Fire can be one of the most traumatic and devastating losses anyone can experience.
If you’ve had a fire and there were injuries or a death, my sincere condolences. If you’ve experienced only loss to property, please take a moment to be thankful that there were no injuries or death.
You’re probably still in shock that this has happened to you and bewildered by the seemingly endless task ahead of you. This is going to be a ONE DAY AT A TIME process. If you can settle into that thinking, this will be much easier. Every day that you make progress toward rebuilding your life is a WIN. Ask yourself at the start of each day, “What does WIN THE DAY look like TODAY?” Make a VERY SHORT list of a few things that will get you to that WIN THE DAY feeling and be happy with that.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
If your loss is a severe one (a total loss or one where SUBSTANTIAL work is required to get you back into your home) then you need to first think about some long-term living arrangements.
This should be your first priority. You might be put up with friends or in a hotel at first and you may need to get some basic items like clothing, personal items (toothbrush, etc) but don’t get involved with any other stuff until you’re settled into where you’re going to live.
Your insurance company should be very generous here. You can usually rent a place similar to yours at their expense. They won’t pay you any extra though.
For example, if you were renting a house or apartment, you won’t be required to pay rent while you’re out of your home, so you’ll just be paying rent someplace else. The insurance company might make up the difference if there’s nothing available similar to yours. The goal is to keep your monthly expense about the same.
If you owned a house, you’ll still be responsible for your mortgage so the insurance company should pick up the entire cost of renting another place.
Just rent some furniture for now and then SLOWLY, replace it with items you purchase along the way. You’ll have plenty of time to shop for furniture once the contractor gets busy rebuilding your home.
OK. So now you have a “home base” from which to rebuild your life. Its important to have this so you can focus on gathering, replacing, purchasing the things, memories and items necessary for daily living.
DON’T BE TOO HASTY TO “HIRE” THE SERVICES of a ‘PUBLIC ADJUSTER’. This is someone who will show up EARLY. (like while the fire department is putting the hoses back on their truck) They will tell you that they will do all the negotiating with the “big bad” insurance company for you for a small fee. SAY NO FOR NOW…. (you can always go to them later and their “small fee” is THOUSANDS of dollars….) You’re better of without them.
Your claim adjuster is going to be your new best friend. That’s an important mind-set to adopt. Look to him as a source of information, encouragement and ideas to get the most out of your insurance policy. The company I’m with (and most companies) will look for ways to BE ABLE TO PAY YOU rather than looking for ways to get out of paying you. Remember, losses are calculated into what they charge and a good claim experience and positive results serve them much better than saving a couple thousand dollars by nickel and diming you to death.
TAKE NOTES. You should pick up a 3-ring binder w/ some paper. You might want to get some tabbed pages to keep track of THINGS TO DO, NOTES ON CALLS, CONTACT INFORMATION, etc. Remember think MARATHON not SPRINT. You’re going to need a central location (the notebook and maybe a small file box) to keep track of your information.
They’re going to start by giving you an overview of the entire process. There will be a contractor to find, plans to draw up, lists to create, receipts to keep, and plans to make. Take good notes and remember to keep thinking ‘just one day at a time.’
KEEP YOUR PERSPECTIVE AND HAVE FUN! Yeah, I know that sounds a little off. But this is such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You get to start all over. Fresh! New!
Make a decision to enjoy this process — This curve ball that life has thrown your way. If you’re married you can play ‘newlyweds’ all over again. If you’re single you can make a substantial change in your lifestyle, your look, anything you want.
Decide to be BETTER not bitter because of it.
Yes…. Make a conscious decision that this is probably one of the most exciting adventures you’ll ever have. Get just a few things and relish in how simple life can be. You’ll “clutter back up” soon enough so just enjoy the spartan simplicity.
Buy a different brand of underwear, splurge on some really plush socks, or get a pair of just THE COOLEST JEANS EVER! Try out new ways of cooking with new dishes. Get back to enjoying the simple things in life. You’ll be a bigger and better person because of it.
Don’t forget to let your friends help you. You’ll deepen your relationships and forge new friendships along the way. Just let it all happen.
THOUGHTS ON REBUILDING
There’s way too many variations and possibilities to go into within the scope of this blog. But here’s a few things to think about as you begin to work with your adjuster and contractor.
- The insurance company will generally pay to build the house just like the one you lost but YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUILD IT THE SAME WAY. If you’ve always wanted a big picture window on the west side… then GET ONE!
- Take your time with your architect or making your own sketches of how you want your house rebuilt. You might even be able to change the “footprint” of the slab (the basic shape and orientation of the house) One of my clients who lost their home in the San Diego fires of 2003 had always lamented that the side of the house with the best view had just one little tiny window. Well…. They fixed that w/ 4 huge picture windows and instead of having the bathroom there, it was their den and fireplace area. Turned out BEAUTIFULLY!
- Have a plan to refurnish your home. Just slowly replace your rented furniture with your new stuff as the “building the home” process unfolds.
The process of rebuilding your home can be the most challenging event you’ve ever experienced. It can also (at the same time) be the most rewarding and life-changing! After all, if you can survive this, sitting in traffic or having to replace your refrigerator just won’t phase you any more.
Contact me if you have any questions.