Tornado rips through Andover, Kansas
A tornado touched down in south-central Kansas on Friday night, causing damage in its wake, but few injuries. Residents of the Wichita area, Andover and Sedgwick and Butler counties are picking up the pieces.
In the two years since Stacey Hobbs bought her house in Andover, she said the value has gone up by $60,000. That’s money she could have lost after a tornado hit Friday night if not for one thing.
“Thank goodness we’ve increased the insurance on the house,” Hobbs told her husband, Matt, on Saturday morning. “Can you imagine some of these people here who haven’t watched it in a few years?”
Awareness of what rising housing prices and soaring building material costs mean for insurance policies is rising in many Kansans after Friday’s EF-3 tornado.
It’s something everyone needs to think about now, experts say, not just for those whose homes have been damaged, but for all homeowners in the future.
“Now it’s on people’s minds,” said Home insurance agent Trevor Harris.
In general, he said, it’s more like “it doesn’t matter until it matters.”
It is a mistake.
“I would say phone and call your agent,” Harris said.
The prevailing advice is an annual review of your policy.
The main reason the Hobbs are protected is because when they merged their pre-wedding households in April, they reviewed their insurance policy in March.
Hobbs said some homes in the neighborhood were selling for more than $100,000 more than people paid, but she fears insurance policies aren’t keeping up.
Harris said Kansas has an inflation protector for properties, which happens automatically on policies.
“It’s going to roll some years, some years, it doesn’t matter,” he said. “It just keeps policies more in line with inflation.”
Even with that, however, he said, “there can still be a gap in coverage.”
Harris said that’s partly because no one expected such an inflation in building material costs.
“Everything is a little out of whack at the moment.”
When reviewing a policy, Harris said it’s important to look at deductibles and replacement costs versus cash value, which may not be as high as people think due to depreciation.
“That way everyone is on the same page. And when something happens, you know who to call and what to expect,” he said.
“Make sure you’re warm and comfortable with what you have.”
“The current reality of the market”
Lee Modesitt, director of communications for the Kansas Department of Insurance, can speak to the subject of insurance from a professional and personal perspective.
“Ironically, I had this exact conversation with my insurance agent last week,” he said.
Modesitt was comparing the total cost of ownership of two homes he was considering buying.
Insurance was a factor, and he and his agent discussed what total loss coverage would be.
“The system they were using didn’t match the current market reality,” Modesitt said.
Even though current material costs were not that high, he said there were other factors to consider, such as fuel surcharges on deliveries, because fuel costs are so high in this moment.
“It’s very easy to have these numbers not match up the way they should.”
His office recommends proactive conversations.
While the insurance department can’t make companies pay more to customers who have gaps in coverage, Modesitt said the bureau can help in other ways.
He said there is help if consumers feel complaints are not being handled appropriately or if they feel their policies are not being followed.
“We are here to help in some way with this review.”
To visit insurance.kansas.gov for help via live chat, or email email@example.com or call the office’s helpline at 800-432-2484.
Like Harris, Modesitt stressed how crucial it is to understand the difference between cash value and replacement costs. Additionally, consumers need to think about what a franchise means. A 1% deductible on a $300,000 home with a damaged roof means $3,000 out of your pocket.
“There is no right or wrong answer. There are only compromises.
Also on flood insurance, consumers should be aware that there is a 30-day time limit, which means that if they want it, they cannot get it immediately before a storm.
Earthquake insurance issues are more complex, Modesitt said, so he recommends speaking with an agent.
“Frankly, I think everyone wants to pay as little as possible for insurance because we don’t think we need it.”
Another thing to watch out for after a tornado or other weather event is, of course, scammers. Particularly watch out for people who come from out of town to offer to work.
“That’s where we see a lot of scams,” said Jodi Ocadiz, the Hobbses’ Home insurance agent at Andover.
“Not everyone who finds themselves in situations like this happens for the good.”
Ocadiz recommends checking with the state to make sure a contractor is in good standing.
Wess Galyon, President and CEO of Wichita Area Builders Associationsaid Andover residents should contact the City of Andover to ensure contractors are licensed and properly insured.
“We caution: do your own due diligence now.”
That means slowing down and not making rash decisions, Galyon said.
“Don’t be in too much of a rush to settle something with an insurance company.”
Ocadiz said just because an insurance company issues a check doesn’t mean a claim is made.
“It just means we’re trying to get you. . . the money in your hands as quickly as possible.
Galyon said homeowners can call his office at (316) 265-4226 for help with reputable contractors.
With “costs everywhere,” he said, “it’s not going to help get things done any faster, so it’s important that they work with someone who . . . can give them an accurate estimate.
He said that before making a settlement, owners should get estimates and call contractors “and exchange notes to make sure you disagree on something and wish you didn’t. have done”.
When Jerrome Castillo saw the wreckage from Friday’s tornado, he immediately thought of the difficulties people would face rebuilding.
Castillo is a real estate broker with Titan Realty and a general contractor at Titan Construction & Roofing.
“We were short,” he said. “Siding, plywood. I mean, I can’t have windows.
The supplies he can get are astronomical. For example, plywood sheets placed under the sheathing cost $9 per sheet. Now they cost $40 a sheet. That equates to nearly $20,000 extra for an average home.
“I’m underinsured myself,” Castillo said. “I was going to call (my agent) today actually.”
He said his house is insured for about $450,000, but it would cost him $600,000 or $700,000 to rebuild. He also couldn’t find a similar house to buy on the west side, where he lives, due to the tight market.
“It’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this before.
Friday night, the Hobbs weren’t thinking about insurance. After seeing the approaching tornado and weathering the storm in their basement with their five children, they immediately ran to the house of one of their children’s best friends.
Unlike the Hobbs house, which suffered relatively minor damage by comparison, this house was destroyed.
“My husband took out four different families,” she said of her job that night.
Then their immediate concern was to bring their children to his parents’ house.
At around 10:15 p.m., just two hours after the tornado hit, a representative from Ocadiz called on his behalf because his power was out.
“They thought of me before I could even think of them,” said Matt Hobbs.
He said it was a testimonial for Ocadiz and his team.
It’s also probably a testament to having an agent who knows you.
“It really reinforces having . . . someone we trusted,” Hobbs said.
Stacey Hobbs said she felt for all of her friends and neighbors who have a long way to go to recover, especially those whose insurance policies may not be enough.
“My heart really goes out to these people,” she said. “It’s going to make things even more difficult.”
This story was originally published May 2, 2022 3:01 p.m.