What is buildings insurance?
Buildings insurance is an insurance policy that protects the structure of your home – the walls, roof, floors – and any fixtures – built-in wardrobes, bathroom suites, fitted kitchen – against damage. If you had to claim, the insurer would repair the damaged part of your home.
Damage could be caused by a flood or storm, by a fire, by a leaking pipe or faulty electrics, by criminal or accidental damage, or if your home is affected by subsidence.
Your mortgage lender will require you to have buildings insurance because as soon as you exchange contracts on a property, you’re legally responsible for the building. If you own your home outright, buildings insurance protects your investment.
Building insurance needs to be enough to rebuild your home from the foundations up if it is destroyed.
The average cost of buildings only insurance is £87, compared to the average cost of contents and buildings insurance combined which is £123, according to MoneySuperMarket data from January – June 2018.
Who is buildings insurance for?
- If you own your property outright: you need buildings insurance – whether that’s buildings only cover or a home insurance policy that also covers contents insurance. Contents insurance is different because it protects the belongings you keep inside your home
- If you have a mortgage: your lender will expect you to have buildings insurance in place. That’s because as soon as you exchange contracts on a property, you’re legally responsible for the building, so you need to make sure it’s insured from day one. If you own and live in your own home, you’ll need both buildings and contents insurance.
- If you’re a landlord: you’ll need landlord insurance to make sure you’re covered for your property as well as any tenant/landlord-related issues. You might also want to think about contents insurance, as this can help protect any fixtures and fittings you have inside the home when you’re renting it out.
If you’re a tenant then you’ll only need tenants’ contents insurance, because the building will be owned by the landlord so they’re responsible for buildings cover.
What does buildings insurance cover?
Buildings insurance can cover the physical building structure and grounds, and any incidents that happen relating to both – including:
- Fire, flood, and storm damage: this is when the structure of your building becomes damaged as a result of a fire, flood, or storm
- Subsidence or heave: subsidence is when the foundations of your home slowly sink into the ground - read more about subsidence and how it can affect your home insurance policy. Heave is when the land rises and causes structural issues
- Pipes: buildings insurance can also cover you for water damage due to pipes breaking, bursting, or becoming frozen
- Outbuildings: outbuildings like your shed and/or garage might need repairs after a fire, flood, or storm, which can be included in some policies
- Gardens: you might also be covered if your garden, or any features such as swimming pools, ponds, fountains, terraces and patios, are damaged
- Legal cover: it’s also possible to find cover for liability as the property owner, for personal injury or other property related disputes
- Accidental damage: buildings insurance policies can also help you if your home has become damaged as a result of accidental damage
- Home emergencies: if you have a plumbing emergency or a broken heating system, your insurer might be able to provide cover. You can also find providers that offer 24/7 emergency access if you need to claim
- Emergency service access: some policies also compensate you if the emergency services need access to your home and cause damage as a result
- Alternative accommodation: you may find cover if you need to temporarily move into new accommodation during any repair work
- Moving home: there are insurers that can offer coverage for buildings accidents that might happen during the moving process
- Unoccupied insurance: if your home is left unoccupied for a certain period of time and anything happens to the building, you could be covered with unoccupied buildings insurance
How much should I insure my building for?
You should insure you building for its full rebuild cost from the foundations up, in the event something like a gas explosion destroys your home. The rebuild cost is often lower than the market value of your home.
It’s important to not over or under-estimate how much your home should be insured for. You don't want to pay a higher premium than you need to, but similarly, it could be disastrous if you needed to put in a claim and then found out you weren't covered for enough.
In areas with high house prices, the rebuilding usually costs less than the market value and this brings down the price of your premium.
If you don’t know how much a rebuild would cost, you can consult a surveyor to determine the price. You can find a surveyor through the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), or you can use the estimator built into our home insurance comparison tool.
How much does buildings insurance cost?
The average cost of buildings only insurance is £87, and the average cost of contents and buildings insurance is £123. But prices vary by region. Average quotes for Britain's major cities on MoneySuperMarket to June 2018 were:
- London: £124.12
- Northern Ireland: £97.66
- Glasgow: £87.24
- Manchester: £83.78
- Cardiff: £83.27
- Liverpool: £80.99
- Newcastle Upon Tyne: £73.14
It’s worth remembering that paying annually for buildings insurance can sometimes cheaper than paying monthly, though you should confirm this before making a final decision.
This map shows the average regional costs of buildings only insurance, according to MoneySuperMarket data January – June 2018.
The exact cost of insuring your home will be influenced by things like:
Rebuild value vs market value
When you take out buildings insurance, it should be based on the rebuild value – the cost of rebuilding the home from scratch if it were destroyed.
The rebuild value differs from the market value. In places where houses are expensive, the rebuild value may be lower than the market price. Where houses prices are low, the rebuild value might be higher.
Houses built from special materials or with restrictions on them, such as listed buildings, can potentially cost much more to repair. They often require traditional – for that read old-fashioned and expensive – methods and skills.
The average Grade 2 Listed building costs the most to insure. Here’s how different houses compare:
- Grade 2 listed: £174
- Preservation order: £140
- Grade 1 Listed: £139
- Unlisted building: £105
A grade 2 listed building is the most expensive type of building to insure at an average cost of £174, and an unlisted building is the cheapest type of building to insure at £105 – according to MoneySuperMarket data from January – June 2018.
The cost of your home’s rebuild value can be affected by:
- The age of the property and whether it is listed: this could mean that the materials required to rebuild it are more or less expensive than usual
- The type of roof, wall, and frame: this can affect the cost of materials as well as the safety and stability of the structure. For example, timber frames are more susceptible to fire damage than steel frames
- The number of rooms, doors, and windows: more rooms, doors, and windows generally indicate a larger building, which means a higher rebuild cost
- The type of building: the cost of rebuilding a house can often depend on the type of dwelling it is, so something like a purpose-built flat would probably increase your premium costs
- The land stability: the land your home is built on can also affect the rebuild cost. Land with a higher risk of heave or subsidence means the building is more likely to suffer as a result, which in turn raises the prices of premiums
- The property’s location: if the property is near a river or stream, insurance providers could see this as being a flood risk - increasing the likelihood of you having to claim for flood damage. This increases the cost of your buildings insurance.
The roof material and wall material of your home both affect the cost of buildings insurance, with a tile roof and concrete walls costing the least – according to MoneySuperMarket data January – June 2018.
You can have your rebuild value assessed by a surveyor through the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, and MoneySuperMarket also offer an estimator as part of our home insurance comparison tool.
If you live in and/or own a flat, it may be better to go to a surveyor for a more accurate figure.
How to reduce the cost of buildings insurance?
There are steps you can take to improve the safety and security of your home, which might in turn help reduce the cost of your buildings insurance premiums, such as:
- Fireproof your home: if you’ve taken steps to fireproof your home to reduce the risk of fire damage, this can help reduce your buildings insurance costs
- Insulate your water pipes: insulating your water pipes can prevent them from becoming frozen in cold weather, making it less likely your home will be affected by escape of water
- Protect yourself from flooding: living in a flood risk area can raise your buildings insurance premiums, but taking steps to reduce this risk such as installing flood panels can help balance it out for your insurers
- Remove any surrounding tall trees: trees higher than ten metres can raise the risk of you having to claim for heave or subsidence damage, so removing these trees can lower your premium costs. But check with your council regarding tree preservation orders before you start
- Limit the time your home is unoccupied: the longer your home is unoccupied, the more likely it is that something will go wrong as a result of neglect or lack of use. This can include pipes bursting and causing more damage because nobody’s there to turn off the water. If you can tell your insurer that your home won’t be empty for any extended periods, they may offer you a lower premium. And if you know you’ll be away for over 60 days, you should look into unoccupied home insurance. The average price for buildings insurance for a home left unoccupied for 31060 days was £118.
Making a claim for buildings insurance
The most commom reasons for claiming on a buildings policy has been accidental damage (24%), with ‘escape of water’ – a leaky pipe or boiler – (23%) according MonerySuperMarket customers.
If you need to claim on your buildings insurance, it’s worth keeping in mind:
- You should call the police as soon as you can if there was a theft or attempted theft, any malicious action, or anything else that could possibly come under criminal behaviour
- You should also call your insurer and let them know what has happened as soon as possible, to clear up any confusion to do with your claim
- When you make a claim, you will have to pay an excess fee – this is the amount of money you pay towards the claim before your insurer will pay the rest. Choosing to pay a higher excess when you take out a policy can help to lower your monthly payments
It’s also worth considering whether you really need to claim, as paying out of your own pocket for smaller costs can help you keep your no-claims-discount, and keep your insurance costs as low as possible in the future.
A graph showing the most common previous home insurance claims people have listed when looking to take out a new quote, according to MoneySuperMarket data from January – June 2018.
What buildings insurance might not cover
It’s important to remember that buildings insurance policies can vary depending on the provider, and not all providers will offer the same levels of cover. You should always check the policy documents before agreeing to a deal, to make sure you’ve got the right level of coverage for your property.
It’s also important to avoid underinsuring your building, as some repairs can cost a lot of money if your insurer won’t pick up the tab.
Buildings insurance providers might have clauses written into their policy documents which say they won’t offer cover for things like:
- Wear and tear: insurers usually refuse to pay out for damage caused by general wear and tear or gradual decay of the building.
- Pest infestations: you might also find that you won’t be covered for damage caused by insects, birds, rodents, and other pests.
- Poor workmanship: if any damage to your property was caused by poor workmanship, bad design or incorrect materials, you may not be covered.
- Unoccupied property: if you need to claim for something that happened while the building was unoccupied, your insurer may refuse to pay out.
- Frost damage: frost can cause damage to things like external pipework – but this might not be covered by all buildings insurance policies.
- Damp or rot: any structural damage caused by damp, wet or dry rot may not be covered.
- DIY damage: some insurers might not cover any damage that happens during DIY repairs.
- Deliberate damage: any deliberate damage caused by you or somebody else living in the property may not be covered
Comparing buildings insurance policies
When you’re searching for a better deal on buildings insurance, one of the best ways to save is by looking at quotes from different providers. On MoneySuperMarket, you can compare insurers and quotes based on the price as well as the quality of cover you get, the excess you have to pay, and customer reviews.
All you have to do is give a few details about your property and the people living in it, and you’ll be able to browse buildings insurance deals from multiple providers.
It’s important to remember that the cheapest deals are by no means the best when you’re considering policy quotes. It’s better to look for policies that provide the right level of cover, so you don’t end up underinsured and having to pay out for an accident yourself.
Always make sure you check any policy documents carefully before taking cover out, as you’ll be able to see exactly what’s included in each deal – and find the buildings insurance policy that’ll protect your home when you need it.