Friday, March 1, 2013

What to Do After A Flood

After flood waters subside, document, work with your insurer, and clean up safely. Whether a flood is caused by ground water, falling water, or home water system malfunction, there are some best practices you’ll need to employ within the first 24 hours after the flood to ensure the safety of your home and family and give you the best outcome possible with your insurance company. Avoid additional risks If the flood was serious enough for you to leave your home, be sure you stay safe upon your return. The Federal Emergency Management Agency warns that you should check for any visible structural damage, such as warping, loosened or cracked foundation elements, cracks, and holes before entering the home and contact utility companies if you suspect damage to water, gas, electric, and sewer lines. In addition, it’s important to have a working flashlight and turn off all water and electrical sources within the home, says Dr. Maurice A. Ramirez, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Disaster Preparedness. Even if the power isn’t operational, it’s a good idea to go to your fuse box and turn off the main, plus all of the individual fuse connections. That way, if the power is reactivated, you’re not at risk for mixing standing water and electricity. Take pictures Before you remove any water or make any repairs, fully document the damage for your insurer by taking photos or video. Digital versions are best, says Ramirez, because they can be stored electronically and easily copied. If you start removing water or making repairs before you photograph the damage, you could potentially decrease the extent of your coverage, he says. Protect your health Even if the water in your home is clear, it could be contaminated by sewage or household chemicals. Ramirez recommends wearing waders, hip- or waist-high waterproof boots. In addition, wear rubber gloves to remove water-damaged possessions and to avoid contaminants, Ramirez notes. Be sure to throw out any food that may have come into contact with flood waters. FEMA recommends boiling water until authorities declare the water supply is safe. Call your insurance company Since you should notify your insurer soon as possible after the flood, it’s a good idea to keep your insurance company and local agent’s phone number in your always-ready emergency bag. (Note that the NFIP works through private insurance companies, so you contact your insurer just as you would for any other type of claim). In cases where a flood has affected a region or community, your agent may be busy handling his or her own flood issues. In that case, contact the insurance company’s headquarters. Since groundwater flood damage typically isn’t covered by conventional homeowners insurance policies, you’ll need to work with your insurer to determine the cause of the flood and the extent of your coverage. Advise your insurance representative of the state of your home and any repairs you intend to do immediately. Be sure to follow the insurance company’s direction about whether or not to wait for an adjuster to inspect the property before making repairs, says Ramirez. Document the damage and conversations at every stage of the process. What can you expect in terms of time to get back to normal? It could be as little as one week if the claim and clean up is minimal to five to six months if you’re working with an insurance adjustor and contractor to complete extensive repairs. Find out if you’re in a disaster area Once a region has been officially declared a “disaster area” by government authorities, property owners have access to increased resources, including public services to protect and remediate the area. In addition, you may have access to financial assistance. Your insurance company will have additional information on this or you can contact FEMA directly. Remove water Once you get the OK from your insurer to remove the water, use a sump pump, available from most hardware or home supply stores for $150 to $500, and a wet vac ($40 to $130). Ramirez cautions that water is heavy—a cubic foot weight 10 lbs.—so be careful not to injure yourself, especially if you’re carrying buckets of water up and down stairs. Open doors and windows to allow fresh air to circulate so long as that won’t allow in more water. Mitigate mold damage Mold can develop within 24 to 48 hours of a flood, says Ashley Small of FEMA, so remove wet contents, including carpeting and bedding, as soon as possible. If an item has been wet for less than 48 hours, it may be salvageable. However, you’ll need to decide whether it holds enough monetary or sentimental value to try to do so. And notify your insurance company before removing items to ensure that you’re not affecting coverage. Always photograph the flood-soaked items. Rugs, for example, may be dried and then cleaned professionally, which could cost $100 to $500 or more, depending on the size and number. Large pieces of furniture that are saturated will likely be difficult to dry effectively, and should often be discarded. Mold growth can be controlled on surfaces by cleaning with a non-ammonia detergent or pine oil cleaner and disinfecting with a 10% bleach solution. (Caution: Never mix ammonia and bleach products, as the resulting fumes can be highly toxic.) Always test this solution on a small area of the item or area you’re cleaning to be sure it doesn’t cause staining or fading. Take photographs before removing wet wallboards and baseboards because insurers will want to see the height of any water damage to walls. Carefully poke holes at floor level in the drywall to allow water trapped behind it to escape. You may also wish to hire a flood restoration service—you can find pros under “Flood” or “Disaster recovery” in your local phone book, or check with the Better Business Bureau, local Chamber of Commerce, or contractor recommendation sites, such as or Look for those with Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification. Secure the property As the homeowner, it’s your responsibility to secure the property so that no additional damage occurs. Put boards over broken windows and secure a tarp as protection if the roof has been damaged. Again, take photographs to prove to the insurance company that you have done everything possible to protect your home against further damage. If the home is habitable, take precautions to keep yourself and your family safe from injury. Use flashlights to move around dark rooms, for example. If the home isn’t habitable, don’t try to stay there. Move to a shelter or alternate location. Consult your insurer to find out what provisions the company will make for temporary housing while your home is being repaired. Read more:

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Consumer confidence, home sales up

MoneyWatch) Reports out today show increases in consumer confidence and home sales, further evidence Americans are focusing more on an improving economy than the drastic, across-the-board "sequestration" cuts slated to take effect Friday. The Conference Board Consumer-Confidence Index rose to 69.6 in February, the highest level in three months and an 11 point increase over January's 58.4. The rebound is the result of consumers coming to terms with the rise in payroll taxes which took place in January, according to Lynn Franco of the Conference Board. As sequester looms public attention fades U.S. housing market poised to take-off this year Home prices post healthy gain in December "Consumer confidence rebounded in February as the shock effect caused by the fiscal cliff uncertainty and payroll tax cuts appears to have abated," says Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. "Consumers' assessment of current business and labor market conditions is more positive than last month. Looking ahead, consumers are cautiously optimistic about the outlook for business and labor market conditions. Income expectations, which had turned rather negative last month, have improved modestly." Modestly is clearly the governing word here. Even with February's sharp rebound confidence remains relatively low -- generally when the economy is growing at a good rate, levels are at least 90. Also, analysts remain concerned that confidence could drop again, even if looming government budget cuts don't happen. "The latest increase presumably reflects the upward trend in equity prices seen during the survey period, which has gone into reverse in recent days," says Amna Asaf of Capital Economics. "It is possible that confidence will drop back in the coming months. Since the cutoff date for this survey, which was mid-February, gasoline prices have risen by an additional 10 cents a gallon, while equity prices are below their five-year high levels." However, the continuing recovery in the housing market may further boost that confidence. Last month, new-home sales jumped to the highest level since July 2008. With the month's supply of houses on the market at its lowest since March 2005, current home owners are also seeing a rise in home prices. The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new-home sales rose nearly 16 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 437,000. The percentage increase was the largest in nearly 20 years. And December's sales were revised higher to 378,000 from 369,000. Steady job creation and near-record-low mortgage rates are spurring more Americans to buy houses. In addition, the number of previously occupied homes for sale is at a 13-year low; all of which is increasing demand for new homes. In 2012, builders began construction on the most homes in four years. Though new homes represent less than 20 percent of the housing sales market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the National Association of Homebuilders. The increase in home building has helped boost construction hiring. The industry has gained 98,000 jobs since September, the best stretch since the spring of 2006. Still, the increases in new-home sales are coming from depressed levels. Sales plummeted to a record low in 2011. And sales are still well below the 700,000 annual level economists considered healthy.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


When the burden grows heavy, and rough is the way, When you falter and slip, and it isn't your day, And your best doesn't measure to what is required, When you know in your heart that you're fast growing tired, With the odds all against you, there's one thing to do: That is, call on your courage and see the thing through. Who battles for victory ventures defeat. Misfortune is something we all have to meet ; Take the loss with the grace you would take in the gain. When things go against you, don't whine or complain; Just call on your courage and grin if you can. Though you fail to succeed, do not fail as a man. There are dark days and stormy, which come to us all, When about us in ruin our hopes seem to fall. But stand to whatever you happen to meet— We must all drink the bitter as well as the sweet. And the test of your courage is: What do you do In the hour when reverses are coming to you. Never changed is the battle by curse or regret, Though you whimper and whine, still the end must be met And who fights a good fight, though he struggle in vain, Shall have many a vict'ry to pay for his pain. So take your reverses as part of the plan Which God has devised for creating a man. Courage-By Edgar A Guest