? re pressure from remodeling co. insurance wants us to use...

mahatmacat1April 27, 2008

A big tree fell on our house and car last week (high winds--it was a healthy tree), so we're dealing with repairs on two fronts. I should say that no one was hurt, there's a roof over our heads, so it's not as horrible as it could have been by any stretch of the imagination, but there's still the stress of repairs. We're with a reputable insurance co. (is that an oxymoron?), but I'm troubled by the fact that the remodeling co. the insurers work with a lot got our settlement offer before we did (is that even legal?)...and the remodeling guy wants to set up an appointment asap to get us to sign a contract! Like he'd put it in front of us and we sign it, no time to consider at all!

I've never had to deal with this before (although we've been remodeling on our own for the last few years, and I've dealt with plenty of tradesfolk) but don't we have the right to get bids on the work and decide who we want to handle it? There's a complete reroofing involved, and I want to make sure we don't get stuck with an incompetent reroofing job or get ripped off with substituting inferior materials when we could have gotten much better use of our money.

Does anyone have any experience with this kind of situation? I'd appreciate any insights, thoughts, caveats...

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Contact your insce. co. and ask them what you want to know - no one else can possibly answer (speculation won't give you solid answers).

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 6:14PM
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Thanks for your reply, lucy. We're planning to call them on Monday, but honestly I'm not sure that they'll be completely straight with us about our rights, since the ins. co. and the remodeling co. are such close buddies.

I've learned that the remodeling industry can often be a place for scamming or at least taking a more-than-healthy cut from unsuspecting homeowners, and I'd really like to know what other people's experience has been wrt standing up for one's own interests rather than being a source of profit for a company that very well may have financial ties back to the ins. co. And on a less insidious level, I'd be interested in how many bids people got, etc. and how those bids compared to what the favored remodeling co. offered... *That* kind of information, the ins. co. can't offer us.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2008 at 7:06PM
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Your insurance company most likely sent an "adjuster" out to look at the damage to your house. The adjuster arrived at an "estimate" of what needed to be done and what it would cost. I believe you are within your rights to get another "independent " opinion/ estimate of the damage. Call another roofer! Make sure both estimates cover the same repairs. ( The 2nd roofer may find structural damage the adjuster missed, etc.)
You may end up going with the first repair co., but you are entitled to check things out before you make a decision.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 6:53AM
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Refer to your HO policy for your rights under the policy.
I just received mine in the mail this weekend for a new policy, there's no mention of the insurance company picking who does the work. Lots of restrictions on what is replaced, but not on who does it.

Call your state Insurance Commissioner Office, they can inform you of your rights under the law.

And if you're confused after both of those sources, you could try a consumer protection non-profit or call an attorney (I'm not sure what type of attorney specialist you would need).

Don't sign until you're satisfied that you have no choice on contractor or that you trust the contractor. Make sure to look up their licensing and don't let them on your property to do construction without a permit in hand. DON'T SETTLE FOR "The permit will be here soon". You can call the local building code enforcement to find out if they've filed.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 8:48AM
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i dunno about your state, but here in MS YOU have the right to choose who does your repairs. ins cos will try to tell you that you don't, you must use their guy, but that is an outright lie.

if i were you i would call for a second estimate. if you feel uncomfortable using the ins guy, use your own person.

and usually just mentioning that you will call the state ins commisioner is enough to get the adjuster to see it your way.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 10:59AM
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i would second the advice to get an independent estimate of your own-- if not more than one. we lost our home in a fire last fall and are still arguing the insurance co. for a fair settlement in order to move on with rebuilding. 'their' contractor said he could do the rebuild for almost 40% less than any of the other 4 local builders' estimates. certainly seems suspect, no? we've come to find out that insurance companies can be a little... shady... when it comes to larger losses. good luck and i'm sorry you are dealing with this...

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 3:10PM
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We had the tree through the house about four years ago, so i feel for you. We interviewed many contractors and decided which one we would like to work with. He then went through the repairs with the insurance companys adjuster. The adjuster said the repairs should be no more than $29,000 - our contractors estimate was $69,000 . ( we had just finished a huge remodel on that part of the house!) I called the insurance company and requested another adjuster look at the damage (please note, you have the right to request another adjuster, so matter where you live). This adjuster agreed that the damage was more in the region of $69,000. Our insurance company were ok to deal with. Prior to this we were with another insurance agency and has a tree fall on our car port (we live in Georgia, and have an acre that did have mainly pine trees on it!). They told us we had to use their contractor and agree to their adjusters figures. After that we made every effort to find out what we could and could not do if it ever happened again. So read your policy carefully and then get a couple of contractors out to give you estimates on the repairs. Note that one contractor may see one problem, and another may pick up on something completely different. Glad no one was hurt, and hope that they don't cause you too much stress.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 7:30PM
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Thanks so much, everyone. This is extremely helpful. I'm sorry to hear that there is so much confirmation of our experience happening out there. julia and bmmalone, doesn't it just turn your stomach to realize how they're trying to treat you? I hate it.

After reading some of these posts I went to the website of the insurance co. and it's there in black and white:


.... has a network of approved service providers that you may choose to repair your vehicle or property. We routinely evaluate these facilities to ensure our members enjoy the best possible service experience. If you choose one of our partners, we will stand behind their work but you're not limited to just them.
If you locate a ....-Approved Service Provider you'd like to utilize on the claim related repair of your damaged vehicle/property, please contact your .... Claim Representative directly. This will enable us to promptly schedule the service and warranty the workmanship of the provider. It also enables .... to oversee the quality and timeliness of repairs. Remember, you decide who does the repairs? This is always your choice!


Today the rep from the remodeling co. that's in with the ins. co. actually tried to strongarm DH; DH said we want to hear their bid, but we'll be getting other bids so we wouldn't be signing anything just yet, the rep, formerly all cashmere and chamomile tea, suddenly turned to steel: "It's not up to you! The insurance company decides who does the work. It's the same with all insurance companies."

Really. That just LOST our contract. Even if we were mildly inclined toward working with them before just for ease's sake, it went OUT the door. Lying loses customers. So I am steeling myself for the inevitable tense negotiations and garbage in our future :(.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2008 at 9:09PM
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I would file a written complaint to your state insurance commisioner and send a copy of that complaint to your carrier...Maybe your insurance doesn't know the tactics the construction company is using, complain to them first but I would still send to the state just so there is a record with them.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 12:05PM
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so interesting.. their reaction... it reminds me what i read about the mckinnsey consultants advising Allstate to treat their customers "in good hands" UNLESS they do not accept the v. minumum offer, in which case they should "bring out the boxing gloves".

This article is about a year old, and is lengthy, but is worth a read if you're experiencing the darker side of insurance companies-- paying out (or not paying out) on claims. I'm not saying that everyone experiences these low-ball estimates or that every insurance company operates like this... but once one has experienced it first hand, it's hard to ignore what these companies are getting away with. sorry to chime in again, this has just taken over the last six months of our lives with no end in sight. hope you have better luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: buisnessweek article

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 2:29PM
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ugh, julia...I feel a bit queasy. Our company, the one I elided with four dots, is listed in that group.

I'll show this to DH as soon as he gets home.

izzie, we're definitely holding that possibility in mind. Tomorrow morning (meeting with the approved remodeling co.) should be interesting.

Here is a link that might be useful: here's another article that includes our company

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 8:31PM
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ravencajun Zone 8b TX

CAll asap your State Insurance Commission and tell them all of this!! They NEED to know what is going on and what that rep said to you. Do everyone a favor and call them so they can not do that to others!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2008 at 8:56PM
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Whenever an insurance company receives a claim, the first thing they do is try to figure out if they can deny the claim. If that doesn't work, next, they try to minimize what they will pay. Rarely will they treat you like someone who has a legitimate claim that needs to be paid. I had a good experience of a few years ago, different from yours and involving less damage, but may serve for comparison purposes.

We had a water leak in our crawl space (a "stand-up" space) which damaged our security system so that it stopped working. Our insurance company paid for dehumidifiers to dry out the crawl space and paid full shot on repair of the security system. It needed to be extensively updated because the model we had was discontinued. They paid full shot, no questions asked, for the updated system, based on the first and only bid which I obtained from a firm I selected.

I hope this incident helps you sort out your situation.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 5:04PM
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If this is any help....

A number of years ago, I had some flood damage, and the insurer stepped in with a very generous response, plus a recommendation for a contractor. The guy appeared, and pestered. I let him come by, let him do an estimate, told him politely that I'd think about it - and never called him again.

If I were you, I'd let him come ASAP, but if he made any attempt to get me to sign ASAP, I'd politely say I don't respond well to pressure. You're the client, so don't wimp out.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2008 at 7:34PM
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thank you for posting, raven, haus, and ccaroll. haus, sounds good--always nice to hear of happy experiences--I'll try to keep it in mind so the energy will rub off on us :). Actually, maybe I'm being naive but I don't fault the insurance co., at this point--I'll have to wait and see how the bids for work that needs to be done total up, but right now I'm wondering if the remodeling co. has hoodwinked them too. The ins. co. rep has been very understanding and immediately helpful. It's the remodeling co. (a multi-state west coast group) that I think is the problem. The *auto* part, so far (knock wood) has been extremely smooth. I'll be able to exhale on that when we get our car back early next week.

ccarroll, we did exactly that. Yesterday we had the rep over, and he backpedaled on his aggression--did the sell job instead of the intimidate job. He said "it's up to you whom you choose", and added sweetly, "this (the settlement offer, which he had before we did) is the amount you get, you don't get bids on it--you get a check, and if you work with us, you sign the check over to us and we make all this happen."

Yeah. I could feel the pat on the head from across the table.

We've just GC'd/DIYed our own remodel of our entire first floor including kitchen and creation of a downstairs master, and are about to start the second floor. We don't need condescension.

There were several interesting points about the meeting that I'll save to post later when this is done (or maybe when something hits the fan--hopefully the former) that maybe will help someone down the line, but suffice to say that it saddens me to think that so many people are regularly worked over the way he attempted to do to us, and remodeling cos. skim thousands from stressed, unsuspecting homeowners every day.

But not these g'webbers :) Your all's posts have been *immensely* helpful in letting us know we weren't being paranoid when we got warning signs (spidey-senses :)) that there was more to this process than met the eye.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2008 at 12:07PM
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In case no one mentioned this... In my case, with years of experience in the insurance field, I almost always would choose the insurance co recommended contractor, especially if the insurance co insures the contractor's work. If something goes wrong, you go to the insurance co, who's more likely to be reponsive than your typical contractor. I prefer guaranteed work when possible, and needed it, in my case.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 2:03PM
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sorry to be the pessimist here, but if the insurance company is not coming through with a fair settlement on a claim-- why would one trust them to come through with a guarantee on "their" contractor? I guess it's one thing if it's a smaller loss/claim.. we're in the middle of a nightmare "negotiation" after a total loss... so i'm a bit touchy. hope all's going well with your claim, flyleft.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 4:51PM
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I just have to chime here that I am so very thankful to have found this thread! We suffered extensive damage in the OK tornado two weeks ago, and are already hearing differing opinions from structural engineers as to whether the basic structure is sound and we should "repair," or whether it is safest (and probably more cost-effective)to push and rebuild.

I'm terribly concerned about the negotiations to come, but I am so thankful for the advice and resources you all have discussed here!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 11:01AM
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Sorry to hear about your home and sorry this is long. Being a restoration contractor for 25 years, Ill give you my inside opinion. Most of my work is commercial but we still do plenty of large residential losses. I havenÂt worked for insurance companies for almost fifteen years and wonÂt go back because I want to stay in business and grow my company. 95% of my work is insurance related but the property owners hire me, and IÂm rarely brought in by the insurance company.

I have little faith in insurance companies, especially if they are one of the big boys. You are only in good hands, they are only like a good neighbor, and they are only on your side when you are paying your premiums. When you file a claim, these companies will do all they can to cut costs at your expense.

Who hired the structural engineers? I know the insurance company hired one but did you hire the other? Do you have an experienced restoration contractor and did the insurance company recommend this contractor? I can recommend how to hire the best contractor for your situation.

I know this is a pain but in these situations, itÂs best to push hard right from the beginning. DonÂt be timid or afraid but ALWAYS be professional because this is business not personal. Document everything and email the adjuster if there are problems. Read and understand your policy and make sure you know what youÂre coverageÂs are and what are those limits.

If you have guaranteed replacement policy with proper limits, you are in a much better position for a full rebuild than if you only have Actual Cash Value. If you donÂt have enough coverage, it may make sense to save as much as you can. After hundreds of serious rebuilds over the years, I have never saved part of a property and not had great results. Some damaged buildings need to be torn down, some donÂt. A "good" restoration contractor can always turn severe damage into amazing results.

Some property owners want to tear down the damaged home because they want to make dramatic changes. If the home is damaged enough then itÂs not a problem. If the existing home is salvageable, then you are probably going in the wrong direction unless you are willing to put some personal funds on top of the insurance funds. If you need Architectural and Engineering drawings, and you make dramatic changes, the insurance company will have legitimate gripes not to pay some of those A&E fees.

An insurance policy is to get you back to pre-loss condition. Unless your home was new when it was damaged, you are coming out ahead after the repairs are done. Most properties have flooring, carpet, wall surfaces, roofs, fixtures, etc. etc. etc. that have years of age. After the repairs are done, you have new flooring, freshly painted walls, a new roof, new mechanicals, new kitchen, etc. etc. etc. You can come out way ahead after the restoration process without tearing down the home and starting over.

You probably have a year of coverage for additional living expense. If there are disputes, six months to a year can go by prior to the restoration process even starting. If that happens, you risk being out of your home for months and your A.L.E. has run out so donÂt waste any time. If the adjuster is wasting time, document it and put it in writing to the adjuster. I find email is easy and the most effective.

Too many people rely on their insurance company to do the right thing and sometimes they do, but most of the time I donÂt see it. In these hard economic times, these adjusters are being pushed very hard by the home office to limit the size of these claims. DonÂt forget, the adjuster works for the insurance company, not you. If the insurance company is bringing in the contractor, most of the time, the contractor will bend to the adjusters will and not side with the property owner.

From my experience, if you have a legitimate problem thatÂs not getting resolved in a timely manner, I found having the property owners filing a complaint with the State Insurance Commissioner can be effective. To file that complaint, the documentation of the problem helps tremendously.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 4:59PM
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I can't thank you enough for taking the time to write such a detailed reply, which was full of tremendously helpful info.

Shorthand of our situation: very large house, I was extremely involved in every step of the build so I do have lots of documentation - not to mention the knowledge I gained on the fly! We have full restoration coverage, which means people keep saying, "we'll put the house back exactly as it was before the storm." We are highly insured because we are self-employed; my immediate concern is moving my children back into a safe structure in a timely manner. I know - good luck, right?

We moved into what State Farm terms "comparable housing," for an initial term of six months, and my direct A.L.E. contact keeps reassuring me that she has recommended that the company be prepared for an additional six months after that, to be handled on a month-to-month basis. I'm satisfied with w/all the help I've gotten on that end - I have no idea how pp without decent insurance handle being displaced! Since it took 3 yrs to build the house we moved into 3.5 yrs ago, I'm already nervous about time displaced. However, my G.C. basically bailed on me the first time around, and I have indeed already contracted with a local builder that is on-board whether this becomes a major restoration, or a complete rebuild.

My issue I foresee becoming a point of contention with my (little-seen) adjuster: whether the amount of damage to the first floor warrants a "strip sheetrock/insulation/etc. down to studs, and save as many studs as didn't suffer stress damage." The second floor is missing roof in different zones of the house, so there can't be a roof replacement (as their "2-story home roof specialist" suggested) without rebuilding the second floor. But at what point does it become more cost effective to demolish the house, than to pay the labor and time to strip out all damaged woodwork, cabinetry, expensively-painted walls, and so on?

We did hire an independent structural engineer, and we had a good experience with the SF-provided engineer during his day spent on the property. Since I lost the original arch plans used to build the house, we've contacted an architectural firm to draw new plans. I certainly don't expect the insurance co to pay for our engineer, or for pro arch time that results in significantly different house.

My husband is one of those "but they are our insurance company, they'll take care of things" kind of people. He's a little concerned that I'm going into this process on the defensive, and perhaps coming across as a bit contentious. But he hasn't done the research I've done, hasn't read the personal experiences that we (hopefully) have the chance to prevent. Our adjuster has been extremely busy in the area since the area hit by the storm is large, but I'm just terrified of having our claim not taken seriously because the extent of the damage isn't clear until you walk through the house - our late stonemason did an incredibly job on the rock exterior, but the amount of glass, water damage and visible wall damage seems much too extensive (to me) to do a cost and time-effective restoration job to our satisfaction. Isn't that what "Total Restoration" coverage means?

Bottom line, I'm just scared of being taken advantage of, due to inexperience with "the system" and my husband's hesitancy to stand up to anyone who comes out representing State Farm.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 1:00PM
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Sorry, long again. I am very familiar with your feelings as I have seen this many times. When homeowners fight long and hard to build their home, the new or nothing approach is common in these situations. Usually its an emotional flinch reaction and if you understand the entire process, that will go away.

Living in temporary housing no matter how nice will have its challenges. Your family will probably have some squabbles over this. There will probably be sleepless nights and a ton of hand wringing while this is going on. There will be times with a ton of stress as this whole process will be a major disruption in your lives and a major pain in the @$$. Heck the material selections for roofing, flooring, paint colors, tile, fixtures, etc. etc. etc. is alone very time consuming for a big home. The material selections are the easy part of the restoration process also.

If it was me, my priority would be to find the "RIGHT" contractor to be my advocate so I get my house "PROPERLY" repaired ASAP. Once the house is repaired, I can get my family back in and our lives back on track. After months or even a year of this, it can wear on people so doing it right and being expeditious should be approach.

Without seeing the home (you can send some pictures if you like) its hard to tell if a full tear down is necessary but it doesnt sound like it. A complete demolish and start over will add so much time to the rebuild. Not sure about Oklahoma, but here, if its a total rebuild, I will need site plans, a full blown set of architectural plans with all mechanicals just to get my building permit. If you are just repairing the home, the permit process is much easier.

Also if you demolish the home, youll probably need to redo you septic or sewer connections, electrical connections and water connections. The disturbance to the yard is going to be much greater and you could need to redo sidewalks and driveways. All these things can take a ton of time and I dont recommend if its not necessary. Also, if its not necessary, State Farm will have a legitimate reason to delay and fight the costs.

State Farm is terrible when it comes to claims IMO. Like a good neighbor my @$$. State Farm is the 600 pound gorilla in the industry and their adjusters are usually not the best. They will try to get by on the cheap if they can. Understand those words "IF THEY CAN". All but a handful of insurance companies will try to settle cheap "IF THEY CAN". Its up to the policy holder to make sure the insurance company gives a fair and proper settlement.

How do you do that?

First option is to hire a "good" public adjuster because a bad PA will only make matters worse. The public adjuster works on your behalf for usually a 10% fee. Sometime the PAs are useful but when they are involved, it takes forever to settle.

If you hire a PA, dont count on moving back into your home soon. You may not even start the restoration process for a full year if you hire a PA. PAs can be useful on very large losses or commercial losses where business interruption and complicated policies and legal issues exist but for simple sticks and bricks issues, I feel they are more trouble than they are worth.

Second option is to hire a "good" restoration contractor because a bad one can again make matters worse. A "good" restoration contractor is not going to be the cheapest as State Farm would prefer but the insurance company is obligated to pay fair and reasonable pricing, not the cheapest. The contractor will be doing the negotiations with the adjuster for the repairs.

Final option is to hire the contractor that State Farm recommends if that do recommend one. During these large storms, they may not recommend someone. If you are in a very rural area, State Farm might be using the best company around because there are no other companies available. Normally I only recommend someone use the insurance companys contractor if the contractor is the only good player in the area or if its a minor claim.

The contractor doing the repairs should already be involved. Usually when we do a rebuild, we are on the scene scoping the loss within a day or two. I know there was much damage in the area, but this is even a bigger reason to find your contractor now. If there is a good amount of rebuild work due to the storm, you want to be on the front of line so youre not waiting for the contractor to finish other work first.

If you need help finding a good restoration contractor, I can possibly help. I know companies in the industry all around the country and if I don't know a good one in your area, others that I know will. If there is a good one operating in your area, they won't be too hard to find.

Who is currently scoping the loss to write the estimate? Is it the adjuster or did the adjuster send in a contractor to write the estimate? In order to properly write a scope of repairs can take a week or two on the site, measuring, photographing and documenting. Then the estimator will have another week or two in front of the computer entering the data. Its not uncommon for a month or two to go by before these scopes (estimates) are properly prepared. Your contractor should be doing this NOW!!!!

What the 2-story home roof specialist suggested???? Never heard of that title before but if you are missing parts of the roof in different areas of the house, why would you need to rebuild the second floor if the wall framing is in good shape. If the roof is trussed or even stick built, you can remove the entire roof, reframe it and leave the second floor framing intact if its in not damaged.

This project is going to need someone to be the tough guy, pit bull, champion or whatever you want to call it. If your husband is not that person and you are, then you should be handling this. I have had many clients in the past where the Mrs. wears the pants on these projects and I rarely see the husband. There is nothing wrong with this because if the Mr. is not the one who will push and you will, you should be the one in charge of this process. It sounds like you were anyway when the house was built.

If the house doesnt need to be demolished, rest assured, a good contractor will rebuild it to your standards and possibly even better then it was prior to the storm.

Let me know how I can assist, BTW, was anyone hurt when your home was struck?

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 5:54PM
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I can't tell you how much your advice has informed and even comforted me - I hope you do know, what with you having no reason to help other than out of the goodness of your heart!

There are so many questions you've brought up in your excellent post, I would very much like to continue to discuss this privately (so as not to clog the board, unless others of y'all are getting something out of this.) I would be happy to work out a consultation fee, if that wouldn't make you uncomfortable!

Bless you for asking if anyone was hurt - NO. We were all four home (2 boys, 12 and 6) and I was relieved of any vague discomfort I had about the effficacy of a safe room. It absolutely served its purpose!

I have indeed hired a contractor, but I hadn't looked at him as anything but MY builder, thinking his contribution to the whole thing would be preparing his estimate for the restoration of the house. Should I take into account that he will have to be strong enough to deal w/insurance guys as well? I'm so lucky that many of the subs who did the original work will be working with me again, and therefore are extremely familiar with the home overall. The contractor, however, was not with us the first time. He's new (past two years) to our town, worked in Dallas, and he and established a great line of communication, which you know is difficult to find in builders overall. I would greatly apreciate any suggestions of good restoration guys I could contact. Money out of pocket is not a great concern right now, I just want to make sure I have the right pp on MY team until this gets dealt with and I can start rebuilding/restoring/etc.

Your question about who's writing the estimate is what really concerns me: the adjuster we were assigned 5 days after the storm spent 5 hours at the house, and told us yesterday he had prepared his initial estimate and was sending that along with an "initial payment". I absolutely don't want to take possession of ANY payment until it encompasses the entire assessment. No, he didn't bring in a contractor to prepare the assessment, and he wrote this assessment/cut this check BEFORE receiving the report from the structural engineer hired by State Farm - that just doesn't seem right to me!

After a long day of back & forth about not wanting a check issued, we have been assigned a new adjuster. I assume this is much like starting from scratch, but in the meantime the SF engineer's report has arrived and the new adjuster and I will both have that further info when we meet Monday afternoon for his first look at the house. I'm going to have my contractor there, as well.

Would you be agreeable to continuing this discussion via email or something? My email is on my profile page, and I'm having a decent time getting access to wifi signal while we wait for cable/internet to be installed in our interim home. I'd love the opportunity to get some suggested contacts from you, and just give you a more in-depth briefing on what we're dealing with here. I hope to NEVER be faced with this situation again, and I just want so desperately to do the right things at each turn.

No matter your decision, your advice has been invaluable!!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 4:24PM
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