Experiencing a home fire is traumatic enough but, the stress continues even after the fire is extinguished. A homeowner is faced with salvaging what they can from the damaged area of the home, dealing with insurance, and, depending on the extent of the damage, deciding whether to repair the damage or sell the home as-is. Stan contacted us here at Akin Developers when he found himself in this position.
Increase in Home Fires During Pandemic
According to the American Red Cross, there were 2,300 more home fires during the first three months of 2021 than there were during the same timeframe in 2020. During the pandemic, with homeschooling for children and teleworking for adults, delivery service for both meals and groceries, even virtual medical appointments, time spent at home increased dramatically, as did the number of distractions in the home. These distractions can also lead to distracted cooking, the number one cause of home fires.
In addition, because everyone is home at the same time, more electronic devices are plugged in at any given time and, power strips and extension cords can easily get overloaded. Depending on the season, space heaters or circulating fans may be in use in various rooms of the house, which can also overload electric circuits, which can short out and start a fire.
Unexpected Cause of Stan’s House Fire
The fire in Stan’s home, however, started with the refrigerator. As Stan learned from the fire inspector, the refrigerator is ranked among the top five fire-causing appliances in the home. Most homeowners, however, are not aware of the fire risks of this appliance – after all, it is a cold appliance. And user error is not what causes a refrigerator fire.
Unlike other appliances like stoves and clothes dryers which a user turns off after use, a refrigerator runs constantly. There is also not a filter to be cleaned like on a clothes dryer. But, again, this appliance runs constantly, cycling on and off. Over time, certain parts – like the compressor or relay switches – can wear out, creating a spark, and starting a fire.
When Stan met with us here at Akin Developers, he told us about the fire. He said he had been watching a movie in the living room when the smoke detector went off in the kitchen. Out of instinct, he jumped up from the couch and turned to head to the kitchen, toward the sound of the alarm. He had heated leftovers in the microwave for dinner so he knew the stove had not been left on and, could not understand why there was smoke in the kitchen. He picked up his phone to call 911 just as his home security system notified him that the fire department had been notified and dispatched. He grabbed the small fire extinguisher from its bracket by the stove and turned it onto the flames he saw coming from behind the refrigerator. Even though he could not see any more flames, there was still smoke, and Stan was worried the fire was not completely out. He hurried to the laundry room and grabbed the fire extinguisher from that room and was hurrying back to the kitchen when he heard emergency vehicles arrive outside.
The Firefighters turned off the power and used foam to completely extinguish the fire, which had moved into the wall behind the refrigerator. Once fire officials determined it was safe to go back into the home, Stan was allowed to gather some of his belongings to take with him. Since the fire had damaged electrical wires in the wall, electricity would not be restored until repairs were made, so Stan would have to find somewhere else to stay in the meantime.
Only when he went back into the house was Stan able to see just how much damage there was. The kitchen was destroyed. The wall behind the refrigerator was torn open, as was the ceiling above that area. There was smoke damage and foam everywhere, even into the living room. As he gathered his things in the bedroom, he realized the smoke had reached that room as well.
And that was just the immediately obvious damage. Because the fire involved electrical wiring, the extent of the damage was not immediately visible. The wiring had to be tested thoroughly to determine the extent of the damage. And, there was additional damage to framing within the wall and ceiling near the site of the fire. Because the wiring was short-circuited, all appliances in the kitchen were likely damaged and would need to be replaced to avoid the same thing happening with them.
When fire officials cleared it, Stan’s insurance company sent an adjuster to inspect the damage and explained to Stan how much his deductible was and exactly what insurance would cover. When Stan had obtained his homeowner’s insurance, he had opted for a higher deductible amount to keep his premium payments lower, a choice he said he regretted now.
Once he was aware of the cost of repairing his home back to its before-fire condition, Stan started exploring the idea of selling the house for cash in its as-is condition. And that is what brought him to Akin Developers. We pay cash for homes in just about any condition.
Repair or Sell?
When deciding whether to repair or sell a fire-damaged home, an owner has to consider more than just the cost of the actual repair of damage from the fire. Even after being restored to pre-fire condition, a home’s value can be impacted simply by the fact that there had been a fire. Documenting all repairs, in detail, can help alleviate a potential buyer’s concerns.
When making his decision, Stan knew he had to consider more than just the financial cost of the physical repairs. Maryland Law requires disclosure of latent defects in the property. And, even if it was repaired, Stan would need to disclose the fire damage. This disclosure could decrease the amount a buyer would be willing to pay for the house. There was also the chance that while making repairs, more damage would be discovered, which would drive repair costs even higher.
Ultimately, after weighing all of his options, Stan decided to sell the house, as-is, to us at Akin Developers. Because we pay cash for homes rather than financing through a mortgage company or other source of financing, we are able to close more quickly. Stan got his money quickly, and we handled all the repairs and, the eventual sale of the property. Make sure you know your options if you find yourself faced with the same decision.