Understand upgrades to avoid an unpleasant money surprise

Posted by on Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 in Damage Repair Upgrades, Homeowner's Insurance

Even a relatively minor ceiling water leak repair can call into question the issue of upgrades. In many cases, insurance will cover repair and patching in the immediate affected area. This isn’t always adequate, as some patch jobs will only partially blend—leaving an unsightly spot on the ceiling and a bad taste in the owner’s mouth.

That’s why it’s always smart to address the issue of upgrades when repairs are being done. As a rule of thumb, “The more extensive the damage, the more extensive the room is for upgrades,” says Purofirst Repair Division Coordinator Curry Palm. “The key is to make sure you get quality comparable to the pre-loss condition, and to know who’s paying for it—you, the insurance company, or another third party.

“In cases handled by property managers, limits generally are pre-defined. When a homeowner unaccustomed to dealing with this gets involved, it’s important to get clear about expectations before people arrive to do the work.”

Purofirst often serves as a go-between between an owner and insurance company when pre-determined limits do not exist. “First, we sit down with the owner and get specific about repair scope and associated issues. Then, an estimator will address wants versus needs, and drive owner decisions on the various items. Then, the estimator goes to the insurance company for approval,” notes Palm.

Palm emphasizes that upgrades need to be reviewed in light of several factors:

  1. Money. This is not always an all-or-nothing situation. In some cases, an insurance company might be willing to spring for a portion of the cost, with the owner footing the balance. It’s always worth running scenarios, both about the extent and type of upgrades as well as how costs will be allocated in different circumstances;
  2. Time. Depending on materials and labor required, upgrades can add substantial time to the schedule. It’s important to weigh the potential additional inconvenience and, if applicable, living costs associated with a longer stay off-premises;
  3. Common sense.  Evaluate the entire upgrade picture in light of expected return on investment. If an owner is likely to derive considerable enjoyment over a period of years, more extensive upgrades may be the best choice. If, however, the potential upgrade only adds marginally to property value or enjoyment, going the “standard” route may be wiser.

“This process can be like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” Palm points out. “In some cases, we go back and forth with the owner, insurance company, and internally to get to the best outcome. Sometimes, an upgrade decision changes when we do a pre-repair walkthrough and the owner reconsiders an original choice based on any number of factors. In the end, various Purofirst representatives will recheck information to make sure that the owner is clear and committed before the process gets underway. This saves wear and tear on everyone.”

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