The Insurance Information Institute and the Consumer Federation of America offer these suggestions on how to keep premiums low:

* Shop around. Check at least three to five reputable companies for comparable coverage. "People can save $100 on average if they spend an hour" shopping around, said J. Robert Hunter of the Consumer Federation. The savings are based on focus groups.

* Make sure your credit report is accurate. In most states, insurance companies can use your credit score to deny coverage, set rates or offer discounts. Maryland bans the use of credit scores in denying insurance.

* Increase the deductible. If the deductible is increased from $250 to $1,000, you could save at least 25 percent in annual premiums.

* Ask companies if you will get a discount if you buy auto and life insurance from them, too. But check both the combined costs of the premiums and the costs of individual products from different companies.

* Add security devices, sprinkler systems and fire alarms. Insurers offer discounts for such items.

* Check whether your insurer charges more if you have a dog or a particular breed of dog. Because dog bites now account for almost a quarter of all homeowners insurance liability claims -- about $345.5 million annually -- some insurers are clamping down. Some require dog owners to sign liability waivers for dog bites, while others charge more for owners of breeds such as pit bulls and Rottweilers. Others won't write insurance for dog owners at all.)

Here are the three most important questions to ask your agent, said Carolyn Gorman, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute:

* If my house is destroyed, do I have enough insurance to rebuild it?

* If my house is destroyed, do I have enough insurance to replace my personal property?

* Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets if I'm sued?