Just what does home insurance cost in Florida? Estimates vary widely, and new state data might surprise you

Just what does the average Florida homeowner pay for property insurance? Good luck figuring that out based on wildly varying estimates quoted across the media.

About the only thing everyone agrees on is that the state’s insurance rates have been rising sharply. Insurers say they need higher premiums to offset mounting losses from hurricane claims, severe weather events, high rates of litigation, and resulting increases in the cost of reinsurance — insurance that insurers must buy to make sure they can pay all claims after a disaster.

Reforms enacted in 2022 to curtail costs from litigation are expected to eventually stabilize premium costs, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Meanwhile, online insurance aggregators publish estimates that are all over the map.

Policygenius says average Florida homeowners pay $2,442 for home insurance.

Bankrate says $1,981 — but that’s just to insure the dwelling and doesn’t include other vital elements like liability coverage, loss of use, or personal property.

Insurify crunched numbers from 10 Florida ZIP codes and estimated average homeowners are paying a whopping $7,788 this year.

For a report comparing insurance costs across the nation, USA Today estimated that Floridians pay an average of $2,389.

And Insurance Information Institute, an industry-funded nonprofit organization, estimated Florida’s average home insurance premium was $4,321 last October and $6,000 currently.

Which number is closest to what Florida homeowners are actually paying? It’s impossible to say because the estimates are calculated based on “proprietary methods,” said Mark Friedlander, corporate communications director for the Insurance Information Institute.

Insurance agents in South Florida say their clients are paying on the high side of the estimated range of average premiums.

Yet, recently released data by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation include figures that some might find surprisingly low in comparison to the higher estimates.

The state’s most recent data comes from insurers themselves — sent to OIR each quarter under a law enacted in May 2022.

The data sent by insurers was used to create county-by-county estimates of premiums paid to insure single-family homes, Those estimates were included in the office’s twice-yearly Property Insurance Stability Report released in early July.

State data shows average rates are lower

The report found that on March 31:

Homeowners in 48 of Florida’s 67 counties paid estimated average premiums between $2,000 and $2,999. Averages were below $2,000 in four counties — Sumter, Marion, Baker and Hernando.

Average premiums were in the $3,000s in seven counties: Lee, Okeechobee, Escambia, Okaloosa, Gulf, Pinellas, and Indian River.

Residents of three counties — Walton, Franklin, and Collier — paid average premiums in the $4,000s.

And homeowners in the five southernmost counties — Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe — paid average premiums of more than $5,000.

In fact, average premiums in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade exceeded $5,500 while homeowners in Monroe, which includes the Florida Keys, paid an average $7,584.

Premium amounts calculated by the Office of Insurance Regulation preceded rate hikes tied to higher reinsurance rates that insurers secured as hurricane season began on June 1. Renewal prices charged after companies secured their reinsurance rates will reflect the higher costs. That means the next six-month report will likely reflect significant rate increases.

Missing from the twice-yearly report is a statewide average premium.

The Sun Sentinel tallied data in a separate release by the office of company-level data that includes numbers of policyholders per coverage category and corresponding direct written premium totals.  Direct written premiums are the total dollar amount of all premiums paid to the company by its policyholders. Dividing the number of policyholders into the direct written premium data reveals the average premium charged by the company.

Dividing the total number of policyholders into the total direct written premium total for all Florida-regulated insurance companies reveals Florida’s average homeowner insurance premium on March 31 was $3,134.

How many homeowners in Florida’s five southernmost counties would like to be paying that right now?

Probably all clients of Fort Lauderdale-based insurance agent Phil Portnoy, who works at Donna Carrara Insurance Agency.

“The average I’ve seen from private insurers is anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 for, say, $350,000 in coverage,” Portnoy said last week. “I’ve seen renewals down in Pinecrest for as much as $17,000 for a million in coverage and as much as $27,000 for a Palm Beach County intracoastal renewal of $1 million in coverage.”

Al Mendez, partner in Mendez & Associates Insurance in Pembroke Pines, says his average policies range from $4,200 to $6,000 to insure homes in the tri-county region with replacement costs of $300,000 to $500,000.

Mendez calls the current state of the insurance market — with rate increases of 25% to 70% over each of the past three years — “the worst I’ve experienced” in 30 years in the industry.

Some of his clients have seen increases of 100% to 200%, he said. “Florida is now the most expensive state to live in,” he said.

South Florida insurance costs are higher

Mark Friedlander of the Insurance Information Institute said he stands by his organization’s estimates that statewide average premiums increased from $4,231 last fall to $6,000 this year as “verified as accurate by numerous third parties, including insurers and insurance agents.”

As Friedlander is a popular source of insurance information, the $6,000-a-year estimate has shown up in stories by numerous national publications about Florida’s insurance crisis.

Two weeks ago, Friedlander said, “a Barron’s reporter verified our premium data with numerous industry analysts and confirmed its accuracy.”

Insurify, Policygenius and USA Today each used insurance data from a single source — Quadrant Information Services — to produce different estimates.

Chase Gardner of Insurify, which calculated an average estimate of $7,788 for Florida, said the company developed its estimates by using average costs in 10 zip codes “representative of each state’s population distribution.” Zip codes with larger populations were weighted more heavily in calculating the average, he said, which may explain why his company’s estimates were so much higher that Insurify’s and Bankrate’s numbers.

“Even though we both collected Florida data from Quadrant Information Services, prices vary a lot depending on where you live in the state,” Gardner said.  “For example, we found that average prices were closer to $2,000 to $3,000 per year or less in northern, inland parts of the state, whereas prices could skyrocket to more than $10,000 per year in southern coastal cities like Miami.”

Friedlander said that the Insurance Information Institute’s estimates looked only at private sector policies and excluded policies sold by the insurer of last resort, state-owned Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

Citizens insured 719,347 single-family homes for an average premium of $3,254 in the first quarter of 2023, the state data shows.

That’s high from a statewide perspective but low for South Florida.

In March 2022, Citizens produced a chart that showed its average premium in Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, where 52% of its policyholders are located, was $4,196 — 28% less than the $5,856 combined average of 13 competitors selected for the comparison.

Ultimately, the only home insurance cost estimates that matter are the ones offered to you to cover your home for the upcoming year. And at least for the near future, they’re continuing to increase, agents say.

Ron Hurtibise covers business and consumer issues for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He can be reached by phone at 954-356-4071, on Twitter @ronhurtibise or by email at rhurtibise@sunsentinel.com.

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