Insuring your first home

Getting that first foot on the property ladder is a major financial commitment, so you’ll want to make sure your investment is properly protected. Here’s our guide to the ins and outs of home insurance when it comes to buying your first home.

Getting that first foot on the property ladder is a major financial commitment, so you’ll want to make sure your investment is properly protected. Here’s our guide to the ins and outs of home insurance when it comes to buying your first home.

Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
5
minute read
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Last Updated 27 OCTOBER 2022

Home insurance for first-time buyers

Congratulations, you’ve bought your first home and become a homeowner. Once you’ve got your mortgage sorted, part of the later stage of the house-buying process involves getting home insurance. Yes, just as you’ve ticked one thing off your to-do list, there’s something else to arrange… 

As a first-time homeowner, there are two types of cover you’ll need to think about – buildings insurance and contents insurance. 

You can buy buildings and contents insurance as two separate policies, or you can combine them into a single policy. If you’re looking to save money on your home insurance, a combined policy from one insurance provider could work out cheaper. 

Insurance is full of jargon, so if you’re new to it our home insurance glossary might help explain some of the unfamiliar terms. 

Buildings insurance

Home insurance isn’t a legal requirement. But your mortgage provider will most likely insist you have adequate buildings insurance in place as a condition of their offer – they may even ask for evidence of it.  

Buildings insurance covers the structure of your home, including walls, doors and fitted kitchens and bathrooms. It can protect you against damage caused by: 

Most policies will also cover the outside of your home, including gardens, garden walls, fences and garages. 

How much does buildings insurance cost?

Buildings insurance is calculated on the rebuild value of your home if it’s destroyed beyond repair. For that reason, it’s important to make sure you have an accurate idea of the cost of rebuilding your home from scratch, rather than its market value. Read our guide for more information on how to calculate the rebuild cost of your home

How much you pay for buildings insurance also depends on whether you live in an area prone to flooding

It’s important to get these figures right, because if you’re underinsured you could be left with a shortfall if you need to make a claim. Similarly, if you’re overinsured you might be paying too much for your home insurance.  

We can also help you work out your house rebuild cost using the Building Cost Information Service calculator when you compare buildings insurance and get a quote.  

Contents insurance

Contents insurance covers the cost of repairing or replacing your home contents if they’re damaged, destroyed or stolen. 

‘Contents’ are defined as anything you’d take with you when you move, so that includes furniture, clothing, jewellery, appliances, entertainment equipment and so on. In other words, your household belongings. If you’re moving into your first place, you may be lucky to receive housewarming gifts. Don’t forget to make sure you include them when working out how much your contents are worth.  

See our guide to valuing your contents accurately 

While it’s also not required for you to buy contents insurance by law, it can be a handy policy to have. This is because it provides peace of mind that your belongings would be repaired or replaced if they were damaged or stolen.  

How much does contents insurance cost?

The cost of contents insurance will largely depend on the location of your new home and the total value of your possessions. You can work this out by adding up how much it would cost to replace each item. The cost may also be affected by the amount of voluntary excess you agree to pay towards a claim. 

While insurance providers calculate a price based on the risk of you having to make a claim, there are many providers and policies to choose from. So, don’t just go with the first one you see, and always compare prices and policies to find your best option.

What optional extras can I add?

When buying your home insurance, there’s often the option to add additional cover to your policy at an extra cost. This might include: 

  • Accidental damage – could cover you if you spill red wine on your cream carpet or break a window, for example.
  • Legal expenses – can cover legal costs of disputes relating to your property, for example, a boundary dispute.
  • Personal possessions – gives you cover for your belongings if you take them out and about with you. 
  • Home emergency cover – can cover the cost of emergency repairs and labour if you have a burst pipe, electrical failure or damage to your roof in a storm, for example. 

Optional extras will likely increase the cost of your premium – a premium is the amount you pay either monthly or annually for an insurance policy. 

Availability of optional extras and cover levels vary among providers so, before you buy, check the policy covers and what you actually need. 

When should I buy home insurance?

You should have your buildings insurance in place from the moment you exchange contracts on your new home. That’s because you become legally responsible for the property from this point, even though there could still be a while to go before you move in. 
 
You might also need contents insurance in place before you move in as your belongings could be damaged in transit. To be covered for this though, you may have to use a professional removals firm. Just check the details before you buy to make sure you’re properly covered.  

Other insurance to consider when buying a house for the first time

If you’re taking out a mortgage for the first time, it could be worth thinking about additional insurance to protect your mortgage repayments. This might include: 

  • Life insurance – can cover your mortgage if you die. This may be particularly useful if you have a young family. 
  • Critical illness cover – is typically bought as an add-on to a life insurance policy. It provides a lump-sum payment that could help pay off your mortgage if you’re diagnosed with a serious condition, such as a heart attack, stroke or cancer. 
  • Income protection – can provide a tax-free monthly income if you become ill or are injured and unable to work. 

Frequently asked questions

What types of insurance paperwork are there?

The paperwork you’re sent when you buy insurance varies among providers and can have different names, but may include:

  • key facts guide or summary of your insurance
  • policy schedule
  • important information about your policy
  • product information
  • terms and conditions
  • provider contact details

Some insurance providers might include most of this information in one booklet, while others may send separate documents. 

Why is insurance paperwork important?

Insurance paperwork is important because it sets out the rules for your policy and defines what you can claim for and what you can’t.

If you face an incident where you need to make an insurance claim, such as a flood, burst pipe or burglary, you’ll need information from your paperwork, your insurance provider contact number, policy number and details on how to make a claim. 

You might also need them if:

  • You’re applying for a mortgage – most mortgage providers require you to have buildings insurance as a condition of their offer.
  • You need to fill out a self-employed self-assessment tax return – if you have business insurance, you can claim it back as an ‘allowable expense’. 

What other documents should I keep?

If you have high risk items and valuables, it’s important to keep any original receipts as proof of ownership, should you need to make a claim.

You’ll also need to keep updated valuation certificates for expensive valuables, like jewellery, antiques and rare collectables.

You might also want to consider taking photos of important items and keeping them with the rest of your insurance paperwork.

How will my insurance documents be sent?

Some insurance providers will give you the option of being sent your documents in the post or getting them via email. Many insurance providers also offer secure online portals – either through their website or via a downloadable app – which allow access to your insurance documents online.

You’ll be able to view, download, print and save your documents, so you’ll always have access to your policy. Some providers also let you make changes to your policy and update your details via the online portal.

What should I do with any insurance documents I’m sent?

If your documents are sent through the post, make sure you keep them somewhere safe. Likewise, if your policy is emailed to you, keep the email. It might also be worth downloading and filing the documents on your computer.

If you’re sent reminders to renew your policy, use them as a prompt to compare prices and cover to make sure you have the right policy for you – particularly if you’ve made changes since you bought your last policy, such as adding a new extension or acquiring valuable possessions.

Top tip

It’s a good idea to scan and save things like receipts and valuation certificates relating to your home contents insurance – that way they’re safely stored on your computer if anything should happen to the originals.

Where can I buy home insurance?

Buying your first home doesn’t come cheap, so you’ll want to save money where you can. The cost of insurance may seem like an added extra you could do without, but it’s worth thinking about how much you’d pay if your home was destroyed by a fire, your belongings were stolen or there was damage from a flood. These costs can really add up, so if you’d struggle to meet them then insurance is a good idea. Don’t forget, your home is a huge investment so you’ll want to protect it. 

Shopping around and comparing quotes is an ideal way to find a good deal on your home insurance

Start a quote today and see if you could cut some of those first-time buyer costs. 

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