Hurricane Dorian left a path of destruction never seen in the history of the modern Bahamas. Abaco and Grand Bahama may never be the same. However, the saddest part of the present reality is that so many homeowners in these islands failed to have their properties appraised and insured.
In my earlier columns, I covered some of the reasons persons appraise their properties, but today, I want to discuss some new ones, as well as why it’s so important to regularly appraise prior to hurricane season.
Now more than ever, it is important to have your home appraised. If disaster hits and your home is destroyed or badly damaged, you have a starting point to settle with your insurance company. Home appraisal and hurricane insurance go hand in hand, and yet many decide to do without both.
In my professional observation, I’ve noticed that once persons satisfy their financial obligations with their banks, they decide it is better to do without hurricane insurance. Yes, hurricane insurance is costly, but we cannot forget that we live in The Bahamas. For at least six months of the year, we must be constantly prepared because we are in a hurricane zone, and sadly this is not going to change.
Hurricane Dorian formed on August 24th and wreaked havoc in Abaco by September 1st. All it takes is one week to lose everything if you fail to protect your home and assets.
During my recent trip to Freeport, I was surprised how many homes were built at street level. When a hurricane hits, homes in low-lying areas flood quickly, which makes preparation that much more important.
Know where your home is located and talk to your contractor about the best ways to strengthen your home against hurricanes.
If your property is in a low-lying area, it makes sense to elevate it ahead of hurricane season. Yes, it will cost you a bit more but in the long run you will sleep better without having to worry about your furniture and other possessions floating away.
It is also wise to get your home appraised regularly and sending a copy to your insurance company when you have major renovations done to your home. After putting in the time and effort necessary to improve your property, it only makes sense to know how much it is worth today. Renovation is smart; reward yourself by seeing how much value you have added to your home.
While there is no guarantee that you will get what you want from your insurance company, you will at least have a starting figure to use as leverage.
Bahamas, we have been complacent because we never think the big storm is going to hit us. We were lucky for many years, but now we must do better. Hurricane Dorian got my attention. I am hopeful that the insurance companies will come up with a comprehensive program, which will allow us to have our homes insured—perhaps not for the full value—but enough to give us enough to get us back on our feet again after this disaster.
On another note, it is so important during times like this to assist charities like Rotary, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Wherever you go to church, give generously. We have been spared in Nassau, but so many people are hurting. So many lost their homes, others lost their businesses, and some lost everything but the clothes on their backs.
Won’t you please help?
• William Wong is a two-term president of the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers’ Confederation and two-term president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association. He is also a partner at Darville-Wong Realty. E-mail: email@example.com.