Why are homeowners insurance rates keep going up???

I would venture to guess that a majority of homeowners in the Mpls/St. Paul metro area have had to replace their roof due to storm damage in the last 10 years. For every 10 roofs that we install, seven (7) of the roofs will be payed for by the customer’s insurance company. Some homeowners have even had to replace their roof multiple times in the last 10 years due to storm damage. So it comes to no surprise that our insurance rates continually rise each and every year. Insurance companies are tired of paying for new roofs caused by storm damage. Besides rising rates, some insurance companies have resigned to actually changing the insurance policy when it comes to storm damage. We’re talking about higher deductibles, actual cash payouts (ACV) versus replacement cost (RCV) payouts and even eliminating coverage for some metals (vents, valley, drip edge, wall flashing) that can be damaged by a storm. So as a homeowner, what can you do to combat this trend in the homeowner insurance world?

1. Read your policy. Call your agent and ask to go over some of the specifics of your policy pertaining to the exterior of your home. Make sure that you are covered and WITH the right coverage. Don’t go with an ACV policy just because its cheaper. Elect for the “matching” rider, which ensures a full replacement of damaged items instead of spot repairs. If you don’t have this rider, then your roof could be patched with different colored shingles if the existing shingles are no longer available. Same thing applies to siding and windows.

2. Check the NOAA web page for reported storm damage. The NOAA has professional weather “spotters” all over the metro area. If there is any wind or hail damage, these trained “spotters” will report it. If a contractor knocks on your door and tells you about a recent storm that could have affected your home, check this website 1st :

http://www.spc.noaa.gov/climo/reports/today.html

3. Call a contractor that knows more than just storm damage. Most storm contractors are in the business of getting homeowners to file insurance claims, regardless if there is damage or not. This forces insurance companies to raise rates to combat the extra cost of hiring adjusters to look at these bogus claims. A true “general” contractor doesn’t  rely on storms to stay in business and are more inclined to tell homeowners the truth on whether they have storm damage or not. This leads to fewer claims being filed and lower homeowner insurance rates.

These 3 easy steps will help keep costs down in the long run. Don’t fall for a smart mouthed door knocker telling you to file a claim for storm damage w/o calling your agent, or checking the NOAA webpage or talking to a true “general” contractor 1st!

 

 

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Buyer beware of the “Free Roof” approach by storm chasers

Bad Free Roof Ads - LER - www.lermn

We have received many calls from homeowners over the years who tell us a disturbing, yet common story.  They tell us a roofer knocked on their door, told them they have storm damage to their roof and they could be entitled to a new roof paid for by their insurance company. Many of these homeowners had roofs older than 10+yrs so the prospect of a “free” new roof sounds wonderful, because ultimately, they already know they are nearing the time to replace their roof. The “storm chasing” roofers say things like “it’s a no brainer” and “why would you want to pay $10k out of pocket for a new roof when I can help you get your insurance company to pay for a new roof with NO money out of your pocket?”

The majority of the insurance companies in Minnesota have caught on to this trick being played by  “storm chasing” roofers. Here’s what really happens:  They convince a homeowner there is storm damage to their roof and to file a claim for what really is non-existent storm damage. The insurance company sends out an insurance adjuster to inspect your property for storm damage. Insurance adjusters are trained to find damage, and when they don’t find any actual damage caused by a storm, they will deny your claim. Next you will receive a denial letter from your insurance company. Now your insurance company knows you have an old roof and they may also include a letter stating that you must replace your roof, at your expense, because it’s old and in bad shape through natural wear and tear.  This will most likely include a “deadline”. If you don’t repair or replace your old roof, your insurance company can consider the roof to be uninsurable and deny future legitimate claims.  The insurance company could also cancel your coverage, thus making it difficult and expensive to find new homeowners coverage.  Most “storm chasing” roofers will never tell you this because they know you’d never gamble with the chance of a “free roof” knowing it can backfire into you having to replace your roof, not with insurance proceeds, but with money out of your own bank account.

Many “storm chasing” roofers will claim they haven’t seen a single roof in your area without storm damage. This is often false and easy to bust by visiting the official NOAA storm reports of storm damage in your area (click here to see actual storm reports). The reason these “storm chasing” roofers love old roofs is because they think they can convince the insurance adjuster to pay for a new one because of the age of the roof, and sometimes the condition. If the insurance company doesn’t agree, no sweat off their back, they move along to the next home/town/state. Insurance companies don’t pay out claims for normal wear and tear to a roof, or even the age or condition of the roof. They only pay for legitimate storm damaged roofs.

Spring time is here and “storm chasing” roofers will be knocking on every door with an old roof offering the promise of getting your insurance company to pay for a new roof. Again, “Free Roof” will be their promise and they might even tell you “no money out of your pocket” and you will not have to pay your deductible (which is illegal and considered insurance fraud). But remember, there is no such thing as a free lunch and buyer beware.

We have been in the roofing business for over 15 years. We’ve worked with hundreds of homeowners and their insurance company’s on legitimate storm related claims. Our goal is to use our expertise to help you, the homeowner. We’ve taken an ethical stand that we will not put homeowners in a bad situation. If you’ve been approached by a “storm chaser”, give us a call for a second opinion. We’re not afraid to “turn down business” when we know it’s the right thing to do!

Spring is in the air and so are remodeling ideas!

While most Minnesotans like to hibernate in the winter, the spring season brings about change. People start to open the windows and do a little spring cleaning. Garage sales are happening on every block. Its like the saying “Out with the old and in with the new.” And as spring starts, so does the home remodeling business. Homeowners in the St. Paul/Minneapolis metro are interested in something fresh and different. With the housing market still a little shaky, people are deciding to stay in their homes and instead of moving or building new, they are remodeling their old spaces. So what are people doing these days:

Kitchen Remodels– Most of our time spent in the house is usually in the kitchen. Its where we share our meals and our stories. And so why not spruce up the area that we spend the most time in? There are really 2 options when it comes to a kitchen remodel; a face lift or a total makeover. A face lift would consist of new cabinet doors/drawers, some new paint, new appliances, maybe a new tile backsplash. A typical face lift varies in price from $5,000-$15,000. A total makeover is much more labor/time intensive. A total makeover would include tearing out a wall to open the space up, new granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, new hardwood flooring, new electrical/plumbing. The average total kitchen makeover varies in price from $15,000-$40,000.

White Bear Lake Kitchen Makeover White Bear Lake Kitchen Facelift St. Paul Kitchen Facelift

Bathroom Remodels- Just like the kitchen, people spend a lot of time in the bathroom and they want that area to be fresh and clean. Very similar to the kitchen remodeling options, there are basically 2 options available for bathroom remodels; a face lift or a total makeover. A facelift could consist of a new toilet, sink hardware, lighting, tile flooring, painting, new glass shower door. A typical bathroom facelift varies in price from $5,000-$12,000. A total makeover is again much more labor/time intensive. It could include tearing out an old shower/tub, tiling the floor/shower area, removing and installing a new vanity with granite countertops, marble sink and chrome hardware, possibly adding a 2nd sink, moving a toilet or installing a new Jacuzzi tub. A total makeover varies in price from $12,000-$25,000.

DSC_3170  Blaine Bathroom Addition

3 or 4 Season Porch– People generally crave new spaces. Instead of designing and building a +$100k addition, an enclosed deck or 3/4 season porch can give you the extra space at roughly 1/2 the cost. Some homeowners want some sort of an awning or roof over their existing deck (for a little shade on those warm and humid summer days) with a screen (to keep out the mosquitos) around the railing. This would be considered a screened in porch. Typical cost varies on the size and scope but you could expect somewhere between $5,000-$10,000. If walls are constructed around the perimeter instead of railings, that would be a 3/4 season porch. The big difference between a 3 or 4 season porch would be the material of the walls and if they are insulated or not. It is much more labor/time/material intensive to design and build a 3/4 season porch. Prices range from $15,000-$40,000. And if you looking at running the heating ducts out to your new enclosure then look to pony up much more money. A propane gas fireplace is a much better and cheaper alternative, and it gives the porch area a home style feel.

Sunr

 

Limitless Exteriors and Remodeling is your full service general contractor. We specialize in exteriors and dabble in interior remodeling in the off season. Call us today for a free estimate!

Realities of a hail storm

2013 MN Hail Storm            Eden Prairie Hail Damage

The Minneapolis/St. Paul southern metro was recently pounded by a large hail storm. Reports had hail stones ranging from quarter sized all the way up to golf ball sized and a little bigger. Some estimates are stating that 50,000+ roofs were damaged and might need replacing.

So here are a couple realities of the aftermath from a hail storm:

– Storm chasers are out full force. They are knocking on your front door or are calling you at night. They are trying to get you to sign a “subject to” or “agreement” and will meet with your adjuster on your behalf. A “subject to” or an “agreement” IS a signed contract and you are LOCKED into that contract after your adjuster approves the repairs of any damaged items. Expect a 25% cancellation fee if you try to back out of the contract after your claim is approved.

– Storm chasers often hire anybody with a pulse to knock on your front door or call you at home. These new hires often have little to no experience in either the roofing business or handling insurance claims for homeowners.

– Storm chasers from out of state will often work under a local contractor’s building license. This is illegal but rarely enforced. Be careful of contractors with out of state license plates as most will tell you that they are local or the company they represent is local, which is really the half truth!

– Many local contractors will often over sell the storm by signing too many customers and then not have the ability to get all of the repairs done in a timely fashion. Some contractors often hire new “crews” to help with the work load. These new “crews” often don’t care about the customer or contractor they are working for, which leads to mistakes, which could be costly to YOU.

– Rebating or free deductibles are illegal. Yard sign fees, upgrades, or any other form of rebating your deductible is illegal and is considered insurance fraud. Most shady contractors only care about fast cash and will offer everything but the kitchen sink in order to get your signature. If something is too good to be true than it normally is. Insurance companies must receive a final invoice from your contractor in order for your insurance co. to release any depreciation or holdback (2nd check). Rebating deductibles usually involves a contractor submitting a false invoice to the insurance company so that all depreciation is paid. The law doesn’t protect homeowners who claim that they didn’t know that rebating deductibles was illegal. Ignorance of the law does not protect you.

Be careful who you choose. Here are a couple tips on where you can find a trustworthy contractor:

  1. Ask your friends, family and neighbors. Word of mouth is the best referral you can receive.
  2. Look in your local church or community bulletin or newsletter. Lots of local contractors advertise where they interact.
  3. Search the Web, or more specifically HomeAdvisor.com, Houzz.com or AngiesList.com. Here is where you can see online references from current customers like yourself.
  4. Go to BNIMN.com. This is a local business referral network in your own backyard. Search for your city and then find whatever business you are looking for.
  5. Verify every contractor by going to https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/lookup/licensing.aspx. This is the Minnesota Dept of Labor website and you can verify if the contractor’s license and insurance is up to date.

Stop cleaning out those gutters!

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Why you should call today and have us install gutter covers tomorrow:
1. Climbing a ladder or working off of a ladder is always dangerous.
2. If you fall and hurt yourself, you will have to file a claim with your health insurance company. Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover the homeowner from getting hurt on their own property.
3. Gutters can become clogged all year around. Some gutters need to be cleaned 2+ times a year.
4. Gutter covers can help with damage from ice dams.
5. It is one of the cheapest home improvements ($3-$10/labor & material) that a homeowner can do.

Gutter covers make life easier by freeing up time to do other things than cleaning out your gutters. Don’t take the risk, call a PRO!

Call today for some of the different options and how these options can fit inside your budget!

Ice Dams a Cometh

Ice dam removal before and after - Limitless Exteriors and Remodeling - www.lermn.com

The winter of 2013-2014 has just begun, yet some are wishing it was over. Here in MN we just had some of the coldest temps in almost 20 years. As of today, 1/7/14, we have had 60+ hours of temps below zero (0). The forecast is finally calling for temps back in the 30s later this week. So what does that mean for ice dams?

Temps have been well below normal for almost the entire month of December 2013 and now into January 2014. Here in the Mpls/St. Paul Metro, we still have anywhere from 12-20″ of snow cover. Every roof in my neighborhood still has plenty of snow on it. Most gutters are thick with ice and I would guess that the downspouts are no help either. So what happens when the temps rise?

As soon as the temp outside rises above freezing, the snow on the roof tops will start to melt. Every roof is sloped so that water can drain off easily. But with ice dams on the eaves of the roof (the overhang), the snow that melts higher up has no where to go. Water runs down the roof and then hits a road block or ice dam. Gravity is responsible for moving water off the roof, but an ice dam will stop water in its tracks. Eventually water will travel up the roof and will try to get underneath the roofing shingles. Once that happens its only a matter of time before you start seeing water spots on your ceiling. So what can you do?

There are ways to help alleviate the problem of ice dams:

1. Check your attic for the proper amount of insulation. Ice dams can form when the attic is much warmer than the outside temp. Adding insulation will slow down the transfer of warm air from the inside the house up into the attic. When your attic is the same temp as outside, there is no direct heat to help melt the snow on the roof. In MN, building code suggests a minimum of an R-49 for attic insulation or anywhere from 16-20 inches of blown-in insulation. Spray foam is the absolute best form of insulation, but it comes with a hefty price tag.

2. Make sure you have proper ventilation in your attic. Proper attic ventilation needs both intake and outtake. Intake comes in the form of vented soffits/overhangs or gable vents and outtake comes in the form of turtle vents, power vents or whirlybirds/turbines. If heat is escaping the house and getting into the attic, then you must have good ventilation. The warm air must be vented out before it starts melting the snow on the roof which then causes ice dams.

3. Rake your roof after a snow storm. The overhangs/soffits (usually 2-3 feet up a roof) on the roof are usually unheated and this is the area where ice dams form. By removing the snow from these areas, ice dams will not have had a chance to form and thus any water will have a clear path off the roof.

4. Install heating cables. Once again, the best method of preventing ice dams is to prevent them from forming. By installing heating cables in the areas that have ice dams (soffit/overhang, valleys, front entries), all you have to do is turn them on when temps are above 30 degrees and watch the snow melt off.

5. Hire a professional to remove the ice dams. I would advise anyone to hire a professional for anything involving your roof at anytime. But adding water/ice/snow to a sloped roof can make things extremely dangerous. Hire a professional that has the expertise and equipment to get the job done while you are safe inside the home. Professionals will use either a hot water pressure washer or steamer to remove ice dams. Expect a price of anywhere from $150-$400 an hour for this service, with a minimum of 2-3 hrs. Other professionals will use hammers, chippers or shovels to remove ice dams. Expect anywhere from $25-$100 per hour per guy, with no minimum. Caution must be used when using hammers/chippers as to not damage the roofing shingles. There are projects out there that don’t always require a steamer/hot water pressure washer to remove snow/ice dams.

Limitless Exteriors and Remodeling is your full service contractor. We are here if you need a new roof, ice dam removal, spraying/painting a ceiling, attic insulation, and installing attic vents. We offer a free inspection and estimate for all customers. And remember that procrastination can only cost you more in the long run, so get us out now before those ice dams start leaking!

Storm Season is approaching, be ready for the aftermath

As storm season approaches, so do the storm chasers. A majority of roofing contractors in the state of MN and throughout the country live and die with storm damage. Without homeowners filing claims, a majority of these companies would fail to exist. Most have no concept of helping a homeowner through the traditional retail method.

I am sure most of you have had someone knock on your door about the possibility of having storm damage to your home. Ten years ago you could breath after a storm rolled through knowing that in the near future and when you were ready that you would have to find a roofer to take a look at your property. Now its like a circus with every roof jockey out knocking doors within 5-10 minutes after a storm rolls through. These storm chasers know that a majority of people will sign with the first company that knocks on their door. These stormers hope that the homeowner will not check to see if the roofer has the necessary tools to complete the job. In a lot of cases these stomers will promise free incentives if the homeowner signs on the front steps; such as free deductibles, extra work at no cost, gift card or even free flat screen TV (all of which are illegal and are considered insurance fraud).

So what should a homeowner do if their property is hit by a storm.

#1- Breath. Unless your home is hit with softball size hail with 60mph winds, then most of the damage will be cosmetic, meaning that you have time. Don’t sign with the first guy that knocks on your door. Ask around and find a contractor that has been used by a family member or friend.

#2- Call a reputable contractor, preferably one that was referred. Have them come out and inspect your property before filling a claim. Make sure to find someone that has worked with homeowner insurance claims before as to not waste everyone’s time by having the insurance company out if there is no damage.

#3- Call your insurance agent or company. A lot of agents have indirect ties with contractors. Some agents might be a part of a business networking group which has a contractor in the group. That agent could refer the contractor to one of their clients knowing that this contractor is fair, honest and up-front. This helps everyone involved because it can save time if there is no damage.

#4-  Keep your eyes open. You will know which neighbors signed 5 minutes after the storm because they are the first ones to get their roofs replaced. Watch as your neighbors roof is being replaced and ask these questions: Are the roofers keeping a clean job site, are they using good quality materials, are they protecting the landscaping, are they keeping safe by adhering to OSHA standards, is the salesman, project manager or owner present? Also keep in mind on how long job takes. Most roofs can be completed in one day. If a job is taking more than one day, then either the crew is inexperienced, unqualified or undermanned. Sometimes contractors will take a 8 man crew and break them into two 4 man crews because they are too busy and can’t keep up. This is not good for you since the your job will take longer and could expose your roof to Mother Nature.

#5- Read the contract. Make sure that you understand what you are signing. Don’t be pressured into signing something the first time or going with the first agreement. Make sure the contract has a local address on it and local phone number (make sure it’s not a pre-paid number used by stormers). Make sure there is a clear dollar amount for the work being completed and a schedule of payments. Sometimes there are supplements that are needed because the insurance company missed or couldn’t see something on the initial inspection. Make sure that the contract has something regarding supplements and that they are only paid to the contractor if the homeowner is reimbursed by the insurance company. The only thing that should be paid out of pocket is the deductible and any kind of upgrades or additional work.

#6- Get a lien waiver. After the job is complete and immediately after the final check is given to the contractor, make sure to get a signed lien waiver. Anyone that furnishes materials or labor can put a lien on your home if they are not paid. Just because you paid the total contract amount doesn’t guarantee that the contractor paid his bills. By receiving a lien waiver, the contractor certifies that all labor and materials have been paid and that no one can come back to you for any outstanding bills. There was a recent story in Illinois where multiple homeowners had liens placed on their homes by the local material supplier. The contractor that completed the work never paid for the materials and since the homeowners hadn’t received a lien waiver the homeowners were legally responsible for the outstanding material invoices.

#7- Ask questions. When a contractor comes to your house make sure to ask how long they have been in business. Ask how long they personally have been a part of that said company. Ask about their knowledge and training and how many years they have been in the business. Make sure they are licensed and that their crew members have their own insurance and workman’s comp. Ask about extended warranties and if they are certified with the shingle manufacturer. Make sure the contractor pulls the necessary permits. If you feel pressured by the contractor then it might be time to call someone else. If you feel like the person is nice but doesn’t really know what they are talking about then its time to call someone else. If you someone tells you that getting your insurance company to pay for a new roof is “guaranteed, slam dunk, or in the bag” please be cautious. Nothing is ever guaranteed and most times a contractor will tell you that just to get the claim filed, regardless if there is damage or not.

Hopefully these pointers come in handy. The worst thing for us is getting called out to someone’s home where they had been ripped off and are looking for help. There are a lot of over qualified contractors but there are also a lot of bad contractors. Your home is a huge investment and nothing should be done to your home while standing on the front steps. Take your time and find the perfect fit. If you would like help with your insurance claim or any other project, then please feel free to give us a call @ 763.238.1632 or email at info@lermn.com

 

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