|By Erik Olson, Billings Gazette, Mont.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Last month's violent hailstorm caused millions of dollars worth of damage to property owners. The storm dented cars, smashed windows, shredded siding and pounded roofs.
The misfortune has been a gold mine for roofers, contractors and suppliers, whose ranks have been swelled by out-of-state repair crews rushing to town. But the demand still isn't being met.
Meanwhile, home owners are left haggling with insurance adjusters, worrying about which repairmen they can trust and when their repairs will be finished.
"It's good for business, sure. But it's hard for my business because we're having to tell people, 'We just can't get to you now,'" said
State insurance commission officials don't
^ptrack overall claim volume but say it certainly reached the tens of thousands for the storm.
In May, the most recent data available, new general and roofing contractors filed for new city business licenses. Of those companies, 18 listed addresses or phone numbers from out of state, though others could have established a local presence before registering with the city.
"A hailstorm hits, and it's just head over heels, rock 'n' roll," said
The seven-decade-old Bradford Roofing does mostly commercial roofing and has seen business swell from both damaged businesses and homes. Still, Bradford said he's frustrated by out-of-town roofers that cut corners and give the industry a bad name.
During a recent drive through town, Bradford said he counted eight different roofers that he felt were operating unsafely, scrimping on equipment such as safety harnesses. That's how some companies keep their costs down and make it harder to compete, he said.
"It's very frustrating because it's expensive, and obviously the payoff is very big for us to keep our guys safe," said Bradford, president of the
A third-generation business owner, Bradford said he worries that storm chasers are dragging down roof prices and insurance reimbursements overall, while doing work that will need to be fixed later anyway. He said he's seen insurance estimates that he believes are as much as half of what a repair should cost.
"Roofs can be done, and be done right. But you can't run through it and make sure it's done properly," he said.
Insurers say they base their estimates on price surveys of contractors nationwide that's compiled in a software database called Xactimate. They added that the initial estimate is just that, and it can be adjusted.