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Since your new home is collateral for your mortgage, your lender will require you to have a policy that's paid for, and in effect, before closing.

But premiums have been going up so quickly that you've got to shop around for the best possible deal.

The most recent data available from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners say the average cost of a homeowner's policy grew from $593 in 2002, to $668 in 2003 and $729 in 2004.

Premiums also vary a great deal from state to state.

In 2004 Texas had the highest average cost ($1,362), followed by Louisiana ($1,074), Oklahoma ($991), Florida ($929) and Mississippi ($907).

Idaho had the lowest average cost ($448), followed by Utah ($473), Wisconsin ($483), Delaware ($488) and Oregon ($492).

After the 2005 hurricane season we know insurers raised premiums and deductibles, while narrowing terms of coverage and turning away new customers, in 18 coastal states from Maine to Texas.

The Insurance Information Institute estimates the rate increase for those homeowners at between 20% and 100%, compared with about a 4% rise in the rest of the nation.

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