A New Mortgage Contingency Looms

Editor’s note: Since this post’s original publication date of December 5, 2022, changes in the insurance marketplace make the need for a new mortgage contingency clause a reality.

Too many companies to count ceased accepting new applications for home and dwelling insurance in many states. Many companies now employ geospatial resources in deciding whether to insure homes at a local level.

Many companies are ceasing to write insurance in ‘coastal areas.’ These encompass communities located near the coastlines of oceans, rivers, inlets, bays, and lakes. This will prove problematic for mortgage and real estate professionals as insurance coverage either be highly expensive or impossible to secure.

A new mortgage contingency looms in the near future.


In this post, I’ll do a quick review of some of the better-known mortgage contingency clauses. And I’ll discuss one I believe many, if not all real estate attorneys and allied professionals should add to client contracts.

What are the contingencies in a real estate deal?

A contingent offer is a standard way that buyers agree to purchase a home if certain conditions are met. If the conditions are not met, then the buyer can back out of a sale without fear of losing their downpayment.

The Home Inspection

For example, a home- inspection is one of the most common contingencies. Some buyers are not willing to spend money on inspections unless they can back out of the purchase, or renegotiate it, at the end of the process.
A home inspection can reveal all sorts of problems from mold to bad floor joists. It is one contingency that is nearly always made on a sale.

Also, in my experience, the home buyer who hires a qualified home inspector, and stays with the inspector during the inspection is a more informed buyer. I can’t tell you home many home buyers call me for home insurance proposals who don’t even know the outside and inside square footage of their future home. Heck, how do you know your bed and living room furniture will fit? And how many can’t provide the month and date of important home upgrades that are part of normal maintenance? Not to mention the shutoffs for the gas, oil, electricity, and water services.

Which are the best-known contingencies?

The Mortgage Contingency

Another important contingency is the mortgage contingency is also, at least until now, the most common.  The mortgage contingency protects the buyer and the seller from a situation where the buyer can’t get a loan to cover the sale price. The buyer receives a certain amount of time to get a loan. He may think he has the mortgage lined up, but things happen. If he can’t get a lender to agree to the loan, then the buyer can back out of the agreement. This wastes everyone’s time and that’s why there is also an appraisal contingency.

The Appraisal Contingency

The appraisal contingency is good for the buyer because it helps ensure the property is actually worth what he is paying for it. In this case, a lender hires a third party to put a value on the property. If the value is less than the buyer is paying, then the buyer can cancel the deal.

While you may hear of non-contingency deals in hot real estate markets, these can be extremely risky for buyers and sellers.

You might hear of them in a case where the price is low and the buyers have cash. In this situation, the buyers sign the contract without an inspection. It is somewhat risky for the seller because if there is something dramatically wrong with the property, the buyers could sue. On the other hand, it is terribly risky for the buyer because they don’t know what the pitfalls of the property are.

A New Contingency Clause. The Availability of Home Insurance Clause

I strongly suggest real estate attorneys begin to include a new contingency clause in their contingent offers.

The new clause?  The Availability of Home Insurance Clause.

The reason for this new clause is simple – homeowners insurance may simply become unavailable in certain parts of the country. The inability to find home insurance that meets lender requirements may become difficult based on the homes’ location and other factors. What caused homeowner insurance rates to increase exponentially?

Several factors recently caused home insurance rates to skyrocket:

    • A 40.4% increase in the cost of residential building supplies since January 2020;
    • An increase in home replacement costs to match this inflationary rise;
    • Devastating hurricane and flood damage in Florida, the Eastern seaboard, and the Gulf regions of the United States, no doubt caused in large part to climate change;
    • An expected unprecedented increase in January 2023, in the cost and availability of reinsurance purchased by insurance companies.

What is reinsurance and why is it so important to insurance companies?

That will be the subject of an upcoming post. For now, suffice it to say without the ability to purchase affordable reinsurance, home insurance companies will have no choice but to limit their policy offerings.

For example, companies known as reliable markets for coastal or rural risks could severely limit how the number of policies they write or place a moratorium on writing these types of risks for a specified time.

In the past, some companies, concerned about their reinsurance costs and exposure to possible natural disasters simply chose to non-renew policies in certain areas.

It simply means a disruption in the availability of home insurance, especially for those purchasing a new home. In some cases, insurance companies will require more underwriter approvals, and proof of sound maintenance of the proposed risk. They may also be limited in the number of policies they are able to write with particular companies.

In the worst-case scenario, some independent agents and brokers, and captive agents, may find themselves losing insurance markets altogether.

And this matters because . . .

Without reliable and affordable markets for home insurance, home lending will crawl to a stop.

image shows relation between owning a home and the need for insurance
Let’s talk about home insurance

The bank will not close any mortgage unless ample proof of coverage in the form of a binder and a paid receipt is received by them prior to the closing. Without both, there will be no closing, and the purchaser will lose their downpayment.

There is a simple fact I’ve tried to share with members of the real estate and mortgage professions for my entire insurance career:

Don’t save the search and eventual purchase of home insurance for last.

Everyone looking to purchase a home should begin their home insurance search as soon as they receive their mortgage commitment.

Not two weeks before their lender anticipates closing their loan.

No, as soon as they sign on the dotted line.

In this way, homeowners and purchasers of new homes will best guarantee they will find and purchase the homeowner’s insurance they need.

A closing suggestion for real estate brokers, mortgage lenders, and real estate attorneys

Your local independent insurance agent is no longer an afterthought. You need to have good if not great relations with professionals able to provide you and your clients with the insurance they will need to close. Also, you might get calls from clients asking for referrals to independent agents able to assist them should companies stop offering home insurance in certain areas, and are in danger of being non-renewed.

Now is a good time to reach out to insurance professionals you know, and get referrals to other insurance professionals in your area. Over a virtual chat, an in-person cup of coffee, or a simple telephone call, find out whether their insurance resources are solid. And then, stay in touch.

Strengthening these relationships could make all the difference.

About the author

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF, is an NYS-licensed Independent Insurance Agent and Broker with over 40 years of experience, 26 of those years as the owner of Bridge Insurance Agency.

Like to speak with Eustace?

Eustace is ready to assist you with your home, life, flood, disability, renters, auto, cooperative, condominium, and wedding insurance needs. He can be reached at his mobile number,  718-489-2218, his office number, 718-783-2722, or by email at [email protected]. You can also go to his website, https://greavesinsurance.com, and complete any of the available “Contact Us” forms.

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If you’d like to receive a free subscription to Eustace’s monthly newsletter, “Never Knew News,” go to his website, https://greavesinsurance.com, and click on any of the Subscribe buttons.

Have insurance, income tax, real estate, mortgage, or home inspection questions for Eustace? He’ll be happy to provide the insurance and income tax answers you seek. For everything else, he’ll gladly call on his contacts for help. Just email him at [email protected] with the subject line, “Ask Eustace.”

New Changes to Coastal Homeowners Insurance

Now the insurance situation, is more dire not just for new homebuyers but for existing homeowners too. In between bites, I reminded Anne-Marie about how Hurricane Irene in 2011, and the big momma, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, gave insurance companies greater insight into number of homeowners risks they insured in certain areas. And it is these new insights which have given rise to newer realities in homeowners insurance.

It’s amazing. Whenever I read or make a presentation about the new changes happening in coastal  homeowners insurance here in New York State’s Downstate Region, (Brooklyn and the four boroughs, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester counties), I usually run into one of Brooklyn’s leading real estate brokers the very next day. And they wrangle a free lunch out of me.

Talking Coastal Homeowners Insurance with Anne-Marie Stanislaus of Reserved Realty LLC

Late last month, I had the pleasure of enjoying another terrific pizza with Anne-Marie Stanislaus, one of New York City’s leading independent Real Estate Brokers, and the Owner and Principal of Reserved Realty LLC.  We met at the number-one Italian restaurant in Prospect Heights, the world-famous Cataldo’s Italian Restaurant and Pizzeria, at 554 Vanderbilt Avenue, between Dean and Bergen Streets. The first question she asked was “Eustace, I know we talked about this last year, but what’s going on with the coastal homeowners insurance business in Brooklyn? Companies are not just refusing to write certain types of houses. I’m getting calls from clients complaining their insurance companies, after decades without claims or late payments, are cancelling policies in certain areas like they had the plague! And not just in Brooklyn, mind you, but throughout the Downstate region.”

We’d had a similar discussion back in November of 2012, right after Hurricane Sandy, which I detailed in an earlier post, “Coastal Homeowners Insurance, Part 2.9.” Back then, when life seemed simpler,  we were more concerned about changed real estate practices as it pertained to new sales.

The Latest Twist In Coastal Homeowners Insurance

The insurance situation is becoming more difficult not just for new home buyers but for existing homeowners too. In between bites, I reminded Anne-Marie about how Hurricane Irene in 2011, and the big momma, Hurricane Sandy in 2012, gave insurance companies a major case of the willies and greater insight into the number of coastal homeowners insurance risks they insured in certain now-hazardous areas. It is these new insights which created newer realities in coastal homeowners insurance.

Take It Back A Mile

First, when certain companies decided they no longer wanted to insure risks within one (1) mile of a tidal coastline, they just sent the affected policyowners a letter which basically said, “Thank you for being our homeowners client for the past  15, 20, or even 30 years. We also appreciate your not presenting us with any claims during your years with our company. We changed our underwriting guidelines, and since you no longer fit or match them, you’re no longer one of our homeowners insurance clients effective (You fill in the date.).

“Thank you, and don’t worry, you can still keep your auto, life, and whatever else you have with us. We just don’t want the house anymore.”

Now, just for the record, while most insurance companies pulled their coastal boundary line to a distance of at least one mile from the tidal coastline for dwellings, there are those companies who will continue to honor their commitment to their clients, so long as they don’t lapse their policies, submit some really dubious claims, or decide they can make some side money by turning their legal two-family home into an illegal three, four, or even more family house.

Many companies, however, are simply dropping their clients, and, just like that, the homeowner must seek and secure new coverage for their home.

There’s a new twist in this tale of woe, however: Now some insurance companies are cancelling policies if they are within one mile of any body of water.

For example, I’ve recently written a new policy for a homeowner who lives more than one and one-half miles from the tidal coastline, but within one-half mile of the tip of Brooklyn’s Paerdegat Basin.

A property on the western side of Flatlands Avenue. One which suffered absolutely no wind or flood damage during Hurricane Sandy.

He recently received a cancellation letter letting him because of changes to what the company felt was a coastal risk, his policy was being non-renewed. A policy he’d had for 28 years. Claim-free.

And now, I’m going to write his neighbor a policy, since the same company just sent him his non-renewal letter.

So Anne-Marie looked at me like I had two heads. “So wait a minute,” she asked. “Now we’ve got to know how far a property is from any body of water before we try to market it? When will this madness end?”

“Who knows? Probably when enough disaster-free and thus heavy-claim time passes. ”

She looked at me and said, “Well, that’s not so bad then.”

“Sure”, I said, “Even though when FEMA finishes remapping this region, probably either in late 2014 or by mid-2015,  mandatory Flood Insurance policies with premiums in excess of $2,000 and $3,000 will create new problems for homeowners now remapped into AE and VE zones…”

“Enough!” she yelled. “For that Greaves, I want more pizza! And no more insurance talk!”

And the second pie was even tastier than the first.

You can reach the beleaguered  Anne-Marie Stanislaus at 917-887-7468. She and her team at Reserved Realty will do a fantastic job of  either helping you find your dream home, or marketing your current home and apartment rentals. You can always reach Eustace Greaves Jr., LUTCF  by telephone at 718-783-2722, or send him an email to [email protected].

Coastal Homeowners Insurance, Part 2.9 | Brooklyn Covered

While these and many of the usual features are important, they now take a back seat to a new and sobering reality; the ability to purchase affordable and good insurance coverage is first based on a property’s proximity to an insurance company’s recognized coastline.

Finding Coastal Homeowners Insurance Is The New Normal

When it comes to purchasing affordable and comprehensive coastal homeowners insurance, your home’s proximity to the coastline is the most important location characteristic.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with prominent Brooklyn real estate broker Anne-Marie Stanislaus. Anne-Marie, who can be reached at 917-887-7468, holds national certification as a Certified Distressed Property Expert. We spoke about which factors, or characteristics make a home more desirable.  According to Anne-Marie, a property’s location to certain amenities can sometimes be what makes or breaks the sale.  Anne-Marie listed several characteristics of  good property location:

  1. Transportation: In New York City, being near a dependable subway line, especially one with express service into Manhattan, and to Brooklyn’s Downtown Business Hub is a no-brainer. Unlike those commuters in say, Westchester, Nassau, Suffolk, or from points of origin in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, you eliminate the absolute need for a “station car” just to get to the first leg of your transportation day. When you throw in  an express station, and good surface bus service, you’ve got the makings of a winning property.
  2. Shopping:  Proximity to good supermarkets and farmers markets is desirable. This can also eliminate or reduce the need to use a car for food shopping. Add a mall or shopping center where you can get everything for your home, your clothes dry-cleaned, your shoes repaired, and your prescriptions filled,  and the property often becomes even more desirable.
  3. Some home buyers opt for the solitude or isolation of a more remote destination. They may own a home-based business requiring only a few trips into the city for client meetings each month.
  4. Good schools: This ranks high on the list of many young couples. Access to  excellent local public schools permits families to save more for their children’s college educations.

The New Normal

While these and other features are important, they now take a back seat to a new and sobering reality; the ability to purchase affordable and good insurance coverage is based on a property’s distance from the coastline.

You always wanted to buy a home with ocean, lake,  or river views. Ah, you thought, the peace of mind and serenity such views and lifestyle would afford me. Until you live and suffer through natural events like Hurricanes Irene and Sandra and Tropical Storm Lee. Then living near a surging ocean, or overflowing lake, or raging river won’t seem so peaceful.

Many homeowners insurance carriers now understand the risk of insuring coastal properties.  Agents and brokers for these companies will no longer bind homeowners or dwelling insurance coverage for properties within one mile of the coast.  (The coastal rules for condo, coops, and rental units are usually less onerous; ask your broker for their companies rules for these properties).

As an independent agent and broker, that requirement doesn’t pose any real problem for me.  I am able to  place my coastal homeowners insurance business with several good companies who are comfortable with this type of risk. One caveat: you will pay, on average, anywhere from one-half to two times as much for a coastal homeowners insurance policy as you would for the exact home more than a mile away from the coast.

Remember, in insurance, it’s all about the amount and type of risk a company will accept. So, should you present a greater risk, you will pay more for coverage. This is just a new reality many homeowners and home buyers must accept for homes in certain locations.

Companies’ Right To Decide

Every insurance company has the right, , with state approval, to decide where it will and will not offer coverage.

When an insurance company changes its underwriting policies for coastal properties, and then non-renews customers with homes are now in the exclusion zone, those former clients may face difficulty securing new coverage. (See my upcoming blog post about the ” Rule of 60/3 and 2/5″). The same customers who placed their auto, and in some cases, life insurance with a company they thought would be their insurer for a lifetime.

I think it’s wrong to simply dump loyal customers. My suggestion? Let those who are now insured with your company keep their coverage, so long as they pay their premiums and have a good claim history. Adjust premiums and require larger hurricane deductibles to account for the increased risk. If a client chooses to not agree to these changes, they can search for new coverage. Otherwise, replacing homeowners insurance policies in the coastal regions of Brooklyn and the rest of this region will be absolutely devastating for many homeowners. Personally, I don’t mind driving a few miles to reach the  beach. During the last decade, while watching ocean levels rise, and protective wetlands disappear, I tried to warn against the folly of  building and buying coastal properties. To me, it was always a game where Mother Nature ultimately wins.  Some homeowners will always choose a seaside, lakeside, or riverside home. They will, however, pay higher homeowners insurance premiums for their choice. 

For insurance purposes, your first location characteristic question should be  “Is this house at least one to one and one-half miles from the coastline?” Also, make sure to ask the agent or broker who’ll be insuring your home whether the homeowners  insurance company providing coverage will honor renewals should their coastal underwriting rules change.

If you now own a home within more than one and less than two miles from the coastline, you are entitled an answer to the latter question. If the answer is either an emphatic “No”,  or a weak “Yes, I think so”, now’s the time to start searching for a new homeowners insurance company. Otherwise, you may face the task of  buying a new coastal homeowners insurance policy sooner than you realized.

Then, as I mentioned to Anne-Marie Stanislaus, you can worry about schools, transportation, shopping and the like.

Location, location, location, indeed.

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