecture but with a modern interior, the home features open living spaces, dark hardwoods throughout, recessed lighting, and patterned wallpaper on many walls and ceilings.

The eat-in kitchen is well-equipped for any home chef, with ample storage space in crisp, white cabinets, a spacious farmhouse sink, and top-of-the-line appliances.

The home also features a formal dining room, adorned with wainscoting and wallpaper with a woodsy feeling to it. The dining room is drenched in light, thanks to a wall of windows and French doors leading out to the backyard.

The living areas’ built-in shelving creates a cozy and relaxed atmosphere perfect for hanging out and enjoying the stunning canyon views. The bedrooms are quite large for a home built in 1947, and, like the living spaces, are flooded with light.

The backyard, similar to many other Southern California homes, supports an indoor-outdoor lifestyle with beautifully designed brick patio and space for an outdoor living and dining set near the fireplace. The yard has a serene and private feeling to it, with shrubs and trees in abundance.

The home’s listing agent is Carrie Berkman Lewis with Partners Trust.

See more about the Hollywood Hills neighborhood:

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5 Types of People Who Attend Open Houses

Not everyone who walks through the door is a potential buyer.

In real estate showings, the Sunday open house is the gold standard. As the name implies, a property is open to just about anyone who learns of the showing in an online or print ad, drives by and sees the agent’s A-frame sign, or receives a notification postcard in the mail.

But not everyone who goes to an open house is a potential buyer. Here are five types of people likely to pass through a property during an open house.

1. The real buyer

These people are somewhere in the home-buying process. They’re either testing out the market or they’re serious and fully qualified, ready to take action. For the seller, these are the ones you want coming through the door.

Buyers may use the open house as their second or third visit, after having seen the home with their agent during the week. The open house provides them the opportunity to get more comfortable in the home.

2. The nearby neighbor

This guy or gal has been waiting for years for an excuse to get inside your home, for various reasons. Their home may be similar to yours — maybe even designed by the same architect — and they want to compare their property to yours.

There might be other reasons to see it, too. Once, at an open house of a view property in San Francisco, a neighbor came into the house and made a beeline for the back deck. Meanwhile, in the neighboring home across the backyard, the neighbor’s son sat in the window. What followed was a cell phone conversation in which the father instructed his son to move to the right, to the left, go upstairs, and so on. The father’s goal was to determine from exactly which points in this home he and his family were visible to their neighbors.

You’ll no doubt encounter nosy neighbors, too. They live nearby and just want to satisfy their curiosity about your home — or even about you.

3. Agents scoping out the place for clients

Agents constantly check out properties for their buyer clients. The vast majority of the time, they’re professional and courteous.

There are exceptions, of course. Not long ago, in the living room of a packed Sunday open house, an agent sat on the couch and spoke to her client on the phone. The agent summarized the property loudly and in none-too-complimentary terms.

“The finishes are cheap, the floor plan is off, and the bathrooms need updating,” she said. “Don’t waste your time coming over here.”

The listing agent politely asked the other agent to continue her conversation outside.

4. The agent who lost the listing

In many cases, a seller interviewed multiple agents before selecting their listing agent. Sometimes agents spend a lot of time, and even some money, working with a potential seller to secure a listing. Obviously, not every agent interviewed will get the listing.

When the property lands on the open house circuit, an agent who lost the listing may visit. They want to know if the seller took any of their suggestions. Did they paint the orange room a more neutral color, or renovate the kitchen or bathrooms as suggested? It ‘s their chance to run through the property anonymously, as most agents usually won’t know with whom they competed for the listing.

5. A previous owner, or one of their relatives

Over years of open houses, a busy listing agent will surely run into an old seller, or their children or grandkids who grew up in the home. These people come to the open house to see how it looks and to reminisce. Lots of memories happen in a home, and the opportunity to go back in time can be a real treat.

A good listing agent will welcome any and all visitors to an open house. They solicit feedback from buyers and make notes of their comments, reactions and questions.

If you’re attending an open house with no intentions of buying, keep it to yourself. Be as subtle and unobtrusive as possible, and don’t waste the listing agent’s time — unless you have some helpful feedback for the agent or seller.

Looking to buy a home? Check out our Home Buyers Guide for tips and helpful information.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Lucille Ball’s First Hollywood Home Hits the Market

The comic actress rented it for the whole family when she first came West.

When Lucille Ball was just starting out, she rented a home in West Hollywood where she lived with her brother, mother and grandfather.

Now on the market for $1.75 million, it’s just the kind of classically charming craftsman home where you can imagine the young comedian and actress living.

The home’s 1,874 square feet include 2 bedrooms and 2 baths, with hardwood floors, crown molding and cozy spots for relaxing. A living room with a wall of windows and a fireplace flows into a dining room where Lucy may have sat at the table practicing lines for her early films.

The updated kitchen features a breakfast nook and French doors that open onto a back deck with a hot tub.

Located near the studios where Lucy first worked, the property boasts avocado and lemon trees for an extra burst of California goodness.

The listing agent is Rhonda Kohn of Keller Williams Realty.

Photos by AcmeStudios.

The fascination with celebrity homes is nothing new. Star maps have been around for years:

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