Who Are Storm Chasers and Why You Should Avoid Them
Ultimate Wind & Hail Damage Guide For Homeowners- Who Are Out-Of-Town Storm Chasers and Why They Should Be Avoided
Storm chasers are companies that follow severe weather from area to area, completing home repairs (generally roofs and siding) that are damaged by hail and wind. They collect homeowners’ insurance claim checks in payment for their services and complete the work (often shoddily) before moving on to the next storm ravaged area.
Here are the Pros and Cons of Storm Chasers:
- They can often speed up the renovation process in a given area.
- They have a great deal of insurance expertise.
- Out-of-town Storm Chasers have no community roots and no knowledge of the local area (laws and building codes).
- Storm Chasers often have a large turnover of crews, salesmen/saleswomen, and other staff.
- They often aren’t properly trained for this type of repair work
- They may have or may be gathering a bad reputation.
- Because they rush, they often have inconsistent quality of work.
- They may not offer warranties, or what warranties they do offer may not be backed up, because they leave the area as soon as the work is done.
- They may have low standards on material quality.
There are definite benefits that storm chasing companies bring when they come into town. When a large storm hits, it’s nearly impossible for the local contractors to handle the damage in a timely manner.
Storm chasers usually have expertise in insurance claims (since they do it all the time it’s their core expertise).
Some insurance companies after the hail storm hits are very slow to react, often delaying and/or declining claims to improve their profits.
I cannot tell you the number of homeowners that have had their insurance policy for 10-20 or even 40 years and their insurance claim gets denied even with obvious damage.
Because of the storm chasers’ expertise in insurance claims and insurance law, they are able to combat insurance adjusters who are trying to reduce liability and improve the insurance company’s bottom line at your expense.
Professional storm companies are able to mobilize project managers, office staff, crews, and “insurance claim specialists” quickly and easily(often within minutes of the storm hitting) because they do not have ties to any particular area. This allows them to be very nimble.
With the widespread hail and wind storm damage it’s nearly impossible for the local contractors to handle all the renovation work in a reasonable amount of time. The storm chaser can help speed up the renovation process area wide.
Unfortunately due to the nature of their business (chasing storms), they will be out of your area in the next year to year-and-a-half.
Since the Storm Chasers don’t have any loyalty or roots in the community, when the work starts to slow down or a bigger storm hits in another part of the country, they will leave. Sometimes this is done without any notice, leaving the homeowner with only partial work completed. And sometimes they take deposit money and don’t do any work at all.
The mindset of a storm chaser company is not unlike that of a gypsy. They are not in any one place for a long time and they are interested in doing the bare minimum of work for the most amount of money using the cheapest materials possible. They tempt homeowners to use them because of their nice, easygoing personalities and their perceived competence and expertise.
Many storm chasing companies provide classes to their salesmen to teach them to act like they are from the area and pretend they are local. The sales reps are taught how to overcome typical questions (objections) the homeowner would ask and how to effectively entice homeowner with giveaways(free gutters covers, shingle upgrades, or gifts i.e. golf clubs, vacation trips,etc.) including offering to cover your deductible (which is illegal in many states- read more about this here).
While there are some good storm-chasing companies, there are far more bad ones and it can be hard to tell the difference.
Crews: Storm Chasing companies hire out-of-state crews (usually from the south) to install the roofing, siding, or gutters. It’s not unusual for these crews to leave town in the middle of a project for various reasons (dispute about how much they are being paid, found a better deal in another state, etc.). When you see a job that has started but takes forever to finish, this is usually the reason why; the storm chaser company has to find another crew to finish the job. And as you can imagine there is very little accountability for the quality of the installation because of the transient nature of the company itself, its crews, and their hiring practices.
You are just as likely to get a crew that just came into town or is newly formed as you are to get an established crew- it’s really hit or miss. Don’t let them practice on your roof.
Salespeople: Storm chasing companies tend to hire as many people as they can, and they throw them against the wall to see who sticks (they have special marketing people that go out into the community to hire local and national salespeople). They train these people how to present themselves as “insurance specialists” that will be an advocate for the homeowner against the insurance companies. They, like the crews, are very transient. Sometimes they are just hired because of the storm, or they traveled with the company from the last storm. Salespeople usually have a high turnover rate because if they don’t learn quickly, they won’t sell enough to earn a living so they quit. The salesperson’s pay is directly correlated to the profitability of the project.
Potential Scenarios: Overpromising & Under Delivering
Often new or inexperienced salespeople are unable estimate the job properly, make deals that sound really good (but not realistic), or they give away too many freebies (to close the sale). In many cases such projects cause the company to lose money or break even and since the salesman is on commission- he/she doesn’t get paid and often fired.
Since the salesperson is fired, the Storm Chasing company has no priority to complete your job (or any other jobs that the salesman sold) because of the lack of money. The storm company will put another salesman on your project to try to convince the insurance company to pay more, leaving you hanging for days or weeks. Sometimes the insurance company will pay more- oftentimes they won’t. If insurance company refuses to pay more – the new salesman usually will come to you and ask for more money.
So it’s not unusual in a hail storm to see many houses where the materials are sitting at the homes for several months because the salesmen overpromised and under delivered and the company can’t afford to do the job. So beware of “great deals”. They usually don’t end up so great.
Pretending To Be Local
One of the strategies that the more sophisticated Storm Chasing companies employ is the buying or renting of a local contractor. A few of the logistical problems that a Storm Chasing company has are:
- They don’t have a license in the particular state
- They don’t have a locally recognized name
- They are not registered with the BBB
To remedy these problems they seek out different contractors with good BBB records and offer them money to use their name and license. In essence they are renting the company for 6 months to a year(or as long as they are making money).
They make all kinds of promises to the owner of the local company as far as the quality of work and integrity, and they usually promise to leave money in a joint account for when they leave that the owner of the construction business can use on the warranty claims that inevitably arise from the Storm Chaser’s work.
Sadly, many of these construction companies find that the money left in the account is not nearly enough to cover the warranty claims that are caused by the work done by the storm chasing company.
It’s fairly obvious that you wouldn’t sign a contract with a company that has a representative with license plates from out-of-town, the person sounds like he/she is from out-of-town and they say their company is from out-of-town, BUT many storm companies are much more sophisticated than that. You will really need to ascertain if this contractor/company is:
-An out-of-town Storm Chaser looking to make a quick buck,
-A local window installer, handyman or a gutter cleaner that is “working the storm” for additional income without proper licenses or experience (Non-QLC),
– or it is an established Qualified Local Contractor who knows what he/she is doing and will take care of you after the storm and will provide warranty support for years to come.
If you get anything out of this article, it should be this: avoid Storm Chasers and only work with reputable Qualified Local Contractors. It is better to do it right the first time then pay less and have to redo it again!
To read more about Storm Chasers click here
Click here to read about Non-QLC companies
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