Contractors face pricing pinch for Greensboro tornado recovery

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- For weeks, the echoing clicks of nails into roofs ring across eastern Greensboro, but some contractors question the quality of work being done.

"You got 100 people coming in to do band-aids, versus 10 or 15 quality contractors coming in to put everything back to the way it was before the storm," said John Westbrook, with Best Roofing & Restoration.

Even though his company is based in Greensboro, Westbrook says he often works outside the area because of a problem with a pricing program. He says that issue is creating an environment that isn't supporting a full recovery from the April 15 tornado.

"If this house was sitting in Charlotte, and the exact same storm had happened, or in Raleigh, every house on this street would have a sign from a roofing company," Westbrook said. He says they've mainly done work to put tarps over people's roofs and he's not the only one.

"I got 40 jobs that I have nothing I can do with, except telling the homeowners I can't do them," said James Ortega, with Tru Relief Roofing Experts, based out of Raleigh.

Both Ortega, Westbrook and several other contractors say the problem is with a program called Xactimate, which they say is a pricing industry standard for insurance claims. Insurance adjusters use the software, and based on your zip code, give contractors an estimate.

Contractors say the issue is Greensboro and the Piedmont Triad is underpriced compared to the rest of the state.

"Right now their starting point is way too low than anywhere else in the state," Ortega said. "There's not a difference in materials, taxes, labor, gas, there's not a difference whatsoever."

Ortega says the cost of labor and a build will often be the same as the price for the job in Greensboro, which means he breaks even and doesn't stand to make any money, and that's only if the job goes seemlessly. If there are any unforseen costs or liabilities, he says he could lose money working here. Whereas in Charlotte, Raleigh, Asheville or even Kinston, he stands to make more, sometimes even thousands more.

"We can't do a job for zero money basically," Westbrook said. "Why some zip codes are priced lower than others, I don't know. We've been going in circles trying to figure out."

We reached out to Xactware, which owns the software, to ask why the Piedmont Triad is underpriced compared to other parts of the state, and the company won't comment. A representative referred FOX8 to it's website, which says "Each of our cost databases is fully researched, validated, and supported by Xactware’s in-house team of professionals, who have more than 400 years’ combined experience in the construction and restoration industries and have been providing building cost data to the insurance industry since 1989."

"Doesn't make any sense for any legitimate contractor to be doing work here and helping, and it's really hindering the whole relief effort," Ortega said. Ortega says the result is people who may not be qualified are filling the void and that's going to hurt Greensboro's recovery long-term.