Over the last 2 years, I have been watching and understanding the Long Island real estate market by interviewing real estate brokers on various issues that they are seeing, especially since “Bidding wars” haven’t gone anywhere. As a former real estate appraiser, now public insurance adjuster(over 10 years) at United Public Adjusters & Appraisers, Inc. managing over $100 million in property damage claims, I can safely say “I’ve seen a thing or two”. For those that don’t know what a public adjuster is, United Public Adjusters & Appraisers ONLY represent home and business owners to ensure they get a fair, maximum, and expedited claim settlement from their insurance companies after they have a major loss from either fire or water damage. During any normal day, we analyze both structural and cosmetic damages. To take it a step further, our team has been involved in countless inspections where fire investigators are hired by our clients’ insurance companies, and we are involved in securing information from our clients, so the fire investigators have enough pre-loss information to assist in their determination as to the cause and origin of the fire. Typical questions include “Have you done any recent electrical work? “, “have any contractors been in the home in the last (3) months”, “did you have any issues with lights flickering”, “did you ever have to reset the electrical breakers”. For clients who recently purchased the home, they are also asked, “do you have a copy of the recent home inspection report?”
Unfortunately, due to inventory shortages, many buyers are competing for the same property, which leads to decisions such as “waiving the home inspection” or “waiving the appraisal contingency”. For clarity, even if you hire a home inspector, you may still need to hire an engineer or other subject-matter experts to properly assess the structure and MEP’s (Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing). For savvy real estate buyers, they walk into and around a home and know within minutes what flaws exist and the approximate costs to fix them. Of course, their offer will reflect those repairs. For first time homebuyers with no background in real estate or construction, they are taking a risk that there are no known or hidden issues that could lead to a potential water or fire loss.
One major issue that newer buyers need to consider is past and current weather events. Over the last 5 years, our firm has seen unusual weather events such as flash flooding in areas that are normally dry, tornados, multiple Nor’Easters, Hail, Macro bursts, and more. Most recently, parts of NYC, Long Island, and Westchester experienced flooding to their homes and businesses from either backup or overflow of water from their sump pumps, toilets, sewer trap or from rain runoff on the exterior of their properties. Did you know that New York State requires sellers to disclose any known defects to potential buyers?
I recommend that both experienced and newer Long Island home buyers ask the seller’s agent “Did the home or surrounding area ever experience water backups or drainage issues” and “has the seller ever filed a claim with their insurance company or FEMA for water damages”. Believe it or not, you may be shocked to hear that your dream home has a history of water issues. If you don’t ask prior to the purchase, it could mean potentially tens of thousands in damages, if not more! Now that you have the home’s history and intend on purchasing the home, the next big factor is which insurance company to choose from. As we all know, we all need insurance, BUT knowing what type of coverages to purchase can be tricky. For these reasons, it’s crucial to understand how insurance works, what is the cost to rebuild your home (remember, we are still facing labor shortages, delays on materials, and inflation) or replace your personal possessions, and what perils should you be insured against.
If you are in an area with clay soil, impervious subsoil or near water, you should consider purchasing flood insurance just in case the exterior runoff water breaches your home. Additionally, you should purchase water backup coverage, but ensure your dollar limits are enough to cover the replacement costs for the lowest level of your home. After Hurricane Ida, we received so many calls from policyholders that only purchased standard water-backup coverage with dollar limits of $5k-$10k. If you have a finished basement or ground level with quality finishes and a lot of personal property, $5k will not even cover the cleanup and remediation costs.
If you’re in an area surrounded by water or woods, your home may experience windstorm damage or fallen trees. For this reason, you want to ensure you don’t have a high “special windstorm deductible”. This special deductible is typically separate from any named storm or Hurricane deductible.
While I have addressed the importance of a home inspection, your home may still experience property damage, whether you did everything right or not. I always say to property owners, “If you purchase the correct insurance coverages, and you have a reputable public adjuster, you will be properly compensated in the shortest period of time”.
If you or your client experiences property damage, our team understands local market conditions, construction repair costs, policy interpretation and advocates only for home and business owners to get the policyholders back on their feet.
For a no-obligation claim and policy review, United Public Adjusters & Appraisers can be reached at 1-800-718-5677 (LOSS).
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