Houston and Baton Rouge had a similar experience after Hurricane Katrina This event with Hurricane Harvey and the massive flooding over Houston and surrounding areas may end up being more like what we went through just a year ago. In our unnamed storm last year the metro BR area received 24 inches of rain  over a large area that included several parishes resulting in over 100,000 houses being flooded.

I want to share some of my experiences from last year that might help you get through this disaster. First understand that the Market will right itself. Things will be OK for your business.

There are a few steps that real estate professionals go through in a flooding situation.  Here's a video or you can just read the text below!

https://www.facebook.com/wattam/videos/10154827453322344/

Number one is remediation of your personal property. Right now if you have a flooded property you need to find a contractor or someone who's going to help you with this and get people lined up that you know and trust. You don't want to have to worry about redoing your house and keeping your business going at the same time. Having people around you to help you will make this much easier to get through.

The second issue is finding your past clients. Who needs help and who can you help? Everyone wants to help in the recovery process. I worked with one of the local shelters close by my office to get them what they needed.

There is a third critical step as well. I started collecting money from friends and fellow Realtors across the country to just have money to hand to clients or people I met. When your house floods, typically you lose all your shoes. So people I would meet at church, particularly our elderly parishioners, I could hand them $100 and they could go buy shoes for themselves.  It's little gestures like that that mean so much people. Dropping by just to say hello and checking on your clients and bring them some money or food lets people know they are not alone and that you care. 

So, in no particular order, here are my tips to keep business going:

  1. Pick a flooded subdivision that you have sold a lot in or have a connection with in some way. 
  2. Deliver sandwiches and water to those working in houses in that subdivision.
  3. Reach out to your past clients.
  4. Call on vendors you know that you can recommend to help. See who is available.
  5. Don't be worried about what your market will do.  It will right itself.
  6. Wish I had gone door to door and met people and offered my assistance before they were taken advantage of by investors.  I thought it would be crass and would appear I was taking advantage of a bad situation. I was wrong. One of my clients was offered $50K for a home worth $225K before the flood. I asked him to let me give it a shot before he took the investors offer. I sold the house for $95K. How many others could I have made that extra money for just by being more proactive?
  7. Accept no cash offer without a deposit and proof of funds with the offer. You will get a lot of these and they always say “I’m good for it.” Some are.   Some aren’t. Time is of the essence for your seller so be demanding.
  8. Be wary of out of state buyers who say they want to buy multiple properties unless you have vetted them or their money in some way.  Yep, people came in, bought a lot of properties and could not perform.
  9. Be aware money laundering happens with some of these out of town investors. Doesn't affect your seller but, just saying, it happens.  If you go to closing and the buyer brings in 10 checks for $10K from different people, and it happens time and time again, you might want to report it.
  10. Put together promotional materials that show you care and what you can do to help people make a decision.
  11. Particularly older people who have no mortgage and have flood insurance, it really is better for them to  sell their house and move one.    When you add their flood insurance settlement to the proceeds from the sale they have plenty to go buy another house. The amount of time, energy, and frustration they will have redoing their home is overwhelming. It is better for their mental health and physical health to start fresh.
  12. If client does not have flood insurance and has a mortgage they are in a tougher spot. They may be better off fixing the house and moving back in or fixing the house and selling it. Some people will have to walk away. 
  13. The max FEMA pays out on a property with no flood insurance and not in a flood zone is $33k - not even enough to get started.  My 1300 sq. ft. rental cost over $42K to fix up nicely after the flood.
  14. Our homes that flooded have not had a stigma selling and are selling for high prices. Whole subdivisions are being revitalized as these homes all have granite, wood floors, new appliances, etc.  This will impact the non-flooded homes that are not updated. The flooded homes may sell better than the non-flooded ones because many will be practically brand new when they are rehabbed.
  15. Some cabinets can be saved. They really have to be dried out.  The amount of water in the house and the length it stayed in the house will affect this decision.
  16. Quickly partner with an inspector you respect to get guidance on what steps to tell people to take in remediating the  flooded property.  Become the ‘go to ‘ expert.  Get press if possible.
  17. Partner with an appraiser to have ongoing discussions about how the market is faring.
  18. Clients will want you to value their home Pre-flood for use on their taxes for their loss.  I did the value pre-flood and an appraiser did the flooded value for them.  It was all a guess.