Written by Jon Hickox (President of Colonial Remodeling LLC- A full service exterior remodeling company located in Fairfax, VA serving Northern Virginia since 1996)
LEAF LITTERED STREETSIDE VIEW- What The Homeowner Sees After the Storm
HAIL RIDDLED ASPHALT ROOFING DAMAGE- What The Professional Roofer Sees (While this picture shows substantial roofing damage hail “hits” are rarely ever visible from the ground & a responsible inspection means a professional getting up ON the roof)
WHERE ON EARTH DO I START? Introduction to Hail Damage 101
It’s hard to believe it was over 17 years ago when the last major hail storm hit Northern Virginia, but I’ll never forget both the experience I shared and the experience I subsequently gained over the course of the storm. For me personally, the moment the great hail storm of 1999 had arrived, I was in a meeting with a client in Fairfax when suddenly a powerful spring storm swept into the area. In just a matter of 30 seconds, golf ball size hail had peppered my car, punched holes through my clients’ siding, and the streets were littered with leaves and debris from the trees as if fall had arrived early that April afternoon. Within days, I was inundated with calls from people asking us to help them restore their home back to its “pre-storm” condition, but as I arrived on scene to assess the individual damage to each home, I thought to myself where on earth do I start?
I JUST NEED TO GET A FEW ESTIMATES- Working Backwards
My phone was ringing off the hook for people doing exactly what their insurance companies had asked them to do, which was to get a few estimates. In turn, I did what every responsible contractor should do: I assessed the damage, wrote an estimate for the repairs, and waited for the customer to call me back….. sounds simple enough, right? Well, it didn’t take me very long to figure out I was actually doing a tremendous disservice to my potential clients by not involving myself directly with the homeowner’s insurance company. I found that this tactic provided a responsible yet comprehensive settlement for the homeowner to renovate their home. Let me explain further…… If I provided the client with just an estimate, then essentially it was left entirely up to them to deal with their insurance, and they were forced to be the classic “go between” bounced back and forth with the insurance claims adjuster. That meant that in order to yield favorable results, they would have to get up on the roof, inspect the entire exterior of the house, and negotiate with the scope and pricing of the insurance adjuster. On top of all that, the homeowner would then have to try and relay the industry “jargon” back and forth between the contractor and the insurance company. It was a recipe for disaster with predictable results, and I needed to come up with a better process. At first, I wasn’t too happy about my “revelation”. Quite frankly, it was a lot of additional work to inject myself into the insurance process, and therefore I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about crawling around on 6 to 8 roofs a day. On top of this, I realized I would have to constantly negotiate with insurance companies as to how I could responsibly renovate my client’s homes and not by “piece-mealing” the project as so many adjusters had proposed. However, I had concluded that this was the only process that would produce the most favorable results for my clients, and it simply needed to be done this way. Over the course of just a few weeks, I became a real Pro at assessing damage, properly representing my clients’ interests with their insurance companies, and then completing the necessary repairs. In fact, it wasn’t long at all until I became so good at my job that we had backlogged more work than I could have possibly imagined. Surely this work would last for months or maybe even a year…… right? Well, just about then the Stormchasers became arriving in town.
HERE COME THE STORMCHASERS – Who are these people from Texas & the Midwest?
Well it wasn’t long at all before they started rolling into town. At first, they were very under the radar with their freshly lettered trucks complete with 703 area codes and job signs pasted all over the neighborhood. Even back in 1999, at a time when web sites were not common, they all of a sudden had webpages that appeared to present a local company image. They were very good at what they did in getting IN very quickly and grabbing huge amounts of business in a short period of time. However, they were equally as successful in getting OUT – disappearing within a year’s time and leaving numerous homeowners stuck holding the bag when the storm work had dried up. The Storm chasers have become very savvy in appearing like local companies. They do this primarily by becoming “THE” company to sign with and by preying on the classic “Keeping Up with The Joneses” mentality throughout the neighborhood. Because surely if the “Joneses” have a job sign in their yard and other neighbors have signed up as well, then they are “THE” company to sign up with, right?
SO how do you protect yourself? Here is how to identify these Stormchasers so you don’t get scammed.
-BUYER BEWARE – Watch out for a self-proclaimed “Hail Damage Specialist.” After all, if large hail only hits Northern Virginia every 10 years, then how stable and local is a “Hail Damage Specialist.”
–REFERENCES – Ask for plenty of references BEFORE you sign up with ANY contractor. That means insisting on being provided a list of a minimum of HUNDREDS of LOCAL & ALREADY COMPLETED homes. Sounds excessive? If the contractor is truly that qualified, then they should be able to provide hundreds of satisfied, local references. Don’t get caught up hopping on the bandwagon of the 10 other neighbors already scammed in recent weeks, or installations that occurred only recently on your street or in adjoining neighborhoods. That is not at all the same thing as a comprehensive reference list with MANY YEARS of COMPLETED projects, and do not be fooled by anything less. Here at Colonial Remodeling, we will provide a reference list with over 1600 local and satisfied customers to any potential client who may request that information.
-RESEARCH – Nowadays, with the easy access of the internet, you can research companies to find out who they are and what they represent. Check your local Better Business Bureau, State licensing, and proper licensing through the County, and they will tell the real tale. Also, most Stormchasers will even obtain state licenses ahead of time in several states in anticipation of a hail storm hitting different regions. So, proper state licensing does not mean you are not dealing with a Stormchaser.
–FOLLOW YOUR INSTINCT– Ask the contractor for a copy of their driver’s license, look for out of state license plates, ask them about where they grew up, and how long they have PERSONALLY been in the local area. Never assume they are local or competent to handle your claim. Also, never feel pressured to sign up quickly and out of haste. If a company is truly qualified to handle your business, then they are not afraid for you to do the proper research. That does not mean you need to wait for several weeks, but maybe a few days or even 24 hours, so you are able to make an educated decision.
NO REGRETS- How do I ensure that I make the correct decision the first time around?
You owe it to both yourself and your home to proceed as cautiously and responsibly as possible with regards to your insurance claim. Since that first massive storm over 17 years ago, the. team at Colonial Remodeling has gained a tremendous amount of experience in developing a refined process that helps take our clients from beginning to end. Companies will continue to solicit you for your business from a variety of clever angles. Our approach at Colonial Remodeling is to be as honest and forthright as we can about our story and experiences in hopes of earning your business. We are a family-owned, local business with the experience to settle your insurance claim, handle your repairs, and in the process, we view this hail storm as a wonderful opportunity to continue to expand our customer base. After all, we are a remodeling company first and foremost. But, with over two decade’s worth of experience under our belt settling insurance claims and remodeling homes, we’d like to think we have something very unique to offer our potential clients. In the end, if we do our job properly then we are certain you will refer us to your friends, family, and neighbors both DURING and AFTER THE STORM. If you have been affected by the recent hail storm in Stone Ridge, VA or the hail storm in Manassas and Woodbridge, VA, give us a call today at (703) 534-0800. You can also visit us on our website at www.colonialremodeling.com for more information.
Colonial Remodeling LLC
Licensed & Insured
VA LIC 2705-081772A