Something that went down in Paris, Texas, or Paris, Arkansas — something like a bunch of the houses — would have a bigger impact on homeowners insurance costs here than any goings-on in Paris, France.
But the far-off Paris, specifically President Donald Trump’s decision this week to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, provided a tempting hook for a fresh look at data by QuoteWizard by LendingTree.
It turns out, not too terribly surprisingly, that Oklahoma had the highest homeowners insurance rate increase in the country from 2007 to 2016. The average premium went up 78%, or $821, in the 10-year period.
“In wake of the U.S. declaring a pullout in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, QuoteWizard found that increased frequency and severity of natural disasters have increased home insurance rates,” the news release said, in a classic example of piggybacking news on a bigger story.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just curious for a news pitch to an Oklahoma journalist. Natural disasters and their impact on property, insurance and lives don’t need a hook to get our attention any more than we have to hear somebody on TV say “hook echo” to know the weather’s bad.
QuoteWizard said it compared data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners 2007 report with its most recent 2016 report, to determine “which states saw the biggest increases in insurance rates due to natural disasters.” I have questions, but first:
• Oklahoma’s 2007 average home insurance premium was $1,054. In 2016, it was $1,875.
• According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Oklahoma declared 186 natural disasters during the period — the second most in the country behind California. For anyone who misses the point: “Oklahoma is less than half the size of California.”
• “Oklahoma is prone to severe weather with tornadoes and hail storms in particular causing significant damage to homes every year.” Noted.
• “Every year in the United States, natural disasters account for tens of billions of dollars in damages.”
• Across Tornado Alley — north Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and parts of Louisiana, Iowa, Nebraska and eastern Colorado — insurance costs rose 71%, or $540.
• In 2007, the average rate in Tornado Alley states was $807. In 2016, it was $1,402.
• In 2007, the national average home insurance rate was $721. In 2016, it was $1,098 — a 51% increase, or $373.
• “The trend of home insurance premium rate increases suggests that as natural disasters continue to occur, so will the costs on homeowners.”
Technically, the report didn’t have data that said anything about a trend; it just had the ranking, by state, of the increase during one time period, 2007-2016. Maybe the increase goes without saying. But QuoteWizard said it — without exactly backing it up. Details, people.
Now, that period of time, 2007-2016, closely mirrors the last oil boom as well as the decade-long slog out of the bottom of the Great Recession, credit freeze and housing crash. Home values were heading, with or without disasters. Was that considered in the study?
Yes, but I had to ask. There was no mention of it in the Oklahoma section of the study report.
“The study does account for home value increases,” a QuoteWizard sokesman said. “It’s not only disasters that spike the scope of an insurance claim. Vincent Plymell of the Colorado Insurance Commissioners office says that losses are higher ‘because of the increased size and complexity of many homes, as well as increased costs for building materials.’ On top of that, Colorado is one of many states experiencing a shortage in construction workers.
“This also applies to Oklahoma as well.”
But damage to homes by severe weather drives costs up the most here, according to the study report, which quotes Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak.
“Tornadoes and hail storms in particular,” he said, which lead to huge expenses for insurance companies, which pass the costs along to policyholders.
“The rates charged by insurers will reflect the expected catastrophe losses for a given geographic area,” Doak said. “Insurers plan and model for the likelihood of more common events like break-ins and fires, but also plan for major events like EF5 tornadoes.”
It’s always good to be reminded of that hard-as-hail reality, with or without an international incident like the weakened Paris Climate Agreement as a hook.
My own homeowners policy renewed this month with a premium increase of 12%. We got a new roof last spring after a hailstorm. If you claim more you pay more. And when more of us claim more we all pay more.
Real estate editor Richard Mize has edited The Oklahoman’s weekly residential real estate section and covered housing, commercial real estate, construction, development, finance and related business since 1999.