It’s that time of year again here in the Northwest. The weather is turning and the wipers need replacing. And, with the last storm system that blew through, a lot more than the leaves are falling.
As I was driving into work I saw several large branches strewn on the roads and in the ditches. That reminded me that Fall is officially Tree vs House Season.
I’ve handled many hundred insurance claims involving a tree falling from one yard and damaging (sometimes smashing) someone else’s home. Almost without fail, I hear the same things from the victims. There is a lot of misunderstanding out there when it comes to “OPP” (Other People’s Property) and home insurance, so I thought I write this little public service message for you.
Things to know when a tree hits your house:
– You can’t insure OPP. And your neighbor can’t insure your house. That means that the only insurance that could cover damages to your house from a fallen tree, no matter where said tree came from, is YOURs.
– Tree removal has limits. Most insurance policies contain maximum coverage amounts for tree removal, usually $500. Depending on the size of the tree, you could spend $500 very quickly. Make sure that whomever you get to remove the tree is aware of the limit.
Shift coverage when possible. This means that you likely have coverage under your policy for things like board-up and tarping. If the same company that removes the tree also places a tarp for weather protection, have them separate their bill for both activities.
When in doubt, leave the tree in the yard. Remove the tree from the house to prevent further damage, but leave the rest in the yard instead of racking up removal charges. You can always come up with a solution down the road.
– Don’t rush to repair or settle. The likelihood of hidden damages is high when trees and roofs are involved. I’ve seen well-built houses stand up to some big trees with little visible damage from the exterior. That does NOT mean that other things, like earthquake tie-downs and foundations, escaped unscathed.
Retain an insurance restoration specialist. Preferably someone who understands structural damages and has the ability to refer a high quality structural engineer
– Call for your free consultation. Claims Delegates is always here to answer the tough questions. Should I turn in a claim? Who should I call first? Who should I trust? Trust the Badge. 888.745.7568
How to make the SMART move when choosing a contractor.
Choosing a contractor is tough, real tough. Most people don’t know where to start, so they do a quick Google search and get lots of bids.
Let me tell you, that process is a sure fire way to fail.
When someone asks for a bid, what they’re really saying is “price is my biggest concern.” What they end up getting is a bunch of numbers from contractors who don’t value their own time enough, and spend more time bidding work than doing work. Do you know what else you get when you choose the lowest-bid contractor? Nothing.
Don’t get me wrong; it IS important to understand how much a project will cost before signing anything. What I mean is that there is a difference between budgeting a job and shopping a job.
I stopped giving free estimates a while ago. (I won’t tell you when because, frankly, I’m ashamed it took me so long to “get it”). For years I couldn’t figure out why I was losing job after job, even after I thought I’d put on a great sales presentation and given a solid bid.
What I came to realize is that, for the most part, I’d lost these jobs before I’d even stepped onto the client’s property. And that by giving a “free estimate”, I’d actually de-valued myself and my company because I’d given no value to my prospective client.
Now, this article is about choosing a contractor, not being a contractor, so let’s get back on track.
In order not to fail as a consumer of contracting services, you need to start asking different questions. That begins by understanding that while price is a factor in any purchase, it is seldom the most important.
Question 1: What is my pain?
What is the problem that you’re asking a contractor to solve for you? Be specific and go deep (stay with me here). If you tell me your house needs painting, is it because you don’t like the color? Or is it because the existing paint is falling off and the rain is eating your siding? Both may require painting, but the later may mean that there are additional items to be addressed before a coat of paint in applied.
Question 2: Which contractor has the best plan to make my pain go away?
You begin to answer this question during your phone/email/Facebook/whatever interview with prospective contractors. Instead of wasting everyone’s time by asking for another “estimate”, start to ask how they would solve your particular problem.
Use this time to educate yourself on all the possible ways to fix it. Take the opportunity to learn something new.
You’ll quickly discover that the contractors who truly care about quality and customer service are the ones who take the time to explore the options with you.
There are always more ways than one to skin the proverbial cat. Every contractor has their own particular approach. So find the flavor your like, and then make your decision.
I’ll end this article with a story, and the reason I decided to write about this particular subject today.
I was recently hired to manage a painting project for a condo association. I was brought in mid-stream, after there were several bids on the table.
My task was to choose the “right” contractor for the job, and then supervise the project to completion.
This particular condo is unique in that it the majority of the building hangs off a cliff overlooking downtown Portland. The only portion of the building at “ground level” is the entrances to the units and parking spaces.
The rest of this two story structure is anywhere from thirty to FIFTY feet off the ground. This poses a particular problem when performing any kind of exterior repairs, including painting from a ladder.
The bids were all over the map. The highest was $26,000, which included $13,000 of scaffolding.
The lowest was $5,600 with scaffolding “BY OTHERS.” Naturally I started with the two in the middle (who were still $9,000 apart).
Two phone calls later I’d found my winner. This particular painter had looked at the project and seen the same thing that I’d seen: we had an access problem, not a painting problem. He had taken it upon himself to search out another contractor who specializes in scaffolding, and had received a bid from them which he included in his proposal.
Simply: he felt my pain.
Instead of finding scaffolding and setting it up himself, like the other painters were proposing, he freely admitted that he was not a scaffold expert and found someone who was. He solved my problem, instead of just giving me a painting bid.
Now I’ve got TWO more contractors to put in my Rolodex, err, phone that I can use and refer to future clients. That painter showed me his willingness to provide value, and won my business going forward.
And the kicker is that he could have bid $4,000 higher and I’d have made the same choice.
Now before you break out the sunscreen, may I suggest you verify a different kind of coverage?
This month’s video illustrates how complacency in coverage can really burn.
A tenant lets a water leak go unreported and only notifies the landlord AFTER the kitchen cabinets are damaged beyond repair. The heat gets turned up even higher once the adjuster explains the lack of coverage.
It has come to my attention that most people don’t understand just what it is that I do for a living. I’ll admit that the term “independent estimator” is fairly ambiguous. It’s not like I’m a plumber or mechanic. So here is a brief video explaining my role as insurance liaison, property damage claim expert and all-round referee.