- Agents and brokers are helping clients with Hurricane Harvey preparedness with weather guides, insurance advice and simple gestures such as removing yard signs.
Spare a thought for brokerages in Houston and other coastal Texas towns in the path of Hurricane Harvey today and into next week.
With a storm warning in effect for hundreds of miles of the Texas coastline and a predicted Category 3 hurricane expected to hit landfall by Friday night, Harvey will be bringing with it a “deadly storm surge” and flooding all along the Gulf of Mexico.
The Houston Association of Realtors was on the ball, communicating with its 36,000 members via social media about the developing weather situation and directing them to local emergency management authorities. Members were urged to look at the HAR Facebook page for the latest messaging.
“Most of our members have been through severe weather before and know the drill, but we like to remind them to stay alert and consult trusted informational resources,” said an HAR spokesperson.
Keller Williams’ spokesperson Darryl Frost, meanwhile, said the franchise was “actively alerting our KW leaders and agents in the affected areas of Hurricane Harvey’s path.
“We are ensuring our plans are in place to have accountability on our agents, before and after this storm passes. We are also putting the logistics in place to have work crews ready to help our agents and our regional communities as part of this disaster response.”
A number of local brokerages were also getting in touch with clients to help them through the event. Priyanka Johri, the independent brokerage owner of Woodlands Eco Realty, had found time since getting notice of Hurricane Harvey on Monday this week, to assemble a fully branded 36 page hurricane preparedness e-book, for her clients and the public to use.
The guide offers information on storm tracking, important services and phone numbers to know, how to prepare gutters, windows, roofs and doors, the importance of having family and pets ready for possible evacuation and a preparedness timeline.
Helping newly arrived clients in time of disaster
“I have lots of relocation clients who have moved here from other states and countries, and they do not know how to prepare for the hurricane and tropical storms, so I wanted to help them out,” said Johri.
The broker, who has postponed an open house and a client house warming party this weekend, advised buyers to stay indoors over the weekend as people have lost their lives attempting to drive through flooded areas.
The former geologist is also preparing some of her rental properties as emergency shelter for people who may be flooded and need a temporary alternative home.
In the last big storm, several insurance companies contacted Johri because people needed a place to stay with their pets, and hotels and government shelters were overflowing.
On the subject of insurance, NewHomesProgram.com founder Cory Kammerdiener said over a week ago he and his team started telling their Houston agents to get their buyers’ hazard insurance policies in place.
“Whenever a storm of this predicted magnitude is on the horizon, insurance companies will stop issuing policies. This happens to us in Houston and Tampa, Florida a lot,” he said.
“Also, you want to roll your last two days of closings in when a storm is at the end of the month. The reason being, if the closing is delayed and rolls over to the beginning of the next month, the proration — for instance, the mortgage interest — is higher. This means a buyer’s closing costs will increase and they may not have the additional funds to close.”
Move the for-sale signs
Frisco-based JP & Associates Realtors (JPAR), which has an office in Houston, also offered some advice: Homeowners in the process of selling should 1) check with their insurance provider about the type of coverage they have on their home, 2) remove all yard signs from their front yards and 3) let their agent know if they would be home or planned to vacate the property.
“Your agent — conditions permitting after the storm — should gladly stop by the property and communicate conditions with you,” the company told clients.
Homebuyers under contract should definitely perform a thorough property inspection after the storm, JPAR founder JP Piccinini added.
“Should the property have suffered any damage, remember to check with your agent as the purchase contract typically ensures you are protected from those damages and the seller may be required to address them.
“Also check with your new insurance carrier and lender about reinspection or reappraisal requirements that may delay your closing time,” he said.
Meanwhile, it’s safe to say there will be fewer agents on the ground this weekend in coastal Texas as they heed evacuation orders.
Corpus Christi-based Century 21 top producer Sheila Anderson and her family were departing their island home for Austin as she spoke to Inman. Austin isn’t ideal as it will likely to bear some of the brunt of Hurricane Harvey, but at least there wouldn’t be an eight-foot wall of water coming at them there, she said.
Coastal cities aren’t the only ones preparing for devastation. As Hurricane Harvey continues to intensify with help from the Gulf’s warm waters, major inland city residents are starting to bite their nails. Houston, in particular, is facing the serious threat of record flooding, tornadoes, power outages, clean water issues and more.
The hurricane could damage the area’s many oil refineries and stop operations at Port Houston — one of the world’s busiest ports. Local news offers several scenarios, all of which involve major damage.
Homeowners and renters have been stocking up on water and nonperishables for the last two days.
“Houston has prepped for a hurricane before, but it’s been a while since we’ve seen one like this,” said Houston native and Inman associate editor Fabiana Gordon. “Water and bread are flying off the grocery shelves, gas station lines are going out of the parking lots and into the streets. It’s crazy, but it’s definitely not new.”
Gordon remembers 2008’s Hurricane Ike eliciting the same reaction from people. “But it’s different this time because Houston is on the ‘dirty’ side now, which means stronger winds and heavier rain.
“Homeowners should be sure to move everything inside. If you have patio furniture, potted plants, yard maintenance equipment or anything else outside, bring it in. You don’t want things being tossed around outside should winds get nasty. Renters with a balcony or porch should also move things inside.
“Another thing I’m doing here in Houston is filling the bathtubs with water. Possible power outages mean it’s going to get hot. We’ll use the clean water to cool off or wash up. For Ike, we shut the water off completely and just used clean tub water until things calmed down.”
In addition to water and food, homeowners and renters should be sure to have other essentials ready: flashlights, batteries, battery-operated fans, a radio, etc. Charge all phones, computers and iPads; if power goes out, the extra battery life will come in handy for entertaining antsy children (or yourself).
Don’t take this lightly
“This is not our first rodeo,” said Better Homes & Gardens (BHG) Gary Greene partner Mark Woodruff. The incoming hurricane will likely affect the firm, which has offices spread throughout southern Texas.
Having said that, people can’t afford to be unprepared, he warned. And those who are new to the area will need a certain amount of hand holding.
The biggest worry is the high degree of uncertainty. This storm could wobble just a fraction and change implications for the entire region. How much rain will fall? Exactly how high will the storm surge get?
While [experts are] really good at predicting a lot of these things, it is not an exact science. Weather systems from the North will impact how quickly Harvey moves out.
It’s scariest when these things stall on top of us, Woodruff said. The biggest problems come from hurricanes or tropical storms that come in and take their time to move out.
“We are really hoping the worst of it is a whole lot of water over three days as opposed to a whole lot in an hour,” he said.
BHG Gary Greene’s agents all live in the community, and they will be out helping their neighbors over the weekend, he said. The real estate business will be more about making sure everyone is kept safe and sound.
Woodruff said his team will likely revert into community support roles, helping people get back on their feet should the hurricane do what is predicted.
He understood the reaction by some people to go to another state for safety, but he said if you end up with a roof problem, you can mitigate a whole lot of damage if you are there; if you leave, you’re problems might be worse.
Either way, safety is more important than anything. Homes can be repaired, so if you’re in the danger zone and want to travel away, do so.
Fabiana Gordon contributed reporting to this article.