Insuring your belongings as an expat

Insuring your belongings as an expat

21st March, 2013

You might be moving abroad with very few possessions, taking up fully furnished accommodation. Or you may be moving lock, stock and barrel, taking your home contents with you as well as your personal possessions. Either way it’s important to insure yourself against all the usual risks: theft, fire, floods, storms and so on, which is why I decided it would be useful to look into home insurance for expats. 

Do I insure at home or abroad?

Arranging insurance in your new home country can be a challenge, especially if you are less than fluent in the business side of the language. There are also different insurance regulations in each country, with providers regulated by different bodies to satisfy different legal systems.

It might be easier to insure your possessions in your home country, buying a specialist expat home contents and / or buildings policy via a broker. Alternatively you could ask the local expat community to recommend a broker who speaks your language. If there isn’t a suitable off-the-shelf policy, a good broker should be able to tailor one directly to your needs.

What kind of expat home insurance do I need?

  • Expat buildings insurance – If you are renting a property, you need to find out whether or not the building itself if insured by the landlord or freeholder. And whether or not you are responsible for paying for damage if something goes wrong. If not, you might want to insure your home anyway, if possible,  because buildings insurance usually covers more than just the fabric of the structure, including fixtures and fittings like kitchen cabinets, wardrobes, baths and showers. If you invest any money in improving your rented home, it’s probably worth protecting the investment.
  • If you’re buying a home abroad, insurance may be a requirement. Because for example in the UK it’s almost always a condition of the property loan or mortgage and your lender may have a hand in arranging it. Whether you own your new home outright you may be able to  self-insure but by doing so you are taking the risk and accepting that you’ll be able to deal with disasters if they happen. But most people prefer to protect their finances with a good policy!
  • Expat contents insurance – Contents insurance covers everything not fixed to the building. There are variations in the fine detail of cover depending on the country, but most policies cover the major risks: fire, lightning, explosion, theft and flood.

Different levels of cover

You might opt for the most expensive cover you can get, which can either cover extras not included in basic policies, pay out more for certain risks or come with smaller excesses (the proportion of the claim you pay before the insurance kicks in).

Most home buildings and contents products cover either standard risks or standard plus accidental damage, which includes things like stepping through the ceiling while you’re in the attic, spilling horrible things on carpets and breaking ornaments.

If you have valuables like jewellery, get them valued and tell your broker. Ordinary household policies cover valuables in the home to a specified limit but you might need to pay a little extra to cover expensive personal bits and pieces properly.

You can also usually buy bolt-on cover for personal possessions outside the home, things like jewellery, watches, expensive pens and gadgets.

Enjoy our detailed expat country guides

Insurance is just one of the multitude of things to think about when you’re about to dive into expat life. Why not download our free eBook, The New Expat, which covers medical considerations, family matters, accommodation issues, financial arrangements and plenty more to make your expat life easier? We also produce specific Country Guides each month, packed with detailed information to help you make the most of your new country.

Join the conversation   

We would love to hear about your expat home insurance experiences.  Please feel free to leave a comment below or connect with us on Twitter: @now_health or on the Now Health Facebook page so we can share them with our readers.


Photo credit: Alan Cleaver / / CC BY

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Alison Massey

Group Marketing Director

Now Health International

Alison Massey is a 15-year digital marketing veteran, who has spent the last seven years using social media to help expats and soon to be expats find out what to expect from a life overseas. An expat living in Hong Kong herself, Alison is the Group Marketing Director of Now Health, the award-winning international health insurance provider.

Contact Alison Massey

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