Is your sum insured correct?

"Some homeowners who suffered damage from the November earthquakes are under even more stress as they discover their insurance won't cover the rebuild costs," said New Zealand's Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman Karen Stevens in February 2017. "Finding you are underinsured is very traumatic.”

As professional quantity surveyors, this is a concern we've heard about since the first Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-11. The conversation has reared its head again since late 2016 in other parts of the country, as Wellington and other cities get affected by earthquakes too.

Your sum insured is the total amount of money your insurance company will pay to rebuild a property you own. According to the Treasury, up to 85 per cent of New Zealand homes may be underinsured by an average of 28 per cent each – totaling Kiwis' nationwide residential under insurance at $184 billion.

If you own a building or house of architectural merit, historical value, or it's unique in its design or construction in any way, it is ill-advised to rely on over-the-phone sum insured valuations from insurance companies. Likewise, it will be difficult for an online calculator to accurately assess your property's value for complete rebuild purposes.

This is where qualified quantity surveyors can be critical.An industry registration and NZIQS (New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveyors) accreditation means a quantity surveyor can value a property with all of its architectural, engineering, and aesthetic integrity taken into account.

A registered quantity surveyor has clout with all New Zealand banks and insurance companies. His or her valuation will be adhered to and represented in your final sum insured. This means that a property's complete valuation is practical, and based on the realities of modern construction methods and materials; as the owner, you don't just have to take what you are offered.

Marshall Suckling