So here we are at the first stage of hiring workmen to replace the air conditioner and reroof the house. The insurance company ponied up about $11,100 for a new AC, a new roof, and repairs to the CoolDeck. That amount will cover the air conditioner and the roof, just barely.
I joined up Angie’s List by way of getting names of contractors who have at least not driven SOME people into fits of rage. The result was a little mixed, but I did find a roofer who’s supposedly OK. And, having become disenchanted with my own AC guy after the company changed hands, I’d already learned of one air-conditioning contractor from my neighbor Sally; the other new neighbors, who moved in to Dave’s (former) Used Car Lot, Marina, and Weed Arboretum, recommended a second one based in Sunnyslope, right around the corner from us.
M’hijito and I have used a roofer—both houses needed to be reroofed shortly after we purchased them—who did a good job and seemed to be honest. I called him and found him strangely reluctant, but he showed up and produced a bid of $7,200: almost $2,000 more than he bid five years ago to roof the same house, when he had to replace rotted plywood to the tune of $48.50 per sheet.
The Sunnyslope roofer wanted $5,400 to install a 14-seer Goodman air conditioner, the smallest SEER for which the government will disgorge a $1,500 tax kickback on a high-efficiency unit.
$5,400 + $7,200 = $12600
$12,600 – $11,100 = $1,500
Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever see any tax refund from that federal offer, because it’s unlikely that I will pay any taxes at all this year. Thanks to the costs of Medicare B, Medicare D, Medigap, and long-term care insurance, my medical costs—before the $700 pair of glasses—far exceed 7.5% of my income. Social Security, the main source of my 2010 income, is taxed under some strange and incomprehensible system that keeps the cost fairly low, and I’ve hardly drawn down any of my savings this year. Income from teaching is even more minuscule than Social Security benefits. And the S-corporation will shelter almost all my freelance income, which was more minuscule still.
So…I’m going to have to land the best deal I can on the least cheesy product anyone will offer me.
The Sunnyslope air-conditioning guy came in with a bid of $5,400, and he proposed to defraud my insurance company by emanating a bid for a 14-SEER unit but calling it 13-SEER, since he claimed that the insurance company would pay for nothing better than 13-SEER—once again proving that crime doesn’t pay. Sally’s guy issued a bid for $5,200 for 14-SEER, hold the bullshit.
Two hundred dollars isn’t a big difference, but he didn’t propose to lie to the insurer. In my experience, if a person will cheat someone else, sooner or later he’ll cheat you, too.
Now about that $7,200 roof… The guy whose name I got from Angie’s list gave me a bid of $6,100, eleven hundred bucks better than my old roofer’s proposal. Same job, same quality of shingling (different brand, though), a little higher on replacing plywood, decking, molding, and fascia.
That’s getting down into the almost reasonable range.
$6,100 + $5,200 = $11,300
Only a couple hundred bucks more than the insurance has paid.
However, here is a very interesting site, where various kinds of contractors go online and talk shop. Get into the roofers’ forum, explore around, and eventually you’ll come to a thread where the men are chatting about a practice in which the outfits that descend on a town after a storm offer to pay a homeowner’s deductible to get their business. Well, there is an outfit in the neighborhood just now that doesn’t appear to be altogether fly-by-night. It’s a little suspicious that the company’s A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau dates from November of 2010 (and, one might note, that when one looks into how you apply for an A+ rating, one is not left with much confidence in that), but the Registrar of Contractors shows that they’ve been in business for 20 years. They’re flying through with crews of six or eight men and reroofing each house in a day or two. I could ask for a bid and find out if they’ll come down the amount of the $2,000 deductible.
The forum-going roofing guys think this practice is unethical. Some of them think it’s illegal—they think it’s insurance fraud. However, it’s hard to see how it would be fraudulent if the insurance company has already paid out and has seen bids from legitimate companies that are not basing their bids on any such schemes. Once the insurance company has paid what its representatives think is fair, it’s up to the homeowner to find the best price within the confines of the amount she has to work with.
What fun! I can hardly wait to get started on the construction.