The damage is extensive. An early estimate from the National Weather Service puts the cost at $900 million – the fourth costliest on record in Dallas. Sandra Helin, Southwestern Insurance Information Service spokesperson, said the cost could reach as high as $1.5 to $2 billion, making it the costliest on record. Currently, the costliest hailstorm on record occurred May 5, 1995 and created $1.6 billion worth of damage, adjusted to current rates.
“We hope it doesn’t get that high but who knows,” Helin said. “As these claims come in, it could go higher.”
While the most urgent work is largely complete, many residents are still receiving estimates and are choosing a company to do the work. There was a plethora to choose from as companies plastered the neighborhood with flyers in mailboxes, front doors and on car windshields. For those having difficulty choosing which company to do the repairs, the signs in their neighbors’ yards carry an implied recommendation.
“I’ve gotten solicitations from about 30 people... but it’s not the reputable ones that are pestering me,” said Cynthia Hollingsworth, who is comparing estimates for repairs to her double-pane skylights.
John Hofker, owner of Green Build Roof and parent company Lakewood Home repair located in Lakewood, said residents should research the company themselves. Helin advised residents to check a company's references and BBB rating before hiring.
Hofker said residents, especially in the hard hit Lakewood area, should watch out for what he calls storm chasers – businesses that follow severe weather and may have questionable practices. The warranty, he said, is only as good as the company that gives it, and if that company is based out of town or in another state, then there is no real accountability for the work.
“When they leave town, they’re done and their warranties go with them,” said Hofker, who has lived and worked in Lakewood for 19 years.
Hofker said another reason to use a local company for repairs is to keep the sales tax local. He estimates that there will be about $20 to $25 million in sales tax for roof repairs alone and wants to see that money invested in area roads and schools.
Some companies go beyond questionable practices to the unscrupulous and the illegal and use deceptive contracts to trap homeowners into hiring the company instead of providing the free estimate promised. Last year, Holden Roofing Inc., a residential roofing company based near Houston with offices in Dallas, paid $25,000 in civil penalties and restitution to homeowners after a state attorney brought charges against them for these practices. Hofker said these types of companies also target senior citizens with deceptive contracts to get their sign into a yard. Some offer to pay the insurance deductible, which Helin pointed out is insurance fraud.
“Some people want to go with the best price without checking out the quality of the service men,” said Hollingsworth (pictured above), a 37-year Lakewood resident. “People should check them out with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have insurance and to see if they are as good as they say they're going to be. [Residents] could spend a lot of their insurance money and not get a good product.”
Hollingsworth is in the middle of getting estimates for the damage done to her roof, pool and spa unit, and double panel skylights. Hofker, who gave her an estimate for her roof, said the total cost to repair everything could be between $35,000 to $50,000. She said she is glad she can still live in her house and is trying to be patient. That’s the advice Alan Walne, CEO of Herb’s Paint & Body, has for car owners.
“Make sure the person who repairs it has a good reputation and will be around to take care of you,” said Walne, who anticipates repairing cars damaged by the hailstorm through December. “Be patient and realize that resources are taxed and you may not be able to get it as fast as you want.”
Walne said he expects a 15 to 20 percent increase in business compared to last year. Chris Arrington, founder of Arrington Roofing, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the storm doubles his business from last year and Hofker, who specializes in historic repairs, said he has lined up as much business in the two weeks following the storm as he would in a normal 6 to 8-month period. Hofker said it is staggering.
Hofker added that the hailstorm, which broke six pieces in the “Persian Pond” Chihuly glass art exhibit at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, smashed the Lakewood Theater marquee and damaged the Lakewood Country Club golf course, and could change the historic landscape of the neighborhood if the repairs are not done properly and respectfully of the building's character.
“I think that 60 to 70 years from now people will look back at this storm and see how it changed… historic landscapes,” Hofker said. “It’s a test of whether we preserve or slap on repairs.”