I always found Wells Fargo to be the easiest to work with, at least in regards to getting first check cashed. Usually, all it took was to pick up the customer, drive them to the bank where a banker could witness them signing the check after showing ID and done. Never had a WF customer who was not willing to do that - they wanted to get things going ASAP.
Different $ amounts at different percentages overall on ACV checks written by various banks/mortgage companies but I always took, per my company policy, the max so I could to keep cash flowing. One guy with a $26k claim (up from adjusters $12k offer) on a one year old house received a $25k ACV check and turned the whole thing over to me so I could start his job right away. Cash flow!
"They are just notorious for being awful to work with, and tend to hold money hostage."
Are you referring to "they" as WF or all mortgage companies? Whether WF, Citi, US Bank or whomever, the great majority of loss draft processing is actually handled by Assurant Specialty Property who "earns" a substantial profit in this niche market. They will generally (supposedly) lose paperwork, checks, authorization forms and whatever else.
Typical ASP excuses: "The person handling that claim was transferred." "We never received the check." "The paperwork is under review." "You are not authorized to discuss the matter with us." These people are indeed notorious to work with and do indeed tend to hold the money hostage.
Always control the checks and paperwork and always send paperwork FedEx overnite so you have a way to track delivery. Make sure all required paperwork is included (after making copies) along with a signed authorization from the your customer that gives you authority to discuss with them (ASP) regarding anything pertaining to the issue at hand.
Inspections: When an inspection is required, call ahead so that inspector will show up around 80% to 90% completion. These people are usually third party sub-contractors who could care less if the work is 100% complete or not. All they need to report and verify is that the work is near completion and they are typically more than willing to sign off in order to move on to the next inspection.
As soon as I know the inspector has signed off, I send in all final paperwork including ins final invoice with supplementals, and all other missed or legitimate addl charges and always add the name of the mortgage company (for example; CitiBank) and Assurant Specialty Property so that all know that I (and the insured) knows who is really handling the loss drafts, checks, etc. Knowing they are "exposed" tends to move them to getting the paperwork completed and the final payments sent out faster.
I little more time spent in the beginning saves a whole lot of time at the end and gets the money where it belongs (your bank account) that much faster.
And, of course, make sure the HO is not behind on their mortgage payments.