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How to Calculate Buildings Insurance Rebuild Cost

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Rebuild house

Your holiday home is likely to be one of the largest financial investments you will make in your lifetime. Therefore, it is extremely important that the buildings sum insured is accurate so that if it were to be significantly damaged by fire or flood, for example, it will be restored to its former glory.

Astonishingly, research shows that as many as one in five households could be under-insured, risking a major financial loss should disaster strike.

Ultimately, it is you the property owner who is responsible for making sure that the sum insured is accurate so that this doesn’t happen – fire leaves family £450,000 out of pocket.

What’s the difference between buildings and contents?

It’s important that property owners understand what buildings insurance actually covers, as there’s a lot of confusion between buildings and contents. This confusion can lead to claims disputes and holiday homes being under insured.

Buildings insurance covers the structure of the building – walls, windows, the roof, plus permanent ‘fixtures and fittings’ such as bathroom suites, toilets, fitted kitchens and wardrobes. The definition of buildings usually includes domestic outbuildings, garages, fixed fuel oil tanks, garden sheds, swimming pools, tennis courts, drives, patios, terraces, walls, gates and fences.

As a rule – can it reasonably be removed and taken to another home if you move? If it can, then it is ‘contents’ and it will not generally be covered by buildings insurance.

But what about laminate wooden flooring where the individual planks are glued together and fixed under a skirting board or beading? It’s a ‘fixture and fitting’ and part of the building.

What does buildings insurance cover?

Buildings insurance covers the cost of rebuilding or repairing damage to your holiday home (other than that arising through wear and tear) for ‘specified perils’.

These usually include fire, flood, subsidence, earthquake, storm, lightning, theft (or attempted theft) vandalism, escape of water, oil and damage caused by falling trees.

Is buildings insurance compulsory? If you have a mortgage on your property the lender will insist you take out buildings insurance. Otherwise, buildings insurance is not compulsory, but being uninsured is a huge risk.

Why you need to know how much it costs to rebuild your home

When you apply for insurance the insurer will require a buildings sum insured to calculate the premium.

A common mistake is that people use the purchase price or the current market value as the basis of the sum insured. This is wrong!

The buildings sum insured should represent the total cost of reinstating your holiday home – including demolition, debris removal, professional fees (architects, surveyors, engineers, legal) and the additional cost of complying with government or local authority requirements.

How to calculate the cost of rebuilding your holiday home

If you have recently bought your holiday home the “minimum reinstatement cost” or “rebuild value” for insurance purposes will be on your survey, mortgage valuation or deeds.

Alternatively, there are two other ways to calculate your holiday home rebuild cost: hire a surveyor or use a rebuild calculator.

ABI rebuilding cost calculator

If your UK holiday home is of standard construction the Association of British Insurers offers a free (registration required) rebuild cost calculator to help you assess the rebuilding cost of your property. To use the calculator and get an approximate rebuild cost, you’ll need to measure the external floor area for both upstairs and downstairs.

There are a number of restrictions to the calculator. For example, properties with unusual features such as thatched, listed buildings and houses made of non-standard materials.

Therefore, the best way to get an accurate rebuild cost of your holiday home is to ask a chartered surveyor to carry out a rebuild estimate.

Hire a chartered surveyor

For UK homes, the best way to get an accurate rebuild cost is to instruct a RICS qualified chartered surveyor to visit your property and carry out a rebuilding cost survey. You’ll receive a comprehensive Rebuild Cost Assessment (RCA) report guiding you on how much you should insure your buildings for.

Search the RICS web site to find a Chartered Surveyor in your area.

Another option is rebuildcostassessment.com who produce an assessment of your building’s rebuild cost without having to visit your property.

You will have to pay for a survey, but the cost is insignificant compared to the amount you would be out of pocket as a result of being underinsured.

If your holiday home is overseas, your lawyer should be able to advise on where to locate a qualified surveyor.

Keeping your buildings sum insured up to date

Your insurer should ‘index-link’ your policy. This means that your buildings sum insured adjusts according to inflation. This ensures your sum insured is increased in line with any changes in the cost of rebuilding your property. Usually, this is done each year at renewal.

It’s important to note that index linking only works properly if the sum insured was correct at the outset.

If you make any improvements to your holiday home – e.g. an extension, new kitchen or if you add a hot tub, contact your insurer to make sure your sums insured are increased.

The risks of underinsurance

Under-insuring a holiday home, whether deliberately to reduce the premium or unintentionally, has significant consequences. It could mean that your insurer will reduce the claims pay-out by the percentage that your property is underinsured by.

If for example it was discovered that following a claim the accurate rebuild cost is £200,000 but you only insured for £150,000 – you are underinsured by 25%. Therefore, any claim you make could be reduced by 25%.

Likewise, having an accurate sum insured can help prevent you from over-insuring your home and paying higher premiums than necessary.

To summarise

  • It is the property owner who is responsible for making sure that the “rebuild value” is accurate.
  • For peace of mind, hire a qualified surveyor to prepare a rebuilding cost assessment for insurance purposes.
  • Keep your sum insured up to date if you make alterations to your property.
  • Under-insuring a holiday home is likely to mean the insurer will apply average to the claims payout.

If you need any advice on holiday cottage insurance please get in touch or get a quote.


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  • mike viall |

    we have an apartment in spain value £170000 How can we calculate insurance rebuild value ?. Thanks

    • Philip |

      As a guide 1200 euros per square metre for an average quality build. However, as advised in the post, consulting a qualified surveyor is the most accurate way to calculate the rebuild value. As it’s an appartment the buildings may be covered under a block policy? but check the level of cover if it is.

  • Stuart |

    I have the same question, but I think you’ve missed the point. I am about to have a 96m2, 1st floor apartment, purchase price 122,000 euro…

    What is the rebuild value on an apartment? You can’t very well “rebuild” an apartment when there are other apartments in thebuilding above and below it. It would seem illogical for this to be the rebuild cost for the whole building…

  • Sue Heath |

    We have a second home in Cap Ferrat CoteD’Azur France.Advice needed please on rebuilding costs for insurance quote

  • Graham Stow |

    I’m a retired Chartered Quantity Surveyor and wish to state that, in my view, the ABI/BCIS house rebuilding caculator is deeply flawed.

    Firstly it is based on measurement of the Gross External Floor Area (GEFA). However I know that the data on which the caculator is based, data submitted to BCIS by guys like me over many years then updated on the basis of cost indices, is based on Gross Internal Floor Area (GIFA). In 50 years practising I never once measured a building on the basis of GEFA and I’m sure few if any current or former Chartered Surveyors have either. This can make a huge difference – in the case of my holiday let cottage (which has 2 foot thick external walls), its GEFA is 121m2, whereas its GIFA is 90m2, so in my opinion the area is overstated by over a third and therefore the reconstriuction value is overstated by over a third – assuming that is that the rates used are correct, which brings me to my second point.

    Until approx 2015 I used to subscribe to BCIS , which until recently was owned by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and when preparing intial estimates for new projects did occasionally consult the full BCIS database for comparable cost analyses (models) to benchmark my estimates on. However, when it came to housing the cuboard was pretty bare. And what was there was not of much use – I recollect cost analyses for social housing schemes and high-end one off houses, but very lttle in the middle for the types of houses most of us live in. Having run the caculator on my own property recently, this probably accounts for the huge difference between minimum (£364k = £3,008/m2 GEFA or £4,044/m2 GIFA) and maximum (£934k = £7,719/m2 GEFA or £10,378 GIFA) values. And I had little faith in the figure it was recommending I ensure at (£799k = £6,603/m2 GEFA or £8,878/m2 GIFA). Although retired and therefore ‘out of the market’ for the best part of 5 years now, something in my water told me that these figures are considerably over the top and encouraging over insurance. Having spoken to a former colleague and a currently practising Chartered Quantity Surveyor, I shall be re-insuring my property at 90m2 GIFA x £3,000/m2 = £270k + £50k demolitions, external works, and abnormals = £320k

    • Philip |

      Thank you for sharing your views. If in doubt, hire a Chartered Surveyor for an accurate figure.

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