It’s every homeowner’s worst nightmare: A fire, flood, or storm has left your home damaged and it’s made your house difficult or impossible to live in. Your head is probably swirling with millions of questions after a disaster strikes. So, what do you do now? Here are some suggestions on how to deal with a damaged home and get back to your normal life.

First things first, don’t panic. Take care of any critical emergencies before anything else. These can include accounting for all the homes occupants, turning off the water or gas, calling the fire department, or leaving the home if it is not safe to be there.

After the emergency has passed it is time to take a breath and assess the situation. Just remember that safety is always priority number one. DO NOT re-enter your home if it is not safe to do so. Get a general idea of what happened and what is damaged so you can better communicate what happened to insurance and disaster relief companies. Since you are likely to be the first person on the scene, take lots of pictures to help document the extent of the damage and improve your chances of getting your full claim. DO NOT begin cleaning up. This is a common mistake that homeowners make; the insurance company needs detailed and documented proof of the disaster itself, so cleaning up without properly documenting the evidence can hurt your claim and, in some cases, get it denied.

Homeowners typically call their insurance company first when a disaster strikes. Although it is important to contact your insurance company in a timely manner, you may want to contact a local damage or disaster company first. There are a few reasons for this. First, due to the high deductibles with insurance companies, there is a chance you will decide not to use your insurance. You won’t be able to make this assessment unless a professional can evaluate the extent of the damage and give you a recommendation.

Another reason to contact a disaster relief company before insurance is to choose the most reputable company at your disposal. To keep down the cost of repairs, your insurance company may pressure you into using their recommended disaster relief company. However, you have the right to research and choose the disaster relief company that you think is best.

Lastly, good disaster relief companies handle everything for you. Once they have completed the initial assessment and helped you decide if using insurance is the best option, they will take care of the rest.

Now it’s time to contact your insurance company. If you wait too long your claim could be denied. When dealing with insurance, the first question on any homeowner’s mind is, “Am I covered?” Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this because insurance policies can vary widely. Your coverage is completely dependent on the details of your policy.

It is common for your insurance to reimburse you if the home is unlivable. A functioning bathroom can be a determining factor for weather or not your home is considered livable. If your home has only suffered partial damage, to the kitchen for example, then you will only be reimbursed for eating out as opposed to all of your food and lodging.

The last thing homeowners worry about is how much of the damage will be covered. Remember, if you are 100% covered, you will not be 100% reimbursed. Even with the best-case scenarios, any damaged or destroyed items inside the house will have more sentimental than monetary value due to depreciation. So, anticipate using some of your claim money to restore items you lost in the disaster.

Now that the insurance claim is settled, it’s time to decide to repair, rebuild, or upgrade.

You may have done so well during the evaluation of the damage that you got the maximum amount of insurance money possible. The silver lining is that recovering from a disaster can be the perfect time to invest in the extra upgrades you’ve had your eye on. Adding upgrades and features while the home is already torn apart can add tremendous value when the repairs are finished while simultaneously saving you money on the improvements.

Depending on the extent of the damage, it can take years to get your home back to a livable state. Consider what you are willing to tolerate; for minor damage you could coordinate repairs while you are on vacation or have time off to minimize the intrusion of workmen and construction noise. If it’s bad it might be a good idea to consider moving.

If moving sounds good, but you don’t want to lose money on the sale due to the damage, consider selling to an all cash buyer. We are Gulf State Homebuyers and we buy homes in all conditions, including your damaged home. We will make you a competitive offer for the house in as-is condition, saving you the time and money on repairs, especially if you plan on moving anyway. Contact us today for your free, no obligation appraisal. If you like our offer we can close in as little as 5 days and help you skip the headache of repairs and restoration. We can even help you move into your new home so you can get your life back to normal in no time.

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