Last night I spent an hour with an insurance agent who tried to win over my business. He was a nice guy, but I'm not sure he's going to get our business. I learned a few interesting things while talking to him.
First off, I spent a fair amount of time explaining about our difficulty in obtaining house insurance, about the discrepancy between the purchase price and the replacement price of the house, about our desire for full replacement value, about it being listed on the State and National Historic Register, about the high cost of our current insurance and about the strange perks the current policy offers. He seemed puzzled that his agency would have denied coverage on the house originally as the full replacement requirement, knob and tube wiring and the historic registries would not have been sufficient to disqualify the house for a policy.
But then I started discussing the asbestos slate shingles we replaced. It seems those shingles were the sticking point. Asbestos siding or asbestos shingles are an automatic disqualification for writing a homeowner's policy. when I asked why, his response was that while they could estimate the cost of removal, remediation and disposal today, his insurance company considered it too large of a risk to try and estimate what future costs for these actions might be.
Second, he started listing all of the discounts for the quote, including a discount for no claims. And then he said, "Did you know there was a water damage claim in 2004?" No, I didn't know that. So then I asked if claims filed on a house were publicly accessible data. He didn't know. Still, I wish that I had known this when we were buying houses. I would have asked my agent about every house on our short list. It's just one more tool to help prospective house buyers.
The most frightening part of the night though came when we pulled up car insurance details. I had given him my address, full name, date of birth and driver's license number, all necessary for a car insurance quote. He happened to have a second computer screen showing what he was entering, and suddenly up popped a screen with my Social Security Number. I asked about that and he said, "Sometimes we can match a social security number based on the person's name and birthday."
This is a private company. Where the heck else is my social security number?