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Company to Offer Insurance for High-End Homes on the Island

April 12, 2008

Island Packet - 05/13/08
By Jim Faber

Hilton Head Island residents with homes worth over $1 million have a new insurance option.

Florida-based Privilege Underwriters Reciprocal Exchange, or PURE, will sell roughly 2,000 homeowner's policies, including wind and hail coverage, on homes worth more than $1 million.

Of those 2,000 policies, PURE expects to write as many as 300 on Hilton Head, said Ross Buchmueller, president and CEO of the company. Buchmueller says his company can save customers money over the South Carolina Wind and Hail Underwriting Association - the state-mandated wind coverage pool - and other insurers by seeking out only high value homes that are most likely to survive a hurricane.

Homes that are larger than 3,000 square feet typically have a better chance of surviving a storm. Homes constructed in the past four years also fare better, but insurance companies rarely take such data into account when they figure rates, Buchmueller said.

"It's not as if this demographic can't afford it," he said. "They're just paying above the odds."

PURE has a unique approach, including paying not only to repair damage reported in claims but to make fixes that ensure the damage doesn't happen again, said Allison Dean Love, executive director of the S.C. Insurance News Service, an industry-sponsored organization that provides data on insurance issues.

"It's always good news for customers for there to be more companies, more choices and more competition," Love said. PURE is the ninth insurance company to come into the state writing coastal property insurance since former state Sen. Scott Richardson of Hilton Head took over as director of the S.C. Department of Insurance in February 2007, said Ann Roberson, a department spokeswoman. "We're very excited to have another writer entering the state," she said.

A handful of other coastal property insurance companies wanting to enter the S.C. market is pending approval, Roberson said.

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