A couple I know were burgled before Easter. It was a professional job – the burglars left the bleach and cloths they used to wipe away their fingerprints. It was blatant, in broad daylight, smashing through a locked bi-fold door. Like most home-insurance claimants, this couple had insured their home contents year after year without really giving thought to the value of what they owned. Now they have begun the long and painful process of working out what was lost and reaching settlement with their insurer.  

According to research conducted last year, 28% of homes don’t have contents insurance, and around 1 in 5 home insurance claims are not paid. This compares very poorly to motor insurance, where 98% of claims are paid.

The fundamental problem with home insurance is that insurers don’t know up front what it is that they’re insuring. They expect customers to answer a whole raft of over-complicated questions and, as if by magic, estimate the worth of their possessions. And then, if they do need to claim, customers must come up with an inventory after they’ve lost their things. This gives rise to a complete mismatch between what customers expect their insurance to cover and what it covers in reality.

This mismatch results in a poor claims experience for too many people, at an already stressful time in their lives. It also means a lot of time and money gets wasted validating claims as insurers seek to reduce the risk of fraud and lower claims losses. This is a vicious circle, alienating honest customers, building mistrust in the industry and feeding the problem of opportunistic fraud in the first place.

If the sector started from a point of knowledge, using validated data on exactly what is being insured and where, then many of the problems within home insurance would be solved. And at buzzvault, we believe we’ve found the way – and it starts with mobile video.  

With our video-surveying technology, delivered via an app on a smartphone or tablet, householders can survey each room in their home through a direct link to a certified surveyor. At the end of this process, all recorded home contents are converted into a secure digital inventory of everything they own, with values assigned: their buzzvault. And with customer-approved access to this vault data, we are able to provide customers with personalised cover and a low-friction claims experience.

Based on answers to a few basic questions about their home, buzzvault customers can choose quotes for home and contents insurance. They can remove items from their vault, amend values and add new purchases whenever they like, so that their cover is always up to date.

And, should they need to claim, there is immediate potential to validate losses and the value for settlement – because all items under the policy are accounted for. And, courtesy of the video survey that underpins the vault, we have all sorts of extra insights too: like information on the pre-loss condition of items and their context within the house.

This gives us great transparency, and a clear informational advantage, when it comes to evaluating and processing claims – especially with more complicated loss events. All of which means we can proceed to claims settlement in a way that’s both swifter and less onerous for customers. To make a claim, all customers need to do is open the app and indicate the items they’re claiming on. They can also do this online or over the phone, if they wish.

It sounds simple but the technology behind this kind of insurance solution is complex.  This is where it helps to be a small startup – as the pace of change in the incumbent home insurance market is notoriously slow. So the next question you might ask is whether home insurance customers are ready for this kind of product. And we believe the answer is a resounding yes.

When you boost transparency, you build trust. Right now, home insurers are under immense scrutiny due to dual pricing, due to a widespread belief that claims will not be paid regardless, due to analogue, paper-based processes.  Increasingly, digital-savvy consumers won’t put up with this status quo; they will look for better, smarter, easier alternatives. At the end of the day, it’s as much about giving customers an informational advantage as it is insurers. And we believe this advantage will only grow over time, for all parties, as we search for new rating factors to better price and understand customers based on their vaults.

The data at the heart of buzzvault, captured via our unique mobile-video tool, will have implications not just for claims but for underwriting and customer service as well. Ultimately, this will lower the overall cost to our business of providing home insurance, and these lower costs will lead in turn to lower prices for consumers. It is a win-win.

For more on how we’re reinventing home insurance with buzzvault, read our home-insurance manifesto. And to take advantage of our early-adopter bonus by heading over to gobuzzvault.com and getting yourself a personalised quote in under two minutes – and once you’ve activated your policy, you’ll receive a £40 Amazon.