In-Depth Interview On Navigating Insurance Claims and Reconstruction with Davor from Areté Renovators

Navigating Insurance Claims and Reconstruction

We had an insightful discussion with Davor Jokanovic, the esteemed Vice President of Areté Renovators. With a reputation for excellence and a deep-seated commitment to their clients, Areté Renovators has carved a niche for themselves in the realm of home renovation, reconstruction and insurance claims.

Today, we delve into our unique approach that combines expertise, personal connection, and unwavering commitment to quality. We will hear from Davor about the seamless process of working with clients filing insurance claims for their homes, a testament to Areté’s mission of bringing peace of mind to homeowners amidst the often daunting task of remodeling.

Could you speak a little bit about the types of insurance claim projects that Areté has worked on?

So for the past 15 years, we have worked on all kinds of different insurance claims throughout Chicagoland. We have worked on interior projects such as basements, bathrooms, kitchens, full house renovations and reconstruction (one of which we are currently working on), as well as some of the exterior projects. We have had roofing, siding, and some decking as well. Majority of the claims we have negotiated for clients have been related to interior water damage. Exterior claims we have worked on are usually weather related – storm damage, heavy snowmelt, water intrusion, etc.

You have found that the most common issues are usually water-related or projects involving water damage. Do you think it’s important to bring in a remediation company prior to bringing in the contractor?

I would suggest getting a contractor involved as soon as possible. Sometimes clients lose control over their projects immediately because they call the insurance company and the insurance company dispatches one of their remediation companies immediately and they start the dry out and remediation process. Remediation company fees are drastically higher than a contractors due to certain licenses they carry. But I would definitely get a contractor involved as soon as possible so that they can really determine what area needs to be demoed.

Sometimes they demo more than necessary, but starting to have that conversation between the client, the contractor, and the adjuster at an early stage, would be extremely advantageous for the client.

Are there any tips that you’d like to give homeowners in the market for new homeowners insurance?

That’s actually a really good question. When you search for your insurance, and this is coming from a lot of experience dealing with all different types of insurance companies for the past 15 years, I would definitely do some research on what insurance company you go with. Sometimes we’re very driven by price and finding the least expensive homeowner’s insurance, but this is not a place to save money when it comes to picking your insurance.

I have had insurance claims that took months to come to some kind of agreement, even on the smaller amounts. I would say anywhere from $5,000-$30,000. Usually, when the claim becomes much higher (six figures and above), the client and the claim get transferred to a different department where the insurance company’s legal team is more involved. At that stage, certain procedures and steps have to be taken into consideration; however, when you pick your insurance company do a little bit of research.

Find out their reviews, how they pay out, what they cover, etc. More importantly, when you do sign for insurance, make sure that you read the contract carefully. There’s a lot of detailed information that is written in there that could cost you thousands and thousands of dollars! Especially if you have a house that has a basement, or if you have a duplex, like I do, you have to really make sure that you take all these different things into consideration and review your options to ensure you are fully covered.

If applicable to your property, make sure your coverage includes a sump pump, seepage, drainage coming from outside, the backup battery for the sump pump or drain tiles, and failure of electricity. You have got to make sure you’re fully covered. I personally just went through this process about six months ago because I purchased, like I said, a duplex and I wanted to make sure that I was really fully covered. Your agent should be your partner and make sure that your best interests are covered as well. Make sure that you ask those questions and that they explain to you exactly what you’re paying for and what is not included.

Thank you. That was very, very thorough and informative. In the same vein, is there any advice that you’d give homeowners prior to filing out a claim that already have homeowners insurance?

So, you know, people tend to obviously panic right away. And depending if it’s a personal residence or investment property, the first thing that comes to their mind is to stop the damage, right? Locate the source of what’s causing the damage. If it’s water, try and find the main shut-off for the unit or the building and shut that off immediately. If it’s a fire, get out, and call the fire department. I do not recommend that you try to put the fire out. Unfortunately, I just lost a friend of mine from high school due to a fire in their house. So once that happens and you stop the source, you will want to open a claim.

After you call your agent and open an insurance claim, they should relatively quickly (within 24 to 48 hours) send an adjuster out to look at the damages. I would also, at the same time, recommend calling a contractor. If you already have your contractor, get them out there immediately and ideally have them at the walkthrough with the adjuster. There could be some things that the adjuster is not going to see that a skilled contractor would bring to their attention. We already talked about involving a remediation company. That’s something that you can discuss with your agent or with your contractor.

One thing that I would like to also mention is that there are certain contractors that work solely with insurance companies, so if they reach out to you and they come out, they will try and give you a piece of paper to sign. They will attempt to lock you into a working relationship with a particular company versus giving you the option to pick a contractor independently. If you do sign something like that, all the checks written by the insurance company are going to be named to you and a contractor. So you will not be able to cash those. So that’s very important to not sign anything from a contractor that your insurance company is sending.

Areté Renovators Team
Areté Renovators Team

Could you speak a little bit about what sets Areté apart from its competitors when it comes to working with clients that have insurance claims specifically?

So every year we handle about four to eight insurance claims with clients that directly reach out to us. Currently, we’re working on the highest number of insurance projects we have ever had. These projects include a house that’s close to a million-dollar claim down to as simple as, you know, $20-$30,000. We recently had a client that reached out to us that had basement damage. They were going to pay out of pocket. It was about $45,000 worth of reconstruction. I recommended that they open a claim because it was related to damages from outside and they were able to get a fully paid out claim. They were extremely thankful I was able to save them $45,000. One thing that really makes us stand out, well, there are a few things. Number one being my experience with the backing of our team.

A lot of insurance companies have adjusters that are not really experienced in the field. These are people who have usually just entered the industry. The client then ends up dealing with the insurance company for six months. Adjusters are not contractors. There has not been a single claim that I reviewed that did not exclude at least one detail in the scope. It’s very important to have those claims reviewed. I personally along with our Production Team and subs review those claims to make sure that our clients are recovering the full amount of what has been damaged. The insurance company is responsible for fully recovering what has been damaged and restoring it back to its original state. Our team makes sure that, apples to apples, the adjuster’s scope is prepared correctly without important exclusions.​​

Secondly, you know, we have that conversation with insurance going back and forth. Sometimes we get into disagreements with the insurance company. Currently insurance companies aren’t paying the same they would be paying for a house versus remodeling a condo in Downtown Chicago. So we always make sure the pricing matches and everything is in the best interests of the client. That’s a very important component.

Are there any other services that Areté offers to clients concerning insurance claims?

A lot of times when there’s bigger damage to the unit or house and people cannot live there anymore, we do offer additional services such as finding a temporary home for the time being, relocating people, and more importantly, giving advice when it comes to personal property. Currently, we are working with a client with an insurance claim who’s a huge art collector. They have over 300 pieces of art. Some of them got damaged. We are in the process of going through and making sure that everything is stored properly as well as working with a third party to create a list of all the items that have been damaged as well.

We’ve also provided additional services in his house. He has an elevator, and since we are a full-service design-build firm, we are handling all the maintenance and replacement with the elevator company as well as jacuzzi, low voltage, and things like that. It’s important not to just think about what in the unit itself has been damaged, but you also have to think about all the additional expenses such as the change of living situation, and personal property. In this case, the client has had to relocate farther away from their job, which adds the unforeseen expense of work trips coming back and forth, as well as personal trips to come back to their home and revisit the progress of reconstruction. It’s important to us to help our clients keep track of all of those expenses and make sure that they’re fully reimbursed.

If you would like to learn more about our insurance claims and reconstruction process at Areté Renovators call our Chicago remodeling experts at 773-683-3033 to schedule a consultation to talk about your particular project.