Disaster-Related Home Improvements on the Rise

Increased volume and severity of natural disasters gives contractors an opportunity to help customers in a time of need.

Traditional home improvements are intended to boost the value and appearance of a property. But for a growing number of homeowners, repairs are forced by natural disasters. For contractors, the increased volume and severity of natural disasters requires a shift in thinking, while also presenting an opportunity to help customers in a time of need.

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According to the Improving America’s Housing report from Harvard University’s Joint Housing Center, over the last decade, disaster repairs have increased both in volume and as a percentage of overall home improvement. The leading cause of damage cited in the Harvard report was severe weather (43 percent), followed by lighting/fire (22 percent), flooding (18 percent) and tornado or hurricane damage (17 percent).

In addition, the regions facing a high potential for disaster is widening. Compare these two lists of cities at risk for natural disasters: a 2015 USA Today list is topped by nine cities in the South and Midwest, but by 2019, US News & World Report’s top 10 includes seven California cities. Whether from wildfires or hurricane damage, there’s no portion of the country unaffected by the rise in natural disasters.

How does this affect contractors?

The biggest change is in the sales process. Homeowners are far more stressed during disaster repairs, and a contractor’s ability to work with an insurance adjuster and navigate the insurance draw system is just as important as growing a long-term relationship with a client. And, insurance involvement makes a big impact. Homeowners spend far less when digging into their own pocket. The Harvard study found insurance-funded disaster repairs average $20,000, compared to owner-funded projects at around $12,000.

Natural disasters are never a good thing, but in their aftermath, contractors have the opportunity to help customers return to their homes safer and happier than ever before.