Between the Woolsey Fire and the Camp Fire, countless people are now dealing with the reality of a damaged or destroyed home.
What do you do?
Who do you talk to?
Where do you even start?
All of these questions, and many more, are consuming every home owner that has been impacted over the last week.
Honestly, we don't know all of the answers.
But, Dean Sharp "The House Whisperer" has some of them, and he has put together a great list of tips that will, at the very least, get you going in the right direction:
- If you have a mortgage, your lender is a “loss payee” and settlement checks will be written jointly to you and the bank. Your lender will then disperse the funds to you, usually in progress payments, to make sure the house gets rebuilt properly.
- You need an advocate! The larger the claim the less you should rely on the insurance company’s assessments. Employ a trusted contractor or a public insurance adjuster.
- There are three kinds of insurance adjusters - company adjusters, independent adjusters, and public adjusters. Only a public adjuster works for YOU.
- You don’t need a lawyer at first. If you’re concerned about your claim, hire a public adjuster. Only resort to a lawyer if the insurance company is refusing to accept your public adjuster’s evaluation.
- You don’t have to hire the insurance company’s recommended contractor. The insurance company is NOT in charge. YOU are. Don’t be rushed. Get a minimum of three estimates from reputable contractors as you would to do any work. Always get recent referrals.
- Find a contractor who is not used to working with insurance companies. Contractors who are comfortable to “work directly with your insurance company” get most of their business from insurance companies and thus, are far more likely to do what the insurance company wants, not what you want.
- Cleanup and restoration is not a licensed specialty trade. So, contractors with cleanup certification are good, but it’s not a guarantee of expertise. Look for an IICRC Certification (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration - a 2 day class) but always get at least three estimates from reputable contractors.
- Cleanup after a fire is usually an “all or nothing” affair. Either damage was extensive enough to file a claim, in which case professionals will do the cleanup, or there is no significant damage and a homeowner just wants to get the smokiness out of the house.
To get rid of smokiness:
- Ventilate - Open the windows, turn on the AC, put fans in rooms. Change the furnace filter daily until it shows no sign of soot.
- Wash walls, ceilings and all hard surfaces. Good choices are dish soap, Trisodium Phosphate (TSP), and vinegar.
- Get carpets, drapes and upholstery professionally cleaned.
- Wash windows using professional techniques - detergent applicator, wetting detergent, squeegee, terry cloth towel.