Disaster mitigation and remodeling.

Jon Vogel, president of the New Outlooks Construction Group Inc., in Robbinsville N.J., experienced the effects of Hurricane Sandy firsthand when he and his partner Anthony Cammallere of T&K Contractors, Freehold, N.J., lost their shore-based showroom to flooding. To add insult to injury, he discovered his showroom was not covered under their existing insurance coverage.

To assist clients as the storm passed, his company sent out emails to his entire database and received calls from over 200 past customers as well as neighbors of existing and past customers who needed assistance with storm cleanup as well as with the reconstruction needed to put their homes back together. With this huge response, he contacted many clients with ongoing remodeling projects and asked if they could put their projects on hold until the crisis had passed. He said they all understood the gravity of the situation and agreed to be patient until he could get back to their jobs.

He has learned some valuable lessons and wanted to share his experience. Earlier this year, he became a Generac generator dealer and invested in generators and dehumidification blowers to support clients with storm mitigation. Because of the relationship with Generac, he sold more than 25 generators to clients during the crisis. Vogel’s company delivered the units, set them up, and facilitated gas-line and electrical connections so clients could power their homes.

With insurance companies providing similar storm mitigation services, I asked why he was doing this work. «The work was a value-added service I could provide to clients as many disaster mitigation companies responding to storms don’t have the relationship with their clients to do the reconstruction work required to put their homes back together,» Vogel says.

As such, these companies often can cause additional damage to the home. Being keenly aware of the construction side of things, Vogel wanted to assist clients in each step of the storm repair.

Vogel’s investment in generators and dehumidification blowers paid off handsomely as he was positioned to offer these value-added services and care for his many clients.

The severity of the storm caught most people by surprise. Just as Vogel discovered he was underinsured in regard to his showroom loss, he discovered that many of his clients were either not insured or underinsured for the flooding from the hurricane. Vogel’s clients needed help negotiating claims and the insurance company process as well as responding to insurance adjusters that were being flown in from out-of-state, and who in some cases were writing up to 15 estimates a day

Due to the amount of information needed, Vogel let clients know his team could assist with preparing homes for drying, applying mildewcide, and reviewing insurance reconstruction estimates. In the beginning, Vogel provided this service at no cost, but like any estimate process, he discovered that due to the time involved he did need to charge for this service. However, his service didn’t end with reviewing the estimate. In many cases, he met the adjuster onsite and reviewed the damage, providing additional value-added service for his clients.

Because insurance adjusters were doing multiple estimates a day, giving them some assistance was well-received. Vogel let clients know that he wanted to meet the adjuster, and he worked with clients to be part of the insurance process. In the beginning of the process, he would meet the adjuster onsite:

• To walk the house and take pictures, measurements, and notes

• Review accuracy of insurance estimates

• Prepare estimates for two parties: one for the insurance company and one for the client with modifications they may choose to perform while rebuilding their homes

The onsite meeting allowed Vogel to meet the adjuster and share his experience and expertise. Getting to work with the adjuster proved valuable. Good adjusters were open to this meeting because it made their job easier. Knowing the adjuster also allowed Vogel to go back to him once mitigation work had begun. Finding unforeseen circumstances allowed him to communicate directly with the adjuster in regard to funding change orders for additional work. In more than one case, Vogel increased the amount of money his clients received. He did this in the estimate preparation and also for change orders. It also put him first in line to do the remodeling work the clients needed to put their homes back together.

If you assist clients after a fire, flood, or property loss, Vogel has two recommendations:

1. Get paid to meet with the adjuster; you are representing your client.

2. Get paid to review and/or prepare an estimate; the insurance adjuster is being paid—you should too.

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