How to Rebuild Your Home After a Hurricane
While our President does not believe climate change is real, there is little doubt that last year’s hurricane season was of the most destructive on record. Hurricanes Irma and Harvey lashed the mainland U.S., while territories such as the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are still recovering from these earlier storms as well as the damage from Maria.
Given this increased activity and the ever-increasing costs of home ownership, it should not come as a surprise that the combined losses from these storms will reach into the hundreds of billions of dollars.
This brings us to the most important fact for those who have had their lives impacted by last year’s hurricanes – rebuilding. As such, this article will go over the ins and outs of how to rebuild your home after a hurricane including everything from property damage assessments to making sure you have the money you need to rebuild.
The Day After
Hurricanes can be trying times. In the days leading up to landfall, the local weather is full of warning and prognostications and then comes the storm itself which feels like the hand of God touching the earth. This often means that we need to hunker down in shelters or even get out of the storm’s path altogether.
However, this does not help us to prepare for the day after. This is when you finally return to your home to see what God hath wrought – just ask Puerto Rico. In some cases, it is just some downed trees and a few days without power.
But for those less fortunate, it could mean tens or even hundreds of thousands in damage from winds, rain, and flooding. In fact, it is the flooding which often worse than the winds and for this reason, many coastal homes are not being forced to raise their foundations by six-feet or more.
Now, it is too late to wait until the day after to check the terms of your insurance policy; however, this is what most people do. Instead, you should try to be proactive by making sure all your insurance information is in a safe place and even check your homeowner’s policy before the storm hits to make sure you know what is covered and what isn’t.
In addition, you will want to have key information, such as your policy number, claims forms, and contact phone numbers handy. This will help you when beginning the claims process as you will probably need to schedule multiple visits with your claims adjuster.
Besides relying on the insurance company, you might want to consider getting a third-party assessment and retaining an advocate to assist you in what is sure to be a long process with your insurance company.
What Comes Next
Now that you have returned home and have made some initial outreach to your insurance company, you want to start the process of seeing what can be recovered. This includes salvaging any item and even making short-term repairs if they can help to protect the integrity of your home.
The reason for this is simple. Even though the storm has passed, you need to protect what is left of your home from other weather events (such as hail), animals, and even robbery. As such, it is important that you get to your home, protect what you can, and then start to make what repairs you can before waiting for the insurance company.
Sure, you have insurance and they will need to pay for most of the repairs but if you wait until the claims check is ready to begin, then your losses might end up being even more. Just remember to keep all your receipts as you will need to add these expenses to your claims report.
In addition to making small repairs, you will also want to take pictures of everything. While you don’t need to have a full inventory of everything you own, taking pictures of the big things will help you in your process of getting a fair settlement from your insurance company.
Keep in mind that one picture might not be enough. As such, use your digital camera for what is it is worth and take pictures of everything you own from multiple angles. This will help you and the insurance company to negotiate the condition of the things you own and to determine the replacement value.
Finding a Contractor
In the days after a major storm, it can be close to impossible to find a reputable contractor who is has the time to help you rebuild. As such, you want to keep a short list of potential contractors you can reach out to. Have these people on speed dial as they are sure to be in demand and they might even need to repair their own homes. As such, you want to be one of the first people calling them, or you will be at the end of a very long line.
In addition, to finding your contractor, make sure they have experience working with your insurance company as this will help in terms of scheduling work, and importantly, payment.
Leave No Stone Unturned
Rebuilding a home is not cheap and even if you have the best insurance, you will still have out-of-pocket expenses. As such, you don’t want to leave any stone unturned. This could be money from the federal government or the state government and could even include looking at what you can salvage from your home, or those nearby, to help reduce the cost of rebuilding.