The Best Massachusetts Homeowners Insurance Companies
Massachusetts has seen some nasty winters, resulting in heavy snow- and water-related damage to homes. On top of that, there’s always the risk of hurricanes. As of the 2017 season, the Bay State’s been hit by 10 hurricanes, two of which were Category 3s. With so many risk factors at play, insurance companies aren’t always eager to start selling coverage here.
All of this adds up to a unique homeowners insurance market in Massachusetts. National companies that are popular elsewhere (like State Farm, Farmers, or Nationwide) don’t write policies here, preferring to open up shop in safer areas. This is why Massachusetts’ biggest providers are names you may be less familiar with, like MAPFRE, Chubb, or Arbella.
Homeowners insurance is also more heavily regulated in Massachusetts than in other states. The result? Instead of listing coverage and offering quotes online as most other companies do, providers in Massachusetts rely almost exclusively on agents to inform customers. Instead of comparison shopping and checking prices online, homeowners should expect to work with an independent agent to learn about their options and find the best policy.
How We Found the Best Massachusetts Homeowners Insurance Companies
We took an in-depth look at the state’s six biggest providers by market share. Working with the methodology from our review of the best nationwide homeowners insurance providers, we rated each company on its reliability, quality of service, and coverage options.
Since most of the big-name providers in Massachusetts don’t offer quotes online — instead operating through independent agents — we weren’t able to venture into price comparisons. Your best bet is to find out which companies offer the coverage you need, then request personalized quotes to see who can offer you the best deal on your homeowners insurance.
The 6 Best Homeowners Insurance Companies in Massachusetts
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 is also highly rated by every source we consulted. Across the board, it earned an A for financial backing; Consumer Reports gave it a “very good” for smooth claims processes and payouts; and J.D. Power rated it three out of five points, suggesting overall positive customer satisfaction.
On top of that, this company has some slick features that the others don’t. For example, you can file insurance claims 24/7 through its website or mobile app. The app even lets you create a home inventory complete with photos, which can be used as evidence if you need to file a claim. We like its MasterThis online courses, too, which teach homeowners everything they need to know about their insurance policy.
All in all, Liberty Mutual is a solid choice for homeowners insurance. And if you’re keen to shop on your own, rather than working with a broker, this is the place to start.
MAPFRE, an international provider based in Spain, is now the largest Massachusetts insurer by market share. The company has A-rated financials and holds its own for customer service — earning three out of five stars from J.D. Power, which is right on par with Liberty Mutual.
MAPFRE stood out for being more upfront about coverage options than most other providers in the area. Of particular note is MAPFRE’s property protection, which is specifically geared toward storms, fire, lightning, and structural failings.
Additional coverage options include:
- Repair/replacement coverage
- Liability coverage
- Coverage for high-value items (any jewelry, furs, or works of art)
- Home systems coverage
Your basic policy protection can also be extended to include:
- Water and sewer backup coverage
- Replacement cost coverage for your home’s contents
- Protection from forgery, counterfeit money, and credit card
- Increased Personal Liability limits and Medical Payment
- Personal Injury Liability
- Increased coverage limits on value items
All in all, we recommend MAPFRE for its respectable ratings and wide variety of coverage options. We especially like that its website is more clearly laid out and informative than those of other Massachusetts insurers, making it easier to understand your policy options without the hand-holding of an agent.
You may be familiar with the Citation Insurance Company or the Commerce Insurance Company, formerly two of the biggest homeowners insurance providers in Massachusetts. These were bought by, and now fall under, the MAPFRE umbrella.
Though Chubb is sparse with policy information, we did learn that its signature “Masterpiece” policy is specifically geared toward wealthy homeowners — 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.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, Chubb has the financials to back it up. This company scored an A++ from A.M. Best, one of the highest financial ratings on our list (next to USAA). It’s also in good standing compared to the competition, with an average J.D. Power rating: three out of five for its claims experience, the same as national leaders like Liberty Mutual. This is a good indication of overall customer satisfaction.
We also like that Chubb is among the very few providers to offer private flood insurance. This acts as a more convenient alternative to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), through which most homeowners have to purchase flood coverage separately.
Overall, we’re impressed with Chubb’s strong financial backing and claims experience. And if you’re worried about high-value possessions, then Chubb is definitely the place to start your search.
Arbella Mutual is truly a regional provider, operating only in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and strictly through independent brokers. Its site touts the benefits of working with an independent agent, like custom-designed coverage, assistance navigating your policy, and a local perspective. If this type of face-to-face service appeals to you, then Arbella is a great choice for homeowners insurance.
Though you’ll want to contact an agent to learn about coverage options, Arbella is forthcoming with discount information. The company cites savings of up to 20% for things like bundling auto and home insurance, installing burglar, fire, and smoke alarms, and completing a Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance Workshop.
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.
The only real downside to working with Arbella is a lack of customer resources. You’ll have to walk through everything hand-in-hand with an agent instead of researching and comparing policies on your own. Like we said, the thoroughness and expertise of an agent is often a good thing — but those who prefer a DIY approach shouldn’t start here.
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 advertised discounts than those of its competitors, mentioning a few things like auto-home bundling, e-pay discounts, and discounts for burglar, fire, and smoke alarms.
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 that 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.
USAA provides homeowners insurance to active duty service members, veterans, and their families. As a result, it’s not for everyone; that’s too bad, since the company has the highest rankings possible from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power. USAA is also the only other provider — aside from Chubb — to come out with an A++ financial strength rating from A.M. Best.
If you are eligible for USAA homeowners insurance, you’ll find coverage options that protect against fire, theft, vandalism, identity theft and, perhaps most importantly, most weather-related events. Furthermore, USAA provides replacement cost coverage for your home and personal belongings locked in at today’s value without fear of depreciation.
Guide to Massachusetts Homeowners Insurance
Prep before contacting an agent or broker
Since most Massachusetts insurers don’t sell policies directly, you’ll likely end up working hand-in-hand with a broker or independent agent as you search for your policy. This has its benefits: Brokers often partner with multiple companies and have a deep understanding of the local market, so they’ll be able to help you find the right fit for your needs.
That said, you should always come well-prepared to your first meeting with a sales agent. We recommend starting with your neighbors — ask who their insurers are and how their experience has been. After that, put a checklist together of major details on your house. Think about things like square footage, the age of your roof, and quirks of the setup. If you’re familiar with your home’s particular requirements, you’ll be fully prepared to talk shop with your agent so they can’t oversell you.
Make sure you’re covered for 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 against flood damages, many 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.
Having trouble finding coverage? Try MPIUA’s FAIR plan
Providers are often hesitant to sell homeowners insurance in high-risk areas, which — as we said — is much of Massachusetts. It can be especially hard to secure private insurance if you live on the coast, where damages are much more likely. 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. It’s worth noting that this is considered an “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.
Massachusetts Homeowners Insurance FAQ
No, homeowners insurance is not mandatory; at least, not in the sense where you’ll get into legal trouble for not having it (like car insurance). However, you may be required to show proof of a homeowners insurance policy if you want to refinance your home through a mortgage.
Thanks to a number of risk factors — from heavy snowfall in the winter to potential hurricanes in the summer — homeowners insurance in Massachusetts tends to be pricey. Annual premiums in the state average around $1,379, which is a step above the national mean of $1,173. That said, how much you’ll pay can vary a lot depending on your home’s size, your assets, and your address. Your best bet is to work with an independent broker who can help you compare prices and coverage from multiple companies before you buy.
In Massachusetts, after you have had a policy for one year, you’re not technically required to renew it. This gives you the freedom to contact your insurance broker and ask them to shop around for cheaper rates. We recommend doing so every year or every few years.
Massachusetts is home to many historic buildings, including plenty of long-standing homes. In fact, the state’s median age for houses is 54 years — the second-oldest in the nation, after New York. What does that mean for homeowners? Unfortunately, it may mean a harder time finding insurance. Older homes are less resistant to weather damage, which increases liability for providers and makes them less inclined to insure.
If you do have an older home, we recommend looking into an HO-8 policy. The HO-8 was specifically designed for houses 40-plus years old and is more lenient when it comes to upgrade requirements for electrical, HVAC, and roofs. Older homes typically have trouble meeting those requirements on more common policies, like an HO-3.