Hey friends! So, in the last few months, all hail broke loose! Okay, now that I got the cheesy jokes out, let’s talk insurance! On May 16th, 2010, Oklahoma City was struck suddenly with a large and violent hail storm. My little house, (and my car) took a beating. The hail came down the size of softballs, obliterating most of the cars, roofs, and siding in my neighborhood, mine included. The following video was taken by me during the storm. I was freaking out to say the least.
After the storm, I didn’t know what was going to happen. My car was undriveable, my roof had water coming in, windows were broken, and I was shaken up. The rebuilding process began the next day with long holds on the phone with the insurance company. Due to the large number of people affected, some people waited up to 60 days to see an adjuster. I was fortunate to have an insurance agent who understood my concerns and took great care of me. She arranged for a contractor to come out and board up my windows, a wrecker to tow my car to a glass shop, and a lot of reassurance that all would be okay in the end. It’s been nearly three months since the storm and I still have boarded up windows, my siding is a mess, and we’re still finding glass in the yard. Here are a few things I learned about homeowner’s insurance and repairs covered under my policy:
Know your coverage and deductibles-
Deductible is typically 1% of the INSURED VALUE of your home. So for example, I only purchased my home for $45k, but the insured value (cost to rebuild) is $65k. So, my deductible is $650. Let’s say your house is insured for $200k, your deductible will most likely be somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000.
Protect your property-
Following the storm, your job as the homeowner is to make certain that your house is not susceptible to further secondary damage. The day following the storm, windows should be boarded and openings covered with plastic to prevent water (and burglars) from getting in (True story, a friend of mine was broken into after the storm). You should also have your roof tarped all over to prevent any subsequent rains from coming in.
Take pictures before you clean up anything-
Whether you realize it or not, that glass from the window can be embedded in your carpet, or even vinyl. Point this out to your adjuster, he may pay to replace the flooring or at least a really thorough cleaning of it.
Don’t expect to receive a big fat check made out only to you-
Your mortgage company has a vested interest in your property, and rightfully so. It may be your home, but technically, until it’s paid off, the bank is a sort of silent co-owner. I like to think of them as an unwelcome roommate who doesn’t pay rent. The bank will require that you send them the check so that it can be endorsed. Some will send it back, others will deposit the money in an escrow account so that they can control what gets paid out of that account. It protects you both and ensures that your house gets fixed properly.
The mortgage company may require inspections-
Know that when large sums of money are involved, there will be hoops to jump through, and an inspection is one of them. My mortgage company requires an inspection for each aspect of the recovery. My roof is finished, so we’ll have an inspection before the contractor is paid. That’s normal if the bank is holding your money. They’re not evil, just smart.
Research your contractor-
During a catastrophic event such as the hail storm that came through Oklahoma City, there are shady contractors everywhere. Don’t hire someone out of haste, because they’re available. After an event like this, there’s probably a reason they’re available. Get references from friends, family, even your insurance agent. Make sure that the contractor is local and not someone who blew into town to make a quick buck. Don’t fall for the “We’ll pay your deductible” scam.
If estimates aren’t lining up-
Let’s say that your adjuster comes out and says a new roof will cost $5,000, but your contractor says it will cost $6,000. Try and schedule a time when they can both be there and discuss the difference in estimates.
Expect things to take a long time. As much as I’d like him to be, my contractor is not Superman (there’s no hidden S on his shirt, and he doesn’t wear tights.. as far as I know). You know the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day?” Well, houses aren’t built or rebuilt in a day either, especially when there are thousands of homes in the same or worse condition as yours. State Farm gave me 24 months to complete the repairs to my home, and It’s already been 3 months. The reality of a drawn out process has hit me. It will be a long time before I see this finished.
Understand the jargon-
I heard lots of unfamiliar terms like “Recoverable Depreciation”. (I honestly still don’t know what that means). The point is, talk to your agent, ask them questions. They’re there to help. If they’re not helpful, then find someone who is. The best source for the answers is the insurance company itself. Get names and numbers of customer service agents. It can be tough to make sense of everything, so keep track of who you spoke to and when. It would be nice if someone held my hand through everything, but at the end of the day, it’s my responsibility to make sure things are taken care of properly.
My car was destroyed as well as my house, so I found myself in a position where I was without a car. I took care of the car situation before I got to work on the house. Then, after I bought a new car, the contractor put a new roof on. Next are the windows, then the siding, and lastly, storm doors and exterior lighting. Take it one day at a time.
Take the time to set up an appointment with your agent and review your policies. Ask them the “what-ifs” and make sure you’re ready for something big, should it occur. Talk to someone in your mortgage company’s Loss Drafts Division and find out how all that works. It never hurts to know ahead of time. I hope you never have to go through something like this, but if you do, take it from this control freak that it pays to be prepared! Until next time, Happy Homeowning!