4 Keys to Working with Insurance Adjusters

On Aug. 31, a boat makes its way down a flooded residential street in Texas following Hurricane Harvey.

Hurricane Harvey dumped record-breaking rainfall across portions of Texas last month, forcing tens of thousands of residents to evacuate their submerged homes.

The rebuilding process will be arduous, even for those who have flood insurance. Working with a seasoned builder who knows what to expect and how to collaborate with insurance adjusters is a home owner’s best bet to get their life back in order as quickly as possible.

But there are several nuances about the claims process that builders should keep in mind.

George “Geep” Moore, owner of Moore-Built Construction & Restoration in Elm Grove, La., has extensive experience in this area, having managed thousands of insurance claims over the course of his career.

While enroute to Houston to meet with builders and remodelers this week, Moore gave NAHBNow some insights on navigating post-disaster insurance claims:

1. Determining Scope and Price

Insurance estimates need to be extremely detailed: room by room, line item by line item. Moore strongly encourages builders to consistently use estimating software, which will allow them to more efficiently and clearly define the scope and calculate costs.

“The estimate has to be in that type of format if you want to sell it to the insurance company, and do so quickly,” said Moore, who served as NAHB Remodelers chairman in 2012. “Adjusters] will use a similar program, so it makes it easier to compare your estimate with theirs instead of typing it all up in a different format.”

Also, whether the adjuster or the builder completes his estimate first, the other party can easily use that initial estimate as a starting point and, if need be, modify it during the subsequent walk through. The most important thing is to ensure the scope of work is agreed upon by all parties before initiating discussions about price.

2. Negotiating

It’s the home owner’s job to pay the deductible and any other out-of-pocket costs that are required. But it should be solely on the shoulders of the builder – who has the most expertise in the field of construction – to negotiate with the insurance adjuster.

“No one knows the scope of work needed to get the job done right better than the builder,” Moore said. “Often times, [the builder] will need to educate the adjuster on certain aspects. But by demonstrating your knowledge of the subject and breaking it down as much as possible, you can come to an agreement much more easily.”

3. Document, Document, Document

Thorough documentation is the most critical element of the entire process, and a lot depends on how comprehensive your photos are. Take pictures at each phase of the project, especially before any work begins, and then again once all of the furniture and other household items are removed. More photos will need to be taken after the tear-up is completed, and again when all of the drying equipment is in place.

4. Staying On Top of the Claim

If your client’s insurance makes payment to the home owner and the mortgage company, the mortgage company most likely will control the cash flow. Make sure you know their rules before you start so that you can make sure they release funds in a timely manner. 

“You will have to be involved to help your client get your money,” Moore said. “It may not be what you want to do, but to help your client and yourself, you must help guide this process with your best negotiating skills.” 

Also, continually follow up with the adjuster so that your client’s claim isn’t neglected or put on hold. This frequently happens, especially if another storm (i.e., Irma) occurs in another part of the country and your adjuster gets pulled to that area.

Above all, take every precaution to stay safe while working in homes that sustained structural damage. NAHB has created a list of resources to help keep volunteers and workers safe during the cleanup and reconstruction efforts. More information is also available in NAHB’s Natural Disaster Resources Toolkit.

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