Searching for CLUEs: What Homebuyers & Sellers Need to Know About Homeowners Insurance

Homebuyers and sellers should be aware about issues involving homeowners insurance and the C.L.U.E. database. C.L.U.E. stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange and is a collection of homeowners insurance claim history enabling insurance companies to access five years worth of prior claim information to evaluate risks. The database is maintained by Choice Point Inc., a private Georgia firm, and contains over 40 million claims records on houses in all 50 states. Over 90 percent of insurers providing homeowners coverage provide data to the CLUE system.

In the same way that having a bad credit record affects your ability to finance a home, negative information in the CLUE database can affect whether a purchaser can get a homeowners insurance policy and at what cost. Many homebuyers are facing the grim reality of the decreasing availability and affordability of homeowners insurance. When a homeowner applies for insurance on a property, the insurance company will usually check the CLUE database to see what claims or reports of damage are on file about the property, and may charge higher premiums or possibly decline to offer insurance coverage. Without homeowners insurance it is nearly impossible to obtain a mortgage loan and in most instances a sale will fall through. Sellers of properties who never made an insurance claim but only lived in the house for a short period of time may be unaware of potential problems because of claims made by the prior owner. Another problem arises with "zero-dollar" claims which refers to things that did not result in a loss for the insurer being listed as a claim in the CLUE database, such as a homeowner calling the insurance company about possibly filing a claim, even if the claim is never filed.

The National Association of Realtors® believes that home sellers, buyers, and Realtors® need more education about CLUE. Homeowners and sellers may obtain the CLUE report on their property from www.choicetrust.com for $12.95. It is important that sellers review this report carefully to correct any inaccuracies which may inhibit a new owner from obtaining homeowners coverage. For buyers, it is critical to find out the claims history of a property before purchase by requesting a copy of the CLUE report from the seller in a contingency clause in the contract. Getting a C.L.U.E. report as soon as possible during a real estate transaction will help ensure that buyers and sellers do not receive unpleasant surprises at the last moment causing unneeded stress and delays and possibly causing a sale to collapse.

Brian Block is a Realtor with Re/Max Allegiance in Alexandria, Virginia. He is also a real estate attorney. He can be contacted at 703-626-0715. If you or anyone you know has real estate questions or is looking to buy or sell real estate in the Northern Virginia and Metropolitan D.C. area, contact Brian Block. For more information and to start your home search, visit his website at http://www.brianblock.com

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