Troy Palmquist is an indie broker in California with more than a decade of experience. His regular column, which covers a range of helpful tips for agents and op-eds on industry happenings, publishes Thursdays on Inman.
Areas prone to natural disasters present agents with an opportunity to offer themselves up a resource for clients. During a time of need, real estate agents can ease the burden for clients, at the same time as strengthening bonds with them.
In my previous article, “A Realtor’s guide to helping during a disaster,” I offer proven tips on how to pull together and make a difference after a natural disaster.
In light of the recent earthquakes in Southern California, there is no better time to remind ourselves of the ways in which we can educate, provide referrals and solidify relationships on a grand scale.
Below are a few earthquake-related tips on how agents can impact the lives of their clients before, during and after a natural disaster.
1. Urge clients to get familiar with their policies
“Friday’s 7.1-magnitude quake, centered near Ridgecrest, led to gas leaks, building fires and water main breaks. It came a day after a magnitude-6.4 temblor in the same area. In a state especially prone to tremors, only 13% of homeowners have earthquake insurance, according to the California Department of Insurance. Others who have renter’s or homeowner’s insurance mistakenly believe they’re covered for earthquakes,” CNN recently reported.
The truth is, earthquake insurance is complicated. And even if you have it, it doesn’t necessarily cover much. However, the California Department of Insurance says to “read your homeowner’s policy and contact your insurance company whenever an earthquake damages your property. Do not assume that the damage is not covered.”
A periodic reminder to your clients about earthquake insurance and the need to understand how it works can be a welcomed as a thoughtful call or email. Sending them resources like the news article above with your reminder would be helpful, as would links to any other helpful resources, like, in my state, the California Department of Insurance’s website on earthquake insurance and the California Earthquake Authority (CEA).
The CEA provides most earthquake policies for both homeowners and renters. However, you don’t buy earthquake insurance directly from that state agency. You have to buy it from insurance companies that are members of CEA.
The bottom line: Earthquake insurance is a bit of a gamble. As a longtime California homeowner, I’ve seen my fair share of quakes. At times, they can get out of hand.
But don’t let the insurance companies take advantage of you or your clients: Most policies don’t cover the costs needed to make repairs, and it can be difficult to resume life as we know it. So check in with your clients if a quake rattles your area, and ask if you can help to provide any pointers or referrals.
2. Make suggestions on how to get prepared
It’s amazing how a gesture of good will can go a long way with a client.
Agents in earthquake-prone areas could send out an email or note with a number of recommendations on how best to prepare a home to withstand violent temblors. The federal government maintains an informative website at Ready.gov, with recommendations on how to prepared for a number of disastrous situations, which includes earthquakes.
Among the things people can do to be prepared: Double strap the water heater, think about ways to protect or reduce earthquake damage by retrofitting houses where possible, and always keep flashlights and shoes by the side of the bed. Broken glass and debris after an earthquake can make walking around without shoes difficult.
You can also remind clients that many towns and cities maintain Neighborhood or Community Emergency Response Team training programs. These programs train volunteers with emergency response skills. These skills include: fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. These trainings are often offered by local fire departments.
You can take it a step further by gifting a custom-tailored emergency kit or include a list of natural disaster tips in a thank-you package at closing. This is not only thoughtful, but it also demonstrates you truly care about your clients and the life of their home.
3. Offer a quality referral
Aside from advice and thoughtful gestures, offering a quality referral is a huge relief to many clients when going through the aftermath of a natural disaster. Many brokers already have trusted contacts on hand, but if you don’t, it’s a good time to get some.
Make the rounds, and start connecting with local insurance agents. Get to know state and local policies in your market. Learn more about precautionary measures and what to look for when the elements start to affect area homes. Seeking out a quality insurance referral and using it as networking opportunity could be the best thing to happen to your business.
Even better? Recommending a trusted referral helps clients buy into a lifelong partnership with you. And when they are ready to buy or sell, they will remember you as the expert. Everybody wins.
4. Check in on clients with a pop-by gift
So you hadn’t thought of gifting an emergency kit or offering natural disaster tips at closing. No problem. Why not present your clients with a pop-by gift? Even something as simple as a gas shut-off valve can make an impact, and it comes in handy if a client smells gas, and the gas company can’t get there right away.
Another idea? Drop off a catered meal, which will provide immediate comfort and relief to a family in distress. Not only does a pop-by gift feel good, it’s good for humanity too.
Are you an earthquake insurance expert in California? Perhaps you’re an agent who is interested in sharing your natural disaster tips and helping navigate client service during a natural disaster? I would love to chat with you at the upcoming Inman Connect in Las Vegas and hear your thoughts.
How do you stay ahead in a changing market? Inman Connect Las Vegas — Featuring 250+ experts from across the industry sharing insight and tactics to navigate threat and seize opportunity in tomorrow’s real estate. Join over 4,000 top producers, brokers and industry leaders to network and discover what’s next, July 23-26 at the Aria Resort. Hurry! Tickets are going fast, register today!
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