How Insurance Companies And Appraisers Scam Their Customers
I’ve always trusted my insurance company, which I’ll call TRICKY DICK in this article, to do the right thing. After all, I’ve been a client of theirs for almost 20 years. They’ve benefited from my growth in assets and I now have auto insurance, homeowner’s insurance, valuable personal property insurance and an umbrella policy with them. Furthermore, I’ve got a relatively large chunk of change in CDs deposited with them as well.
I had a unwelcomed change in my credit card the other day and had to call Tricky Dick to cancel my existing card on file and add a new one. Imagine my surprise when looking over my previous statement that they were billing me 45% more a month in premiums! What the hell, I thought to myself. Clearly there must be a mistake. Oh how wrong I was.
HOW I GOT SCAMMED
Tricky Dick sent out a mandatory home inspector to my house last December to make sure my re-building costs were still the same. I don’t know what the rule is, but supposedly after so many years, a home inspection is mandated by law, or so a letter from Tricky Dick said. Uh huh. The inspector noted the amenities in my house and calculated the square footage. Apparently, the home inspector and Tricky Dick now believe I live in a mini-mansion with a livable square footage estimate 50% higher! WTF guys!
Based on Tricky Dick’s new square footage estimate, it now costs me $400/sqft to rebuild my house based on the new 50% larger size, and $600/sqft on my house’s real square footage! Somehow, the home inspector and Tricky Dick think that instead of hard wood floors, I have gold floors. All the door knobs have suddenly turned from crystal to diamonds. Meanwhile, my roof is not just any old roof, it’s clearly a landing pad for one of my Airwolf Helicopters. Come on guys. $400-600/square foot in building cost is ridiculous!
When I asked the Tricky Dick insurance woman how much the building costs are for her area in Colordao, she said $100-$200/sqft. Exactly, so why the F does Tricky Dick think it costs 4-6x more to build a house in San Francisco? It’s not like California has special wonder board, windows, nails, tiles, roofing, and wood. Building costs are roughly the same, and only the labor might be higher.
She sheepishly agreed and said she’d look into it.
GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT
This is what really pisses me off. Despite telling Tricky Dick to look up my house on the SF county records to see the real square footage, she said it is up to me to prove the real size of my house! Her company prevents her from logging on to the SF county records, Zillow, and all these other online real estate companies because of “security” reason. It is absolutely ludicrous that I have to fight the crooked home inspector’s assessment. Good thing I have an appraisal report from last year when I refinanced, detailing the floor plans, square footage and all the details within my house. If I didn’t, I’d have to go spend $700 to get an appraisal and then send it in. What a waste of time and money!
When companies waste my time, that’s when everything goes to hell. I did some investigating by talking to my friends in the real estate industry and what I found was disturbing.
They basically said home appraisers/inspectors are henchmen used to enrich the banks and insurance companies. With the banks, home appraisers manipulate the value higher so that a seller can sell to the buyer, even if the value is lower than reality. If a home does not appraise for what the buyer wants to pay, no transaction happens and nobody gets paid.
For insurance companies, home inspectors are asked to increase the value of the home by increasing the square footage and embellish the value of the amenities. Instead of laminate floors, they’ll put in Brazilian Cherry hardwood floors, or in my case gold floors. Instead of simple lights, they’ll enter crystal chandeliers to use to juice their estimates. This way, the insurance companies can charge a higher premium for coverage. In my case, Tricky Dick plans to charge me a full $1,200 more a year.
I am so disappointed that after all the money I have parked with Tricky Dick and after 20 years of being a client, they’d want to screw me like this. What the hell happened to more customer protection after the financial downturn? Apparently nothing much has changed.
GAME PLAN TO FIGHT BACK
My first instinct as a blogger was to contact Tricky Dick on Twitter and ask them for help. But just like the other five tweets I’ve sent over the past 12 months, nobody has ever responded. Why have a Twitter account if you don’t ever respond to your customers? Their social media effort is a D-.
I then called a nice representative who said she would investigate. She did and told me to send in proof of my home floor area, which is still a pain in the ass despite having the appraisal on file somewhere. I will send the document in and tell them to credit my account back for the two months overcharge. I will then ask them to reimburse three hours of my time and stress dealing with this bullshit valued at $500/hour, or $1,500 total.
If they do not give me something close to $1,500 credit, I will withdraw hundreds of thousands in cash deposits and shut all my insurance product accounts. If they keep me as a happy customer, they will probably get hundreds of thousands in deposits over the next 10 years. If not, I walk. I will vote with my money.
TOO BAD SO SAD
What makes this situation worse is that Tricky Dick is a great company 99% of the time. Their customer service is excellent and their rates for CDs and insurance products are competitive. Every time I talk to someone there, they are very helpful. It’s too bad a black sheep in the home insurance department at Tricky Dick convinced the home inspector to over appraise my home by 50% to make more money. To over appraise by 10-20% is reasonable, but by 50% is absolute hogwash.
Tricky Dick, I know you will never get back to me online. Just know that it’s not good to scam your customers, especially ones that have been loyal customers for two decades and who have a blog. Re-instill the faith I’ve had in you guys for all these years and make it right. After sending in my recent home appraisal, telling me it will take two weeks to have your corrupt home inspection department look into it is now wasting your company’s time and money. Just do the right thing and stop dicking around!
Recommendations For Property Homeowners:
* Get the best home insurance possible. In order for your property to grow in value you must protect your property from damage. Fires, floods, leaks, theft, and other accidents happen all the time. If you have cut-rate insurance, you could very well pay way more than you should. I highly recommend checking with USInsurance.com online to find the best home insurance rates. They have a huge network of providers that will compete against each other to provide the most tailored home insurance coverage possible that is affordable. Mobile home insurance, renters insurance, condo insurance, and homeowners insurance are just a few of the options based on the type of home in which you reside. Leverage the internet to save money and protect your largest asset.
* Make sure you refinance your mortgage. If you haven’t refinanced your mortgage in the past 6-12 months, I strongly suggest you at least check the latest rates online with Quicken Loans, the largest online mortgage retailer. They were founded by Dan Gilbert, also owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Because they have the largest online network, they can provide the lowest rates. They also seem more streamlined in the refinancing process than traditional bricks and mortar banks as well. Interest rates are at all time lows and won’t stay this low forever with quantitative easing ending. My latest refinance was for a 5/1 jumbo ARM at 2.625% from 3.125%. Might as well check because it’s free and there’s no obligation.
* Check Your Credit Score: Take a moment to check your free TransUnion credit score through GoFreeCredit.com, a company I trust. 30% of credit reports have errors, which could put a serious hamper on your refinancing or new loan borrowing abilities. I had a $8 late payment I didn’t even know I owed crush my score by 100 points come up during my last refinance! If you don’t want the credit monitoring service, simply cancel before the grace period is up. The average credit score for a rejected mortgage applicant is 729 as of 8/2013!