High End Home Restoration Poses Unique Challenges

By Sean Slatinsky | October 25, 2012

Whether you are dealing with water, mold or fire damage, restoring a high end home can create some added challenges above and beyond your average residential claim.

There are certain items that are standard regardless of the size of the home such as sheetrock, concrete and asphalt roofing, but when dealing with a high end home most other materials will vary greatly.

An example of this would be a home my company recently worked on where we had to replace a 2 ¾ inch thick white oak door with transom and side lights. Xactimate prices this unit at approximately $3,900, but after researching the material it actually cost us over $21,000 to purchase and install it.

The real challenge comes in identifying these differences in materials on the front end to avoid production delays and large supplements. There are a few key areas that make restoring a high end home unique to other types of claims – materials, labor, contents and homeowner expectations.

photo: Universal Restoration Services SE

Materials can vary greatly in this type of situation. You are typically dealing with materials that cannot be picked up at the local hardware store; they need to be researched thoroughly by the contractor so lead times can be built into the project’s production schedule. Doing this on the front end is very important to avoid costly production delays, increased ALE and eventually, an unhappy insured.

It is important to remember when dealing with high end or unique materials that Xactimate pricing is not always accurate. Sometimes even the premium grade line items will not cover the cost of material and labor to install a product. In some instances it may be more beneficial to get a bid or invoices and pay actual material cost plus labor.

When adjusting a claim you must also take into account the cost of labor to install intricate items such as trim, cabinets and electronics. More often than not, a specialist or craftsman is needed to install these types of materials which tend to be more costly. An example is the cost differential between installing 8 inch crown molding with coped edges versus installing 3 ¼ inch crown molding with mitered edges. Xactimate pricing does not cover the additional time needed to cope every joint, which is the expectation in this category of home.

Another area that varies in these types of claims is the homeowner’s contents. You will find items that may be one of a kind or from another country, and very expensive. Local price lists that are generated for basic items will typically not suffice in these situations. The homeowner will likely need to fill out a contents inventory form and list the pricing of each individual item. At this point it is up to the adjuster to determine restore versus replace, and if there is any salvage value to the item if it is replaced.

There are usually more trades involved in the contents portion of these claims as well. You may have to deal with a garment company to clean fabrics, an art restorer for a priceless picture and a furniture refinisher to fix the china cabinet that was damaged. The best thing to remember when dealing with these types of contents is that what may look like a typical vase from a housewares store may very well be a priceless heirloom that was acquired from Italy.

photo: Universal Restoration Services SE

In any insurance loss the main priorities for claims professionals are establishing reserves, setting homeowner expectations, building a good rapport with the customer and then closing out the claim with no complaints in a timely manner. This can be done much more effectively when potential challenges are addressed up front and both the adjuster and contractor work together to communicate the process to the homeowner making production as seamless as possible.

At the end of the day the ultimate goal is to provide excellent customer service to the homeowner from both the insurance carrier and the contractor. No one customer deserves better service than another, but when dealing with high end homes providing top notch service can sometimes be more difficult. Communication, a clear scope of work and avoiding potential production delays are the best ways to ensure that the customer has nothing but praise for all parties involved when the job is completed.

Sean Slatinsky, is a general manager for Universal Restoration Services SE. Slatinksy has been in the restoration industry for over 10 years with extensive experience in restoring both residential and commercial properties.

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