So ... A house fire is an interesting experience indeed

Discussion in 'Amplitude Modulation' started by W2WDX, Mar 29, 2020.

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  1. W2WDX

    W2WDX Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi all,

    Some of you may remember, I had a house fire on June 3rd of last year. Everyone was safe, including the two puddy-cats. But the house and contents was a total loss. I have been in a nice apartment in town ever since, cleaning and testing my surviving station gear. Some of it is fine, some are not. Mostly it's the newer stuff that didn't fair well, while the vintage stuff is fine business.

    However, not having a station in the interim has been a disappointment. More so when you consider how long I didn't have the ability to set up a decent station due to living as a renter for most of my life. Now I have a house and did put together a great station, only to be denied by "the event". Grr ...

    What advice I can give to anyone who owns their house outright (no mortgage) is to make sure you have excellent homeowners insurance. The costs are huge otherwise. Saving money each year by not having insurance would be a recipe for potential pain and expense, if not total homelessness. Ya know ... a penny wise, dollar foolish sort of thing. Trust me, saving a few thousand a year on insurance is just ignorant. I had had great insurance fortunately, yet of course, it's a process. Like I said the fire happened last June and the house will not be livable until late May. This is due to "the process" of filing and receiving payment on a claim. Take for instance that a complete, and I mean complete, inventory on every item in the house had to be performed before any construction could be started, including remediation. Even with a professional company doing the inventory (under my watchful eye) it took five months to get a preliminary payment. However, I know dealing with "the process" is far better than trying to secure financing equal to or greater than the resale value of the property, which is generally is what it costs at a minimum to replace the home and contents.

    I have my own public adjuster, who oversees and negotiates with the carrier, however that doesn't mean I can sit by and let things go on their own. I have spent everyday since the fire on the phone, paying bills, front-loading moneys, acquiring permits and inspections, and overseeing construction. Everyday. It's a full time job, even with the excellent professionals I have on this.

    There is an upside to all this though. A brand new house and stuff. Everything is being replaced and upgraded. For instance, I now have a 300A AC service back to the utility pole, versus the 100A service I had previously. It is configured for the addition of solar power if I go that route in the future. The entire house (not just my station) is now wired to code. The entire house is now insulated; every wall, floor and roof. It wasn't previously. The heating system and boiler are new efficient units. The previous boiler was from the fifties and oil. It's now piped gas. The cost for heating was over $500/month every month all year on an oil contract. Mind you in the winter we kept the thermostat at 69F! Now we estimate from the required energy audit that heating will cost only $75/month averaged over 12 months at 72F. Quite a savings indeed on this small two-bedroom house. New appliances means better efficiency on power overall, which means more utilitarian savings.

    The entire second floor was removed and replaced down to the deck, including the various gables. The only original structure was the first floor framing, which was also adapted to modern standards such as proper headers across the top of all entryways, doors and windows, along with reinforced vertical support beams. The original wood single-pane casement windows and doors are all replaced with modern energy efficient replacements. New sheet-rock throughout the entire house. No changes to the original floor plan nor square footage. I could have added some more room, but I was concerned about tax assessment. The town assessors office came in to do an inspection and actually reduced my real estate taxes slightly, since the property values in the area had dropped from when the last assessment was performed in 2007. Surprise!

    The actual construction costs are coming in around $200K and the contents replacement costs look to be about $125K. This is a small house, very small. It's enough for a family of three or two people at best. No dining room. Just a small kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, a tiny front room (converted porch), one bath, an attic and unfinished basement. It is what some would call a Long Island bungalow. The point is ... I can't imagine what I would do if I hadn't had good homeowners insurance. While getting the approvals and money out of the carrier is like pulling teeth on an elephant, in the end they will be paying for all of it. To date we have about 80% paid and in hand at this point, with more promised and highly likely to come.

    Another point ... make sure you have a separate endorsement to cover amateur radio equipment and associated gear. I added that last year in February, and I am ecstatic I did. Otherwise none of it would have been covered at all. Most homeowners policies do not cover electronics, or is depreciated by 80% or more if it is. I had a full replacement cost value endorsement added to the policy (for the entire contents of the house), along with a separate similar endorsement for all of my electronics, which means everything is covered outright and any depreciation is recoverable once replacements are purchased. This cost me an additional $261 per year on my premium. My losses, including my professional audio, home audio and my shack gear, are about $50K. So the added premium was well worth the cost in the long run.

    The point I am trying to make here is all these benefits that did come out of this disaster are only happening because I had insurance ... good insurance. Proper insurance, not the bear minimums. I know there would have been no way I could have been able to perform or finance a fifth of what has been done to date without good insurance.

    As far as the station, during the interim the town came and took down the last tree in the front of my house. Damn invasive species insects did it in. So the east end of my dipole has nowhere to go. So it looks like a pole is going up in my front yard. Gotta talk with the neighbors and see what they think, not to mention my friend the mayor. Funny thing is the construction went on around my masting on the house for the feed-point of the dipole which was on the chimney, much to the dismay of the workers. But they didn't mess with it at all. In fact they coiled it up neatly and secured it.

    I plan to be back on the air sometime late summer, maybe sooner. Of course it all depends on delays caused by our little "democratic hoax" that "will go away like a miracle in few weeks". Umm ... yeah. Hope all of you are healthy and heeding the warnings of the reasonable sensible people. It only seems bad in New York because we are actually doing large scale testing, 10 to 1 of other states. I got tested and I am asymptomatic. So the numbers here are more reflective of the truth; not the results of the hopeful or uncommitted. If you're outside of New York, do yourself and others a favor. Stay home. Where there is little testing going on you must assume you and everybody else have it; there is no way to know for sure since few people have been tested outside of NY. This is not a flu, and hundreds of thousands will be dead at the end of this in the US. So stay home and keep you and your community safe or at least safer. Play radio!!!!
    KA0HCP, PY2RAF and N0TZU like this.
  2. W2VW

    W2VW XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Hi John,

    Glad things are getting put back together. Right before your fire I heard you on the air giving a guy a wide signal report.

    I sent him this email the next day:

    The guy who gave you the wide signal report had his house catch on fire last night.

    Just thought you might be interested.


    Dave W2VW
    K5UJ likes this.
  3. K6CLS

    K6CLS Ham Member QRZ Page

    your story has a happy middle and ending. Uplifting to read it, thanks for posting. You offer much experience and great advice all around. You will get on the air again!! Yeah, everyone stay healthy and follow directions.

    PS I'm not a betting man but insurance is usually a really good deal, easy to have it, not worthwhile being pennywise and saving relatively a little on it.
    K5UJ likes this.
  4. W7TFO

    W7TFO Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Wisdom personified here.

    K5UJ likes this.
  5. WO4K

    WO4K XML Subscriber QRZ Page


    I have also gotten that t-shirt. You are spot-on regarding your advice on insurance. My added advice to all is to make absolutely sure your policy is for FULL REPLACEMENT value, not existing value. Otherwise you will receive garage sale prices when they reimburse for your clothing and household goods. We were lucky in that we had the former. Even if the house does not burn down completely, the smoke damage will ruin everything else, including the clothes in your closets and drawers. Our fire happened on a Saturday for us. Only the kitchen, dining room and living room were burned. We were sitting on our back porch with our kids that afternoon after the fire department left, in shock, wondering what to do next. Our insurance agent found us there, handed us a check for $5K and told us to get a furnished apartment, then inventory and photograph every bit of furniture and clothes, including the maker, then go buy similar clothes and send him the reciepts. Same process for replacing the upholstered furniture Our experience was painful, but he sure made it easier. A good insurance company and agent are a great asset when the excrement hits the ventilation system. Six months later our lives were back in order. Like you, we got a virtually new house with updated wiring, roof, appliances and much more. Doing that picture inventory before a fire is a good idea, too.

    Bud, WO4K
    K5UJ likes this.
  6. W2WDX

    W2WDX Subscriber QRZ Page

    It's quite remarkable just how much there is to do logistically, so the fact I don't have to worry about money so much does make things easier. I was very fortunate that early on I hit on a contractor who is willing to front-load the job. In other words, is willing to self-finance and wait for the money from the carrier later. We did have issues with the adjuster from the carrier not be very good and causing delays on monies going out. We just got the first preliminary payment check for the building work just two weeks ago ($165K). We had nothing prior to this, however the contractor paid for everything up front. This is the exception more than the rule. If money doesn't come from the carrier in a timely manner, many contractors will stop work till it does.

    He was also smart in that he predicted the COVID situation; watching the news about the outbreak in China and figured it was bad and was potentially going to come here soon enough (unlike our Federal government). He ordered all the materials for the job in February, down to the paint. The only thing needed is major appliances, like the stove and refrigerator. Everything else to finish the house is there already. He is being limited by the State of New York to having only two people work on the house right now, but things are getting done regardless. Finding a good, financially strong, and intelligent contractor is also as important as having good insurance. If anyone on Long Island, NY ever needs a great residential contractor, you can PM or email me.
    W1TRY likes this.
  7. K5UJ

    K5UJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    Agree with and second the preceding comments.
  8. W1TRY

    W1TRY XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I'm glad to hear that things are moving along and that you're insurance and financial pre-planning was on point.
    I don't know how they're going to find you the factory new replacement KW-1 and SX-88 units you claim you lost, but I can't wait to see the pictures when they get delivered! :p
  9. W3MMR

    W3MMR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Good to hear john. We were just asking about you on 85 the other week. Hope to hear ya soon

  10. W2WDX

    W2WDX Subscriber QRZ Page

    Here's an interesting update ... more of a commentary actually!

    So ... I tried to make an order for some things I lost in the fire from B&H Photo in NYC. Just a DSLR and some accessories. The total was a little over $2000. So I pulled out my bank debit card for an account I have about quarter million dollars in. No joy. There is a limit of $1600 per day on the card. OK ... so I use my business PayPal account, which is linked to two large bank accounts and two debit cards. Nope ... denied. It wasn't PayPal, it was more bank limits. Couldn't even use the bank accounts as the preferred payment method. Limits on that too.

    So I call my branch manager and the most they can authorize is $2000 per day for any online transactions. I explained between COVID and the house fire, I am currently left with ordering the contents for an entire house online, since furniture stores and appliances places are "non-essential" and closed. So he goes, well I can offer you a personal loan for the amount you need". And I reply, "Oh that's brilliant ... so I get a check from you right?" ... "Yes" ... "OK so I do what with that check? Deposit it into the account I can't use? .... ummm ... seriously?!" He says ... "Umm ... Oh yeah. That won't work."

    Then he goes, "Don't you have a credit card, that's how most people do it." Now here's the rub ... I have three; so I thought. But I don't use credit, never had a need to. I always paid for stuff either cash, debit or checks. Credit is just not part of my calculus, so I never use it; if I have liquidity why use credit. Turns out my three credit card accounts were closed "due to inactivity" and when I checked a few months ago so was my credit ratings. I actually had no FICO score or history. That's how long it's been since I used credit. So basically, now I'm a credit virgin who has to build up my credit rating like a college aged student. I'm 58, own my house outright with no mortgage, own my car outright, have an income (even semi-retired) at about 50K anually, have a very modest investment portfolio, and have over $500K in cash in the bank currently. However, I can't make an online purchase over $2000, mainly because I have a responsible attitude towards credit? Wha .. What!? There is something inherently wrong with that. I have to get credit just to use my "liquid" cash assets, when, where and how I choose. Seems backwards to me; in normal economies people obtain credit when they have little or no liquidity, not the other way around. Crazy world we live in, we are securing ourselves from terrorists passing cash in such a way as to make access to our own cash difficult. Banks are limited on what they can allow, thank you Patriot Act. Freedom ... denied!

    So what is the solution? Well turns out with a business PayPal account I can transfer any amount into my PayPal balance. There are no limits on transactions if you draw from your PayPal balance. If I had enough money in the balance I could buy a Lamborghini online via PayPal. You see ... PayPal is a money broker, not a bank. So banking regulations don't apply. Oddly, they just recently were covered by the FDIC, like a bank ... so go figure what their real status is. So even though it took three days to transfer about $20K into PayPal from my bank, I can now buy my freakin camera online! Probably wouldn't have this problem if I had money hidden away in Cyprus. Sometimes I really hate being "common".

    So I guess Al Qaeda and ISIS use PayPal business accounts ... eh? Yeah baby ... freedom!
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2020

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