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Reuben Saltzman

Top 12 clues a storm-chaser is at your door

The storm chasers are out in full force after last week’s hail storm. If you live in an area that was hit, you’ve probably already had visitors at your door. One of the inspectors on my team had people show up the very next morning. Storm chasing is a huge business for roofing and siding contractors, and it’ll bring a lot of contractors into our area who don’t normally do business here.

Most homeowners prefer to hire local businesses who will be there to take care of them if something ever goes wrong in the future, and storm-chasers know this very well. To help get past this out-of-towner roadblock, storm chasers will do their best to present themselves as local businesses too.

I talked to several local roofers and a couple of people who used to do what they describe as “shady storm-chasing work” to get advice on how to know that you’re talking to a storm chaser. These clues are the dirty dozen. Just one or two of them might not indicate a storm-chaser, but the more boxes you check, the more likely you have a storm-chaser at your door.

1. “WE’RE WORKING WITH YOUR NEIGHBOR!”

This should probably be numbers 1, 2, and 3. Social proof is powerful magic for salespeople, and they all know this. The most powerful thing a door-knocker can tell you is that they’re also working for your neighbor.

Frequently, they’ll point to their yard sign next-door or up the street as evidence of working in the neighborhood. Signs may only indicate that the homeowner has allowed the storm chaser to speak with their insurance company, not that the claim has been successfully pushed through. There is a huge difference. The majority of storm-chaser related insurance claims get denied unless the damage is truly catastrophic.

2. THEY SHOW UP FASTER THAN HUMANLY POSSIBLE.

Storm-chasers win by being first. That’s their schtick. They use sophisticated satellite technology to determine what neighborhoods to target, often within hours of the storms passing.

3. THEY CONVEY A SENSE OF URGENCY.

Storm-chasers insist that you need to get your roof fixed quickly. But you don’t, and I can’t stress this point enough: if you have hail damage, there is no rush to get it fixed.  Even missing shingles do not immediately cause leaks. The underlayment is the primary waterproofing agent on the roof system and unless that is damaged, there’s no need for emergency tarps.

I have never (NEVER) seen hail damage at shingles that could cause a leak. The rare case where hail might possibly cause a leak is when you have an old, brittle roof vent that has been destroyed by hail. Even in that case, you could probably patch it with a piece of ice and water shield to get you by for a while time.

There is no urgency to address hail damage. Insurance companies give you a year to file a claim and two years to repair it. Please let that sink in. If someone creates a sense of urgency around this, ask yourself why.

4. THEY’LL OFFER TO NAIL DOWN SOME TARPS.

They’re not doing you any favors. They’re doing this because it constitutes work performed, locking you into using their service. As I mentioned in #3, there’s no sense of urgency over hail damage. If you have missing shingles, that’s another story.

5. THEY WANT TO PUT A SIGN IN YOUR YARD BEFORE YOU’VE SIGNED ANYTHING.

They’ll beg and plead to put a sign in your yard. They’ll tell you this is to help “protect” you from the storm-chasers. This goes back to social proof. One of the primary storm-chasing levers is to make homeowners believe they are succeeding with insurance claims all over the neighborhood when in fact the only success they’ve had is in talking suckers into letting them install yard signs.

6. THEY’LL COVER YOUR DEDUCTIBLE.

This is illegal, but it happens. Your contractor can’t reimburse you for your insurance deductible.

7. THEY WANT YOU TO SIGN SOMETHING ON THE FIRST VISIT.

They’ll tell you it’s simply a permission slip to inspect your roof, but it’s not. It’s a manipulative tactic to get you under contract for any work that is approved by the insurance company under the claim. Don’t sign anything.

8. THEY WANT YOU TO CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY, NOW.

Again, this is about creating a sense of urgency and locking you in.

9. BASHING THE COMPETITION.

Good local contractors know who their competition is, and they view them as colleagues, not enemies. They play nicely in the sandbox together. If you hear a contractor badmouthing another contractor, that’s a red flag.

10. THEY WON’T GIVE YOU PROOF OF THE DAMAGE.

Good contractors will take pictures of storm damage and show it to you. Other contractors will talk about all of the damage without giving you any proof.

11. THEY’LL PROMISE THE WORLD.

They’ll tell you they can get your insurance company to pay for new gutters, windows, siding, and all of that other stuff. Because hail. Just sign here. Then when the insurance company says “no way”, you’ll still be locked into a contract with this contractor for the other stuff.

12. THEIR VEHICLE ISN’T LOCAL.

Storm chasers won’t drive vehicles lettered up with local contractor information. They may have out-of-town license plates, or rental stickers on their vehicles.

HIRING ADVICE

Hire local people that friends, family, and co-workers have had good experiences with. Be patient. There’s no rush to get this stuff done.

There is nothing wrong with allowing someone to present to you the case for storm damage at your home, and in most cases, it is okay to allow them onto your roof to inspect. However, if this inspection was solicited by canvassing the neighborhood, please take their opinions and recommendations with a grain of salt. Do your research and call another local, reputable contractor to give you a second opinion. When roofs are replaced needlessly, everyone pays. There’s no free lunch.

Also, filing an insurance claim is not a harmless event. Even when a claim is denied, it’s still a claim. You only get a certain number of claims before you become virtually uninsurable. The insurance industry uses a national database to track all insurance claims (the CLUE system). Moreover, if the claim is approved but only for a small amount of money, it is still a claim on your record.

Saying “No, Thank You”, and standing your ground on not signing anything on the initial inspection is 100% okay. Avoiding the Contingency Agreement will allow you the freedom to interview other contractors, and select who you are most comfortable with.

Special thanks to my friends at All Around, Kuhl’s Contracting, and My Three Quotes for sharing their advice and insight.

I’ll dig into the insurance side of this more in a couple of upcoming blog posts, starting with next week’s rant about how I think this whole thing is a game.

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