What is the best way to compare homeowner's insurance companies?

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Compare Home Insurance
Just contact an Independent agent. They represent many different insurance markets and are familiar with Policies available from a larger number of companies than captured agents who only represent a single insurer. An independent agent can customize a Home Owners Policy for you, they are not usually bound by cookie cutter policies loaded with often undesired coverage's designed to bulk up premium and offered by the captured national company agents. Let the Independent agent do the comparing for you. They can then explain the differences in "Plain English" and make recommendations to you. You will likely not even have to refer to your encyclopedia to understand.  Comparing Home Owner's Insurance
Personally, I would recommend looking at both the complaint ratio and the assets/liabilities in determining which company is right for you. Take a look at not just the order in which your target companies appear, but also how far apart they are in these categories.
The complaint ratio is a very important tool in determining how well an insurance company is satisfying its customers. For those not familiar with the complaint ratio, it is computed by tallying the number of complaints that are confirmed as valid by the state's insurance regulators against a given company, as a percentage of the insurer's overall premium volume (the dollar amount of all policies written in that state). Though it is almost inevitable to please all of your customers all of the time, a high complaint ratio shows that there is a trend in both customers contacting state authorities with a problem, and the state upholding that complaint.
The assets/liabilities is equally important, as it shows the financial strength of the company -- that is, its chances of being able to pay all of its claims in a major catastrophe without going broke. No matter how satisfied its customers are, if an insurance company doesn't look up to the task of paying your claim if you happen to be involved in a major catastrophe, it's not the right one for you. AM Best's financial strength ratings are some of the most widely-used in the US, and you can look up any of their ratings here:
The amount of fees paid is an important factor when the numbers are very far apart, but other than that there are different factors that may affect these numbers, other than the number and size of violations. Fees can be negotiated in the final stages of a state's review decisions, and the final number may reflect the company's negotiating skills or relationship with the department as well. As there is no external way of quantifying the exact factors leading into the fees, minor differences may not be that different.
Finally, another way to select an insurance company would be to also go to a good independent agent in your area and see what they have to say. They represent multiple companies, and can shop around to get you the right coverage for you. After getting their best recommendation, compare it to the offers you've received from the companies that don't write through independent agents, such as State Farm, and see what looks good to you. One thing to keep in mind is if you plan to live in a different state in the future, and if your company can cover you in your new location. There are many wonderful insurance companies that only write within one small area, and if you want to keep the same company you may want to look at a national insurer (especially one with a discount that goes up the longer you're with them).
 Additional input
Insurance companies give multi-line discounts that are applied through the company you have current coverage with...auto, life, business owners etc. You can often get a good rate from a current insurer.
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