Know how much a calamity will cost

Palm trees swaying in wind

Insurers are quietly switching deductibles from a flat amount of $500 or $1,000 to a percentage of the home's insured value -- typically 2% to 5% for high wind and hail damage to 15% for earthquake coverage.

For most homeowners, that means bigger out-of-pocket expenses if their property is damaged by a serious thunderstorm, hurricane, quake or similar calamity -- $4,000 to $30,000 for the typical $200,000 home.

While percentage deductibles are most often found in the West and Southeast, where quakes and hurricanes are most prevalent, they're becoming more common in other parts of country.

Insurers often slip such changes into the fine print of renewal notices as an alternative to dramatically raising premiums -- something homeowners are more likely to notice.

If you're not sure what your policy says, call your agent. Don't wait until you're facing a big repair bill to find out how much you'll be expected to pay.