Bob Freitag calls himself a news junkie because he’s always reading newspapers, watching television reports and perusing websites.
And in his line of business, it’s a requirement.
Founder and owner of Indian Trail-based AmeriClaims, Inc., Freitag is a state-certified public adjuster.
That means, after a disaster, he helps individuals, businesses or real estate companies (the policyholders) get the maximum amount of money the insurance companies owe them for property damages.
If there’s flooding – like the Charlotte area saw after weeks of persistent rain – he’s busy. If there’s a fire, his sales staff are making cold calls.
Collectively, Freitag and his five employees handle about 75 claims a year.
A recent success of his company was after a small three-unit apartment building had caught fire. Flames had engulfed the back of the building, lapped up one side and damaged the roof.
The insurance company put together an estimate for about $40,000 to $50,000 in damages.
“But there was asbestos on the property, which the insurance company wasn’t aware of, and a lot more damage than the insurance company acknowledged,” Freitag said.
After AmeriClaims intervened on behalf of the property owner, Freitag said the insurance company settled the claim for $180,000.
Freitag – who is paid on commission, which usually starts at 10 percent of the final settlement – says that “time and again,” he’s increased settlements with insurance companies 40 to 200 percent.
Freitag says that part of his success is because he’s worked for the other side.
Before starting his business 10 years ago, he worked in claims and underwriting for Allstate Insurance. He handled damage to Fortune 500 companies in the wake of hurricanes, fires, floods and tornados.
Offer proof: One of Freitag’s biggest hurdles is simply explaining what he does because many people have never heard of public adjusters. So he shows them his track record.
When talking with a potential client, Freitag shows them previous claims he’s handled and walks them through what the insurance company requires to settle a claim – the detailed estimates, the terms and conditions, the spreadsheet with the item-by-item inventory, the pricing process, the paperwork.
Let’s say, for example, a hurricane topples a house. Freitag would use relocation companies to help the family get temporary housing before taking to the scene to shoot video, take pictures and assess the damage. Unlike his clients, he knows all the loopholes to avoid. For example, you shouldn’t throw away anything damaged because insurance companies are entitled to see the property at any time, he says.
Then his staff would create a spreadsheet and itemize everything in the house and collect their estimated prices.
“Then we ask them, ‘Are you able to do all of this on your own?’ ” Freitag says. “And most of the time, they say, ‘There’s no way.’ ”
Keep your focus local: Freitag says he focuses on clients in the Carolinas. He also is licensed in Florida and Georgia, but that was because some of his clients also owned out-of-state properties they wanted him to handle claims with.
“If there’s a hurricane or wildfire in California, we don’t go storm-chasing,” Freitag says. “You’ll be leaving behind your local clients, and you’ve got to be involved in your local claims almost on a daily basis.”
Be preemptive: Sometimes Freitag makes first contact after the disaster. But many clients call him time and again.
Because of his background in insurance, a number of property-management companies and even attorneys will send him questions about policies “to make sure their adequately protected before they have a claim,” Freitag says.
He doesn’t charge for the assessment. And that’s helped him get referrals and retain clients when the occasional emergency does arise. “They see value in our services,” Freitag says. “That’s when you get the call: ‘I hate to be calling you, but...’ ”
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