?The proper protection for a home is absolutely not one size fits all and depends on a variety of different factors. Although there were reports a few years ago of higher prices and limited availability for homeowners insurance, the market has opened up again, according to J. Robert Hunter, insurance director for the Consumer Federation of America. Premiums are expected to rise by no more than the inflation rate this year, he said. "The market remains a competitive one where home insurance quotes shoppers can be selective," said Marshall McKnight, a spokesman for the state Department of Banking and Insurance. Here are several ways to save on home insurance: Shop around. While many homeowners believe that all insurance companies charge the same, that's an expensive mistake. Use a service such as ours to compare rate quotes from different companies if YOUR area. To get started, just use the form on the right. "You can go from one company to another and pay twice as much," said Hunter. And don't just call an agent and expect him to do the shopping for you, Hunter advised, because agents don't represent all companies and might not get you the best deal. Insure for "replacement cost" rather than "actual cash value." After all, if your belongings are destroyed, do you want the insurance company to send you enough to buy a new couch - or do you want a $50 check for the actual value of your 11-year-old couch? Make sure you are covered for at least 80 percent of the cost of replacing your home. If you're not, it could hurt you even if your home does not need to be completely replaced. Let's say your home insurance quotes would cost $200,000 to replace and you're insured for only $100,000, half of the replacement cost. If you have a $10,000 loss, you would get only half of that amount, or $5,000. Of course, knowing how much it would cost to replace your home is not always easy. For example, I know how much I paid for my home, and how much I could probably sell it for, but I don't have a clue how much it would cost to rebuild if it burned down. The state Department of Banking and Insurance and the Insurance Council of New Jersey recommend that homeowners in this situation should consult their insurer, who will be able to estimate the cost of rebuilding based on the size and location of the home. Think twice before calling your insurance company with small claims for minor home damage. There have been reports of homeowners facing much higher premiums after putting in only two claims. So if it's a loss you can handle, take care of it yourself. And, in that vein, consider a higher deductible. "If you're not going to file a small claim, it's no use paying a premium to be covered for an amount you wouldn't file for," Hunter said. "Every dollar you give to an insurance company, on average you only get back 60 cents," Hunter said. The rest goes to the insurance company's profit and overhead. So if you can self-insure for smaller losses, you should. Most individuals that own a home have come to realize how important it is to maintain an adequate level of coverage that will provide the desired amount of protection, but few people realize that there are extenuating circumstances and scenarios that may require some additional planning and thought. Many homeowners don't stop to think about the various situations that may warrant a re-evaluation of their property insurance. For example, most individuals that decide to rent out their homes simply fail to understand that their homeowners' insurance policy may be lacking in some areas. Some insurance companies have additional regulations and riders that must be utilized when a property is no longer used as a primary residence, and there often are higher premiums attached to this change. Homeowners need to be sure that they know who will be responsible for various types of situations that could result in financial or physical liability. While the actions required may not appear to be drastic to most homeowners, the simple truth is that failure to comply could result in a claim being denied or coverage being terminated. Mortgage life insurance is another type of product or program that is designed to help protect a property by paying off the entire amount owed in the event of the policyholder's death. Although there are some obvious benefits to mortgage life insurance, there are also some things that require careful consideration as well. Many mortgage life insurance policies will only provide a death benefit payable to the creditor and the premiums may be fairly high when compared to other types of life insurance. Families that have more than one income earning member should be aware that they may actually need separate policies to cover all possible worst case scenarios. The most obvious benefit is that homeowners can rest assured that their mortgage will be taken care of in the event of death, and this can often serve as a comfort to surviving spouses. Some homeowners are certainly more likely to benefit from mortgage life insurance than others and the most common clients are those that worry about the ability to pay for a mortgage if there is a significant reduction in income. Many families depend on two incomes and would not be able to make ends meet with anything less. Single individuals may not be as interested in protecting their home from foreclosure in the event of death. There are some families that may not owe very much on their home, and these clients may be better suited by another insurance product. While many people use various types of term life products to provide protection for their home, it has also become increasingly popular to use other types of whole life insurance and return of premium life. Consumers have realized that when the mortgage is paid off, the other life insurance products available can continue to extend coverage and will simply pay death benefits to a beneficiary instead of a creditor. The proper protection for a home is absolutely not one size fits all and depends on a variety of different factors. A homeowner must ultimately decide what type of insurance products will best serve their needs. No matter what a consumer decides to do, the steps should be taken to ensure that every worst case scenario has been thought of and prepared for.