For Jake Durfee, hail can be perfectly sized — about an inch and a half in diameter, similar to a golf ball.
“Any smaller, if it does damage, people usually don’t care too much,” said Durfee, owner of Certified Hail and Dent, INC. “Any bigger and it could total the car.”
Durfee said this summer was shaping up to be one like any other. But then the afternoon of July 28 arrived, the skies opened and the biblical pummeling of the city’s Eastside began.
Durfee has been repairing hail-damaged vehicles for a decade, and has owned his own business on the city’s Westside for just over a year and a half. He said this summer’s weather has extended his business through the slower winter months and could mean more-than-steady business into the spring.
“We have about 50 cars we’re working on right now,” Durfee said, adding he could be doing even more repairs if he had the technicians and body shop paint bays to keep up.
“The July storm increased our revenues tenfold,” Durfee said. “Our average repair ticket is usually about $7,000 to $10,000. This storm has tickets up around $15,000.”
While the storm has provided a huge bump for business, it was so severe that only newer or higher-end cars are being salvaged, Durfee said.
“We’re only doing 2012s and newer,” he said. “So many older cars were totaled. Insurance companies will only pay about 60 percent of the total value before they scrap it. If it’s older than 2012, we’re probably not working on it.”
Durfee said that means a significant amount of lost potential business. He has, however, already leased a second space so he can accept more repair jobs, and said he’s now looking for a third space. His 14 technicians are keeping up with their current workload, and Durfee said he would like to hire four more — but would then have to consider hiring a manager.
Roofing is another trade that has seen significant revenue boost thanks to severe summer weather. Tim Abello, owner of Abello’s Roofing and Restoration, has been in business locally since early 2010. Prior to this year, 2012 was his busiest, with more than $5 million in revenue. His company is on pace to break $6 million this year.
“It’s been a crazy year for storms,” Abello said. “The first few hailstorms this summer were decent, but thanks to the last one, we’ve done more business in three weeks than we did all last year.”
Business has been driven by insurance referrals and repeat customers, he said, adding insurers use his business to inspect roofs before a claim is made.
“When you file a claim, even if there isn’t damage or money paid, it still goes on your record as a claim,” Abello cautioned. “Three of those [claims] in a five-year period and an insurance company might drop you.”
Abello also warned against using out-of-state companies for repairs.
“Storm chasers are everywhere in town right now,” he said. “They don’t care about their work. They throw what they can against the wall and then they’re gone, and we fix their leaks.”
Abello subcontracts painting, siding and fence repair projects as well as other outdoor restoration work, all trades that have seen plenty of work lately. But 90 percent of Abello’s revenue is through roofing work, he said, adding demand for all projects normally drops significantly in the fall.
“It is a seasonal trade. You’re going to do 30 to 40 percent less business, at least, in the winter than the summer,” Abello said. “This winter may be a little different because we’re booking so far out. I know some companies booked into December.”
He said his company may add more crews because new claims from homeowners are coming at the same volume from a month ago.
“We’re doing four roofs a day, six days a week,” he said.
As for increased collaboration with insurance companies?
“It’s horrible,” Abello said. “They’re slow as Moses. Some companies are really good — others not so good. But they’re also short-handed. They don’t get back to you. They don’t release money to customers as quickly as they need to.
“It’s always bad, but it’s not always terrible. Right now it’s terrible.”
It can take as long as six weeks for claims to be paid to homeowners, he said. “Another big thing we run into with these storms is customers want a big chunk of money for all the work that’s needed. They think they will play contractor and hire people to get bids, but bids mean nothing. Insurance will only pay for the cost of work. … Customers think they will put the extra money in their pocket, which is fraud, but it never works out like they think it will.”
In any storm where damage is done, Abello advises using referrals and referral sites to find a reputable company.
“We’ve had companies call from Minnesota with sales guys and crews here asking to sell under our company name,” Abello said. “They wanted to put their number on our brochures and give us 10 percent. I said ‘Hell no!’”
When choosing a roofer, Abello said to ask to see a driver’s license and look at their license plate.
“If it’s not local, they don’t care what they tell you, because they’re not from here,” he said.
‘A respectable start’
The July storm turned out to be a good thing — at least short-term — for Ben Faricy, president and owner of Faricy Chrysler Jeep. Faricy’s inventory at Woodmen Road and Powers Boulevard was spared, but surrounding neighborhoods saw cars and home obliterated by hail, he said.
“It did impact our business in August positively, as many customers chose to trade in their vehicle or use their insurance money to purchase a new vehicle instead of fixing their existing one,” Faricy said, adding the storm equated to a 25-percent bump last month. “It was a shot in the arm for August, which is already traditionally a busy month.”
It will take until the end of the year to know how many of those sales would have happened in spite of the storm.
“So far it’s meant a respectable start to September,” he said. “We’ll have to see if there’s a 60-day or 90-day hangover. We might notice a slowdown in November.”
Faricy said even though they weren’t affected so far this summer, the story was different in 2012, when the dealership suffered substantial damage.
He said the increase in volatile weather is making it more difficult for dealerships to get insured in Colorado.
“It’s increasingly challenging to find insurance that is competitive because of the frequency of storms the last several years in Colorado,” he said. “We had to switch providers last year because our previous provider wasn’t competitive anymore.
“I don’t know of any dealer not able to get insurance, but rates are up over the last several years,” he added. “That’s all along the Front Range, from Fort Collins on down.”
There are states in the auto insurance industry known as “hail states,” Faricy said, including Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas and Colorado.
July’s hailstorm went down as one of the most destructive in the region’s history, with insurance claims reaching hundreds of millions of dollars.
And while it seems odd such destruction could bolster the economy, that’s exactly what happened, Durfee said.
“It was actually good for a lot of businesses,” he said. “Insurance adjustors are coming from all over the country and staying in local hotels; they’re eating at local restaurants.”
Durfee said painting, roofing and restoration companies have more work than they can handle.
“The problem is, not all that money stays local,” Durfee said. “A lot of these companies are from out of state, and they take their money with them.”
Abello said he feels for those who suffered property damage, but for a roofer, severe weather alerts and cash registers can sound awfully alike.
“We’re a necessary evil. When there’s bad weather, someone is going to benefit from it,” he said. “I just happen to be in a business that requires severe weather. Without it, it’s hard to say how much business we would have.”