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REAL ESTATE

The No. 1 Thing Most Likely to Damage Your Home

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While we often jump through hoops to protect our home from burglary and fire, we may neglect to protect it from the thing most likely to damage it: Wind.

According to data released Wednesday by insurance company Travelers, wind damage is the most common cause of homeowner's insurance claims, ahead of hail, water, theft, fire and more. And yet, it's one of the things many of us are least likely to protect our homes against, says Scott Humphrey, the second vice president of risk control at Travelers: "People don't think about wind that much."

5 most common causes of homeowner's insurance claims

Percentage of claims related to each cause

Exterior wind damage 25%
Non-weather-related water damage (i.e. plumbing and appliance issues) 19%
Hail 15%
Weather-related water damage 11%
Theft 6%

Source: Travelers

Instead, they tend to focus far more on things like fire (buying and maintaining smoke alarms, for example) and theft (getting good alarm systems and locks) -- both worthy concerns, but still less likely than wind to damage your home.

Wind can damage your home in a number of ways. Among the most common, says Humphrey: Wind detaching tree branches and hitting the home, wind lifting up roof shingles or damaging windows and doors and wind throwing things like patio furniture and other detached items in your yard.

There are ways to protect you home from wind damage. If a storm is coming, secure your windows with plywood, bring in lawn furniture, secure your garage with vertical braces and remove dangling branches, says Crissinda Ponder, the real estate analyst for financial website Bankrate.com. Repair or replace loose or damaged shingles and ensure you have good door bolts so doors are less likely to fly off, she adds.

Make sure you have enough homeowners insurance, which is highly dependent on how much your home is worth, says Penny Gusner, the consumer analyst with insurance website Insure.com. Get enough coverage to pay for the cost to rebuild your home, she adds. Ideally, you also want enough personal property coverage to pay for the replacement value of your possessions and enough liability insurance to cover the value of your assets in case you're sued, Gusner says. (If you need more than what your homeowners policy covers, add on an umbrella policy.)

The good news: Wind damage is covered under most standard home insurance policies, Gusner says that homeowners in coastal and hurricane-prone areas may have wind damage excluded from their policies. "If you find that it is excluded, buy a separate windstorm policy," she says. Even if wind is covered, make sure you look into the deductible, Gusner adds: "If winds are hurricane-strength that harms your home, you may have a hurricane deductible kick in, which is higher than your normal deductible. Hurricane deductibles don't tend to be flat amounts. For example, if your home is insured for $250,000, and your hurricane deductible is 5%, you'd have pay out $12,500 before the coverage started.