Shop for homeowner's insurance
There are lots of places to get a homeowner's insurance quote. On the Internet, you can try various sties that provide quotes from multiple companies. State Farm and USAA deal directly with consumers without using independent agents and are called "direct writers". In theory, they can pass on their savings by eliminating the middleman.
Read your junk mail. Direct marketers like Geico and Progressive Insurance Co. save on overhead -- and pass on the savings -- by marketing by phone, mail, or the Internet.
Let your state be your guide. Insurance departments in 23 states offer on-line shopping guides for homeowner's insurance. Your state's guide may identify little-known companies with competitive rates. Insure.com can link you to your state guide.
Focus on financials
Nine insurers went belly-up following the unprecedented damage wrought by 1992's Hurricane Andrew. The 23,000 affected customers waited at least six months for a check from the state's insurance guaranty fund. For that reason, it's wise to look at the financial ratings of your home insurer. Ask the company for that information, or check out one of the financial ratings services on the Web. An A rating or higher from Standard & Poor's or an AA ranking or better from Moody's Investor Service is a good indicator of strength. Weiss Ratings, the most independent of the ratings services, and arguably the most stringent, publishes a list of the currently weakest companies.
As a last resort, there's your state
Unfortunately, if your home's in a hurricane zone, you may be stuck with just one expensive option, your state-sponsored high-risk pool. But try shopping again a year from now. Private insurers are continually looking for new ways to cut up the market, and one company's black mark is another's business opportunity. Progressive Insurance Co., for instance, has thrived by insuring people and property that other carriers won't touch.
Some states provide assistance -- either shopping help or special coverage -- for homeowners who can't find insurance in urban or vulnerable coastal areas. Check with your state insurance department for details.