The Best Massachusetts Homeowners Insurance Company
Massachusetts homeowners insurance premiums are a bit higher than average — around $1,379 per year for an HO-3 policy, compared to $1,173 nationwide. That said, how much you’ll pay can vary a lot depending on your home’s size, your assets, and your address. Use our tool to find your best rates:
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Massachusetts has seen some nasty winters. After the state was rocked with 110 inches of snow in 2014–15, homeowners filed almost $150 million in insurance claims according to the Boston Globe. Not willing to cut their losses year after year, Massachusetts homeowners insurance providers upped their prices. The Globe reports that in 2015, “The state’s biggest insurance companies received approval from the Massachusetts Division of Insurance to increase their overall rates by about 9 percent.”
Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. About 55 percent of Massachusetts property is also at-risk for hurricane exposure. That includes $511 billion worth of residential property, by the Insurance Information Institute’s most recent estimate. This makes Massachusetts the fifth most at-risk state for hurricane damage in the country — and it seriously increases the chances of costly insurance claims.
Considering the risk factors, it’s no wonder insurance providers charge higher premiums in Massachusetts. Homeowners in the Bay State are likely to pay around $1,400 in annual premiums, which is a notch above the national mean of $1,173. That said, your premium is individual: It’s based on factors like your address, your home’s size, and your assets, and prices will vary by company. We suggest requesting personalized quotes from a few of our top picks to see where you can get the best deal.
How We Found the Best Homeowners Insurance in Massachusetts
We found the top five homeowners insurance providers in Massachusetts by market share, and rated them using the same methodology we developed for our review on nationwide providers. That meant consulting the major credit rating companies (Moody’s, AM Best, and S&P Global) to verify financial stability, checking in on customer satisfaction grades from J.D. Power and Consumer Reports, and digging into our contenders’ websites to compare coverage, discount options, and quotes.
Along the way, we learned that Massachusetts runs a unique homeowners insurance market; four of the five companies we contacted passed us off to independent brokers. This doesn’t happen in other states. You can almost always get a quote either on the provider’s website or by calling an agent. It’s generally in the company’s best interest to sell through direct agents, who only work with one provider.
So, why are Massachusetts providers willing to let unbiased brokers control their business?
“Massachusetts is heavily regulated,” says independent insurance consultant Gabrielle Lupton of the Obrella Insurance Guide. “It’s not worth it for some bigger companies to go into states like Massachusetts — the return on investment just isn’t high enough. You see that across the East Coast. The further west you go, it’s not as regulated, so it’s easier for big companies like State Farm to make money.”
This heavy-handed regulation also explains why providers in Massachusetts are less forthcoming with coverage details than in other states. The websites we looked at tended to be sparse on pricing, coverage, and discounts; they expect that you’ll be working with an agent rather than comparing providers on your own.
Even with independent agents, Lupton recommends exploring your options. “Don't be afraid to shop around and find an agent that will work for you, specifically one locally. Local agents will be more informed on the unique risks involved in the area of your new home.” Our homeowners insurance reviews should give you an idea of what to expect while you’re shopping around.
Here’s how the big five stack up:
Massachusetts Homeowners Insurance Reviews
As the third largest homeowners insurance provider in the nation, Liberty Mutual has an edge over the regional companies we considered. First, Liberty Mutual was the only company that didn’t send us to an independent agent. We simply plugged in our home address and got a quote within five minutes, making comparison shopping a breeze.
Liberty Mutual also has the benefit of being rated highly by every source we consulted. ‘A’s’ across the board from A.M. Best, Standard and Poor’s, and Moody’s show rock-solid financial backing; a ‘Very Good’ from Consumer Reports reveals smooth claims processes and payouts; and three out of five points from J.D. Power suggests overall positive customer satisfaction. MAPFRE and Chubb scored almost as highly overall, but Safety and Arbella are too small even to be ranked by most of these companies. That doesn’t mean they’re worse — but we can say definitively that the Liberty Mutual’s coverage its tried and true.
In addition, this company has some slick features that the others don’t. We liked that you can file insurance claims 24/7 through its website or mobile app. The app even allows you to create a home inventory complete with photos, which can be used as evidence in the event that you need to file a claim. Liberty Mutual’s website has the best educational resources for homeowners, too. We’re especially impressed with its MasterThis online courses, which were developed in conjunction with HowStuffWorks to teach homeowners everything they need to know about their insurance policy.
Liberty Mutual offers more explicit discounts than the four other competitors we tested. We counted 13 to MAPFRE’s nine and Safety Insurance’s five. Liberty Mutual will even throw in a discount if you enroll in its online autopay system.
Overall, Liberty Mutual is a solid option for its convenience and stability. We appreciate the ease of applying for coverage and filing claims, and if you need human assistance, the company operates 28 offices within 100 miles of Boston alone. However, sticking with Liberty Mutual means you’d forgo the guidance of an independent broker. To insure you’re getting the best price, we recommend getting quotes from both Liberty Mutual and an independent agent.
MAPFRE, an international provider based in Spain, is now the largest Massachusetts insurer by market share — although you may be more familiar with the Citation Insurance and Commerce insurance companies, which now fall under the MAPFRE umbrella. The company has solid financials: ‘A’s' from S&P and A.M. Best, which fall in line with Liberty Mutual and are just short of Chubb’s near-perfect score. MAPFRE also holds its own for customer service, earning a three out of five from J.D. Power (once again, out-scored only by Chubb).
MAPFRE stood out for being more upfront about coverage and discount options than most other contenders, barring Liberty Mutual. We found its website to be clearly laid out and more informative than Chubb, Safety, or Arabella’s. For instance, it was the only provider to explicitly offer discounts for AAA members, customer loyalty, and customers aged 55 and older.
In addition, MAPFRE is one of only two providers (next to Chubb) that clearly offered an endorsement for extended replacement cost. If you select this option, your policy will cover your home for up to 150 percent of the quoted replacement cost. This can be extremely valuable after a bad storm. As the Insurance Information Institute points out: “After a major hurricane or a tornado, building materials and construction workers are often in great demand. This can push rebuilding costs above homeowners policy limits, leaving you without enough money to cover the bill.” Homeowners in storm-prone areas and with older homes will certainly want to consider this option.
All in all, we recommend MAPFRE for its respectable ratings, wide variety of coverage, and discount options. We especially like that its website is more user-friendly than other Massachusetts insurers', making it easier to understand your policy options without the hand-holding of a broker or agent.
Like the other companies we evaluated, Chubb pointed us to an independent broker. In fact, it left just about everything to the agents. The Chubb web pages on homeowners’ insurance were sparse, with brief overviews of its offerings and little else.
We did learn from a Chubb pamphlet that its signature ‘Masterpiece’ policy is specifically geared towards wealthy homeowners, and especially collectors. It includes special coverage for items like jewelry, furs, fine art, and silverware, along with compensation for kidnapping, stalking, hijacking, and air rage — among others.
If all this sounds like your cup of tea, Chub has the financials to back it up. This company earns the highest credit stability ratings across the board: ‘A3’ from Moody’s, ‘A’ from S&P Global, and ‘A++’ from A.M. Best. When it comes to making claims — generally the most stressful part of dealing with any insurance company — Chubb also outshines the competition. It maintains an above-average J.D. Power rating of four out of five for its claims experience, which beat out MAPFRE and Liberty Mutual (both scored three out of five from J.D. Power).
We also like that Chubb is among the very few providers that offer private flood insurance. This acts as an alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through which most homeowners have to purchase their flood coverage separately. With Chubb, we appreciate the convenience of being able to manage both plans through one provider.
Overall, we’re impressed with Chubb’s strong financial backing and its above-average claims experience. And if you’re worried about valuable collectors items, fine art, or ransom notes, then Chubb is definitely the place to start your search.
Arbella Mutual Insurance Co.
Arbella Mutual only operates in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and only through independent brokers. Its site touts the benefits of working with an independent agent; like custom-designed coverage, assistance navigating insurance jargon, and a local perspective. If this type of face-to-face service appeals to you, then Arbella is a great choice for homeowners insurance.
Because it relies heavily on agents, Arbella’s website offers scant information about coverage options. It lists coverage for basic property damage and liability, along with a few additional options like identity fraud protection and property replacement cost. Arbella is more forthcoming with discounts; citing savings up to 15 percent for things like auto-home bundling, installing burglar, fire, and smoke alarms, and completing a Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance Workshop. With such a long list of discounts, it’s likely that most customers will be able to save money on an Arbella homeowners insurance policy.
We also like Arbella’s MyHomeWorks feature. This separate website, which is free for policyholders, provides useful tools for protecting your home and saving money. For instance, it has tips on increasing energy efficiency and maintaining home systems like burglar alarms.
There are a couple downsides. First, Arbella doesn’t have great educational resources about homeowners’ insurance on its website, or a very clear explanation of how its coverage works. We prefer a website that allows the shopper to educate themselves and compare policy options. Still, if you prefer to have a professional assist you in the shopping process, you likely won’t mind Arbella’s sparse online resources.
Second, Arbella has a slightly lower financial stability rating than our other top picks (‘A-’ from A.M. Best) and isn’t large enough to hold customer satisfaction ratings from Consumer Reports or J.D. Power. Like we said, this isn’t an indicator of poor performance — it just means we can’t guarantee top-of-the-line customer service.
Safety Insurance Group
Safety’s website, like Arbella’s, gives a brief overview of its coverage options: damage, property replacement, and liability, primarily. It has a thinner list of discounts (five to Arbella’s eight and Liberty Mutual’s 13), mentioning a few things like auto-home bundling, e-pay discounts, and discounts for burglar, fire, and smoke alarms.
Also like Arbella and Chubb, Safety leaves a lot of the heavy selling to agents. You can’t request a quote online, and you’ll have to work with an independent broker to find out how much a Safety homeowners policy will cost you. Safety isn’t rated by J.D. Power or Consumer Reports either, although it holds a slightly higher financial strength rating than Arbella (‘A’ from A.M. Best).
Safety is the third largest homeowners insurance provider in Massachusetts by market share, so we know it provides reliable coverage to policyholders. We recommend having your independent agent source a quote from Safety along with the others on our list, so you can see how premiums stack up for your home.
Tips for Homeowners Insurance Shopping in Massachusetts
Having trouble finding coverage? Try the FAIR plan from MPIUA.
Nothing beats a view of the Cape, but it comes with a cost. “Most traditional insurance companies are not interested in insuring coastal homes due to frequent exposure to storms,” says Steve Roy, CEO of Elliot Whittier Insurance in Danvers, MA. This takes a big toll in Massachusetts. According to the Insurance Information Institute, over half the state’s property lies near the coast, where wind and waves are a constant threat.
To make up for the lack of traditional insurance across the state, Massachusetts instituted its own option: the FAIR Plan from the Massachusetts Property Insurance Underwriting Association (MPIUA). MPIUA is a non-profit that guarantees coverage to people in high-risk areas — including those with seaside homes on the Cape and in areas of high crime.
MPIUA is also known as the “insurer of last resort.” Before homeowners can be insured under the FAIR plan, they must prove that they’ve made a good-faith effort to obtain private coverage. For people who can’t get coverage anywhere else, though, it’s an excellent safety net.
Protect your home (and your wallet) against flood damage.
Counter to what you may expect, flood insurance is not included in most homeowners insurance policies. Only one of the top Massachusetts providers, Chubb, offers private flood insurance to its policyholders. This comes as a surprise, considering that floods are the “most common and most costly” natural disasters according to FEMA.
To protect themselves against flood damages, most homeowners will have to sign up for separate coverage through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It’s worth noting that this coverage can’t be bought by individuals: You’ll have to apply for it through a licensed agent. If you're not already working with a private agent, you can contact the NFIP for a referral.
In addition to protecting your house with flood insurance, it’s a good idea to take precautions against flood damage. You may find that a few costs on the front end can limit damage and mitigate huge repair costs in the event of a storm. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency recommends fortifying roofs, installing impact-resistant windows, keeping your gutters clear, and maintaining a home inventory, among other steps. Check out this MEMA brochure for more information.
Expert Advice: Gabrielle Lupton
Gabrielle Lupton is a 15-year veteran of the insurance industry and the daughter of an independent insurance broker. She now works as an independent consultant in Massachusetts. We asked her a few questions about homeowners’ insurance in Massachusetts and what we should look out for before we buy a policy.
On how to prepare before shopping for a policy with a broker:
Talk to your neighbors. See who their insurance carrier is. After that, put a checklist together of major details on your house, such as its square footage, the age of your roof, and quirks of the setup. If you know those major details, you’ll be fully prepared to talk shop with your agent so they can’t oversell you.
On the value of changing your policy every year :
In Massachusetts, after you have had policy for one year, you’re not technically required to renew it. This gives you freedom to contact your insurance broker and ask them to shop around for cheaper rates. But many people don’t do this once they buy their home insurance, “it’s out of sight, out of mind. That’s one thing you don’t think about — you don’t do this with your car insurance. Be sure to continue that relationship with your broker.”
On what makes Massachusetts unique:
There are many older homes in Massachusetts, averaging at least 50 years in age. They’re not as resistant to weather damage. This increases the liability for insurance companies and makes them less inclined to insure.
If you have an older home, the best way to insure it might be through an HO-8 policy. The HO-8 was specifically designed for older homes that will have a higher replacement cost than their actual cash value.