I Need a New Roof. What Do I Do?

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In a world of perfect honesty there would be a lot of discussions like this: “Help. I need a new roof and I don’t have $9,000 sitting in the bank to pay for it. What should I do?” and a helpful, painfully frank voice would answer, “just wait for it to blow off and turn it in on your homeowners insurance.”

In Ohio and throughout much of the Midwest that is what has been happening for the last few years and it is having a big impact on homeowners insurance rates. An increasing number of homeowners are letting their roofs go in order to be able to take care of more pressing financial needs. This plan goes well until a storm hits, at which time curled, cracking, twenty or thirty year shingles finally give out.

To be fair, there are a number of convergent factors at play. For once thing, the cost to put on a new roof is higher than it used to be…a lot higher. Shingle prices have increased and are affected by oil prices as are many other petroleum based products. There are also fewer shingle manufacturers today. Demand plays a key role as well since there have been record breaking storms in the last two years across the Mid Atlantic. It also doesn’t help that roofs are more complex than they may seem and unscrupulous contractors often prey on a homeowner’s lack of knowledge to sell a roof system that may not be needed, that may not meet promised quality standards, or that may be installed at a price that is much higher than the marketplace demands. Add to all this the fact that homeowners have been beaten up by the economic downturn that began in 2008. Regardless of what kind of recovery we see or have seen, survey after survey shows that the average American consumer still does not save enough money for home repairs and many American homeowners do not save at all.

What does this have to do with insurance? Well, like all market-driven products, insurance reacts to any force placed upon it. And my, how insurers are reacting! Realizing that they have become the number one buyer of roofs in the world, homeowners insurers have begin to price their products in a more sophisticated fashion. Many now provide discounted pricing for consumers with newer roofs and increased pricing for those with roofs older than the suggested replacement age.

What can you do to be sure you are getting the best value? First, check your roof! If you see curling, cracking, discoloration, or a general worn out “help! Please put me out of my misery” look from your roof, call a reputable contractor. I might humbly suggest calling your local independent insurance agent for recommendations as we see hundreds of roof claims every year and witness excellent repair jobs along with horror stories. A contractor who has integrity will give you an honest opinion about what condition your roof is in, how long it will likely last, and whether there is any existing damage. If you know, for instance, that your roof will need replaced in the next two years, that provides ample time to begin saving or to think about tapping other means of funds such as a home equity loan.

Secondly, ask your agent about discounts. Many companies have changed their pricing strategies on roofs over the last few years and you may now qualify for a discount you didn’t even know about. You may also want to look at changing your roof settlement method to affect your premiums (your agent can provide more information).

Finally, consider the possibility that you may NOT need a new roof! If you don’t see any apparent damage to your roof, don’t put up with a pushy roof salesperson who approaches you without being asked. If you are in doubt get a second opinion. Some disreputable contractors have seized upon the frequency of storms and economic distress of homeowners and offer to tap into “free money” from their insurance companies to replace a roof that has not truly been damaged in a storm at all. If a contractor approaches you saying that they have looked at your roof from the ground and are certain that you have damage from a specific storm storm that happened 6 months or even a year ago and they know the date and would like to turn it in to your insurance company for you, be skeptical and remember that when you file an insurance claim you will may be asked to sign an affidavit attesting to the nature of the damage you have experienced. Check out all contractors you consider using to see if they have a local presence; ask for referral letters; and beware of anyone who pressures you or assures you that your insurance rates will not increase because of a claim.

While it is tempting to avoid dealing with an aging roof, remember that, as in many other aspects of life, the longer you put it off dealing with it, the worse the cure is! If you need help with roof claim questions or issues, call your friendly, LOCAL, Sullivan Insurance agent!