Let’s face it, no one wants to think in detail about what happens if your home burns to the ground, or is seriously damaged by fire and smoke.
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Let’s face it, no one wants to think in detail about what happens if your home burns to the ground, or is seriously damaged by fire and smoke. It feels a little like planning your own funeral.
But the reality is, as traumatic as a major fire can be, the restoration doesn’t need to add fuel to the emotional fire that often follows. The greatest tragedy is that in far too many cases, homeowners are unaware of three crucial steps they can take now that will help ensure a more complete, smooth and cost effective restoration of the home they love.
Instead, they suffer through an agonizingly slow and costly restoration process, and often find themselves settling for much less than they had hoped. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Ironically, these three keys are deceptively simple – especially the first two – which take homeowners by surprise because they aren’t directly related to the physical work of cleaning up and restoring a home following a fire.
Because these two steps are so simple, the majority of homeowners simply ignore them, and end up compromising the outcomes they might have enjoyed when disaster stikes unexpectedly.
The highest quality restoration requires first understanding exactly what was destroyed in as much detail as possible, and secondly, what financial resources are available to complete the restoration.
This paints a clear picture of restoring back to the original as closely as possible, and provides the option for maximum reasonable reimbursement for items lost in the fire. It also significantly reduces the time, cost and difficulty of working through the insurance process.
The first step is to create a detailed record of all your possessions in as much detail as possible - particularly those of high and unusual value. This should include both a written record and a video record.
With a smartphone (or other video device), make a video record of all your possessions, showing, when possible, the make, model, brand name, style, age, serial number or any other identifying information for each item. You can narrate additional details vocally as you are recording.
A written record or inventory is also important in order to capture detailed information about valuable items such as serial numbers, certificates of authenticity, appraised values, and other identifying information that can help establish condition and value. Remember, those items of special or significant value to you are the ones to most clearly detail within your records.
The completed video and written record should be stored securely where they will be protected from natural disasters. Cloud storage is the most secure. If a hard disk or memory device are used, store them in fire/flood proof containers or in a secure offsite facility.
While mortgage lenders require insurance coverage for homes they finance, those coverages are often out of sync with actual values, driven by rising costs and inflation over time.
As a homeowner you should consult with your insurance agent every few years to ensure you have adequate coverage in the event of a catastrophic fire or other disaster. The important distinction is coverage for replacement value, not original purchased value. As costs continue to escalate over time, it’s easy to find yourself caught short in attempting to replace today an item that cost much less even a few years ago.
For example, the median cost of a home in Utah has risen from $221,775 in 2011 to over $460,000 in 2021.
Be sure the most valuable items you documented in Key 1 - things like diamonds/jewelry, collectibles, rare wines, or antiques - are detailed specifically in the policy. If your insurance agent balks at assisting you with these details, you may want to look for a more diligent agent.
If you have the misfortune of requiring fire damage repair, be sure to work with a fire damage restoration expert with specialized skills in fire restoration, Including smoke and soot clean up. This will ensure your restoration is completed professionally and cost effectively, with the lowest cost and emotional impact possible.
A key to effective restoration is a deep understanding of insurance policies and how to work effectively with specific insurance carriers in obtaining the maximum value possible for your lost possessions. This, combined with cost effective project management will help ensure that your home is restored to pre-disaster levels. Carefully check the credentials and track record of any restoration company you select.
This vetting and selection process should be completed in advance as well, so you know who to turn to in a time of trouble. Making a quick restoration company decision under the duress of a recent fire disaster can lead to less that you deserve at the hands of inexperienced or lower skilled restoration companies.