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Replacement value is an estimate of how much it would cost to rebuild your home to its original state if it is destroyed. Your home's replacement value is one of the biggest factors—along with location and policy deductible—that influence your homeowners insurance premiums.
Understanding how to calculate your home's replacement cost value (RCV) can help you find the best quote when shopping for homeowners insurance with different insurers. It can also help you update your current policy to reflect the current costs of replacing your home.
How Is Replacement Value Calculated for a Home?
There are several ways to determine the replacement value of your home, including using a cost calculator, getting an appraisal or calculating the numbers yourself. Because of the importance of accurately calculating the appropriate limits for your home insurance coverage, you should use one or more of these methods to determine your home's RCV.
Get an Appraisal
Your insurer can help you determine the cost of replacing your home. Still, it may also be helpful to get a professional home appraisal to ensure your dwelling coverage limits are sufficient.
- Insurer appraisal: Home insurance companies commonly use software that produces replacement cost values. The accuracy of your appraisal will depend largely on the information the insurer has at its disposal. Before meeting with your insurance company, make sure you have pertinent information about your home, including its square footage, age, materials used and any other information that might affect its replacement value.
- Professional appraiser: Your most accurate calculation will likely come from a professional appraiser who performs an on-site home inspection and understands your area's ordinances and building costs.
Replacement Cost Calculator
You can use software similar to programs that insurers use to establish the cost of rebuilding your home from the ground up. Dwelling Cost and Craftsman's Insurance Replacement Estimator are two well-known options to consider.
Be careful not to confuse replacement cost with the market value of your home, which is the price it could theoretically fetch if put up for sale. You'll see these calculators on marketplaces like Zillow and Trulia. Market value is a different type of home valuation that factors in housing market conditions, whereas replacement cost strictly considers the cost to replace your home, including materials and labor.
Estimate the Replacement Value Yourself
If you don't mind spending the time and effort, another option is to run the numbers yourself. Generally, the DIY method is not as accurate as estimates generated by qualified professionals, but it may be good if you merely want a ballpark figure to start with.
The easiest way to calculate the replacement cost is to estimate the local cost per square foot to build a home by your home's square footage. So, if your local contractors charge an average of $150 per square foot, and your home is 2,000 square feet, the RCV for your home would be $300,000 (150 x 2,000 = 300,000). The average cost to build a house in the U.S. was $280,226 in 2022, according to HomeAdvisor.
Replacement Cost Factors
When determining the cost needed to replace your home, there are several essential factors to consider, such as:
- Age: Older homes may feature materials and characteristics that are harder to replace and, thus, more costly.
- Square footage: As a general rule, the larger your home is, the more expensive it will be to replace.
- Cost of labor: The availability of skilled workers and the average costs for labor in your area should factor into your home's replacement cost value.
- Location: Typically, homes in popular large cities cost more to replace than comparable homes in rural areas.
- Fixtures and features: Top-grade home features like premium flooring and roofing will affect your home's replacement value. Likewise, the type of HVAC, electrical and solar systems in your home are other important valuation factors.
What Is Replacement Value Used For?
Home insurers use the replacement cost value to help set your dwelling coverage limit on your homeowners insurance. That way, you'll receive adequate funds to rebuild your home if a covered event destroys it. Knowing your replacement value can also help you decide on the best policy and coverage amount for you.
Still, even the most accurate estimate to replace your home could be insufficient after a natural disaster. The ensuing rush among homeowners filing claims to rebuild their homes could drive up costs for labor and materials, pushing your expenses over your replacement value. In that case, you might pay a higher premium for a policy option that provides more financial protection, such as a guaranteed replacement cost policy that covers the costs of rebuilding your home regardless of the cost.
If you're looking to save money on your monthly premiums, a functional replacement cost provision may make sense. This provision allows your home insurer to replace your damaged or destroyed home with one that simply functions similarly, allowing you to save money on your insurance premiums.
Keep in mind, many insurance companies do not require you to insure your home for 100% of its replacement value. Instead, these insurers may require you to meet an 80% insured-to-value threshold, which limits your dwelling coverage to 80% of your home's replacement value. The 80% coverage option could save you money on your monthly premiums, but you could be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars if your home suffers significant damage. As such, it may be worth it to insure your home for at least 100% of its replacement value
How Does Replacement Value Differ From Actual Cash Value?
When you set up your insurance policy, you may have the option to cover your property and personal belongings for their replacement value or actual cash value. The key difference between these two valuations is how they handle depreciation. With replacement cost value, your insurance company covers you for the cost to replace your damaged property and belongings with property of similar value. By contrast, an actual cash value policy covers your property for its value in its current depreciated state.
Depreciation could have a significant impact on your finances if your home is ever destroyed or damaged. With a replacement cost value estimate, your insurer would pay you to rebuild with new materials in most cases. But if you choose an actual cash value policy, the age of your roof, floors, HVAC systems and more factor into your coverage limit. As a result, you'd only receive payment for your home's depreciated value, not the total amount necessary to replace it.
Replacement value insurance is more expensive than an actual cash value policy since it pays out more for a covered event. The choice between these two options will likely come down to your budget and how much coverage you'd like to have in the event your home is destroyed and you have to file a claim. If you can manage the higher premium, replacement value is the better option that provides you with more coverage.
Good Credit Could Help You Save Money
Calculating an accurate replacement value for your home is essential to ensure you get sufficient insurance to protect your home. Adding a guaranteed value provision could be worth higher premiums if you want to ensure your home is completely covered, no matter the cost.
To save money on homeowners insurance, shop and compare multiple insurers, increase your deductible and bundle your home and auto insurance policies. If your state allows home insurers to consider your credit-based insurance score when setting premiums, managing good credit could help you save.