When Lightening Strikes

When Lightening Strikes: A lesson in rebuilding, banks & insurance coverage

In early June 2015, we received a call from friends here on the Outer Banks. A Realtor friend and her husband, a retired builder, passed our name along to a Southern Shores property owner whose home had been struck by lightning and was severely damaged by fire. A challenging situation for anyone, let along a new client. Natural disaster damage includes cleaning up and rebuilding, along with the feelings of emotional loss.

Shortly after the call, we visited the home site to assess the damage. Lightning struck the house and started the fire. Between the fire and the water to extinguish the fire, the house was close to a complete loss. From June until early November Sandmark Construction assisted the homeowner through the delicate maze of working with the rental company, the insurance company, and her bank.

We redesigned the house to increase the square footage and changed the layout of the interior to create a better flow. The owner had a few specific design elements in mind but left most of the design up to us. Contracting with Jeff Sawyer of Sea Swept Designs, we collaborated on the final design and created the construction drawings. The plan included a complete redesign of the exterior, excluding a bedroom and screen porch which we saved. Towards the middle of November, with permits in hand, we started to rebuild this home. The new home will be complete in March, in time for the homeowner to furnish the home and for the rental season.

We asked the owner to share a bit of their experience with the fire, rebuild and process.

“On June 3, 2015, at 6:15 PM, we received a phone call from the Southern Shores police and fire department informing us our beach house had been struck by lightning and was on fire. Your first thought, after you know no one was hurt, is this must be a nightmare! Unfortunately, it’s a real-life nightmare, not a dream.   The first group to arrive is the “restoration team” who tell you not to worry; they will handle the cleanup and rebuild of your house including dealing with your insurance company, getting paid, etc. Being a bit of a skeptic, and knowing it’s not that easy, we declined their services and ventured off on our own to deal with the insurance adjuster/company and find a builder.

Our first step was to find a good builder. Fortunately, we were referred to Sandy and Mark Martin of Sandmark Construction. They are amazing. Their help and knowledge helped guide us through this difficult time. We knew we were in over our head trying to deal with the insurance adjuster in determining a fair cost for reconstruction. Afer receiving the estimate from the insurance company, we quickly provided it to Mark. Mark reviewed the adjuster’s estimate and found additional costs the adjuster simply missed or just left off of the estimate. A meeting between the adjuster and Mark resulted in the insurance company paying out an additional 18% for the cost of reconstruction.

The hardest part of this process has been our bank. The insurance paid out for the fire and deposited all the monies with our bank, who held the mortgage. The bank would not assign a single point of contact for our account; each time we called, we spoke with a different person. Have you ever noticed how requirements and processes change each time you call someone new? Requests for draws and monies is challenging. None of our requests were handled in time, forcing us to pay Sandmark out of pocket and then wait for the bank to fund. Frustrating? I would say so!

Our advice? Before taking out a mortgage, ask the lender what their policies are in the event of a disaster. Had we known what our mortgage company’s policy was, we would have found another bank.

Thankfully this ended well. Our insurance policy covered Loss of Rent, covering all rental bookings we canceled due to the fire. And we have a lifelong partner with Sandmark Construction. ”