Nashville is still reeling from the effects of an EF-3 tornado that started its rampage on the city’s northside shortly before 1 a.m. on Tuesday. Nashville leaders confirmed 24 deaths and 150 injuries, and at least 45 buildings downtown have been leveled, but the true scope of damage has yet to be determined.
Amongst the confusion and mourning, Nashville brokerages are rallying together to help clients and community members navigate the loss of their homes and belongings, and chart a path to recovery.
“Yesterday, I think everyone was working in a state of shock,” The Wilson Group owner and CEO Christie Wilson told Inman.
Only one of Wilson’s 42 agents experienced severe damage from the storm, which included a 30-by-30 foot piece of his roof being ripped off and his neighbor’s garage being thrown into his backyard by the tornado’s ferocious 165 mile-per-hour winds. As for their buyers and sellers, Wilson’s team is still assessing who has been impacted and needs help.
“We went into overdrive yesterday identifying which clients are in the midst of pending sales or are active in the market, and with our pending sales,” she said while trying to fight back tears. “People, as you can imagine, are in such a state of shock and are trying to make decisions on their housing needs.”
“We’re like, ‘No. Stop. Don’t worry about whether this is going to close. We need to make sure you’re secure,'” she said. “We’ve been helping them calm down and be the solid voice that says, ‘Let us take this stress from you.'”
Much like Wilson, Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Woodmont Realty Principal Broker Ginger Holmes has spent the past two days checking on past and current clients in the storm’s path, which included downtown Nashville, East Nashville, Germantown and Mt. Juliet.
Holmes said it’s been difficult arranging a company-wide volunteering effort since parts of the city are still covered in debris and downed power lines, and first responders have blocked community members from entering certain areas, even if it’s to quickly assess their home.
“We’ve reached out to Hands On Nashville, a local group that’s orchestrating a lot of volunteer efforts,” she said, while noting her team has collected items such as baby diapers, toothbrushes, toothpaste and body soap to donate to displaced residents. “Outside of that, it’s been difficult [to help].”
Holmes said three of her agents have also opened their portfolio of more than 100 Airbnb properties to affected clients and the community-at-large at no charge.
“I’ve got three agents who own a company called Stay Local where they manage over 100 Airbnb properties. So we’ve put the word out that they’ve got property owners that are welcoming people to stay in their properties until the end of March free of charge,” she said. “We’re called The Volunteer State for a reason. We’re dying to get out there and pitch in and start helping.”
Even though the focus is on helping community members find safe and affordable temporary housing, there are already questions swirling about the short and longterm impacts of the tornado on Nashville’s booming real estate market.
“The areas that were affected range from Jefferson Street in North Nashville where there’s a lot of history and old buildings, and then in Germantown, there’s a lot of new apartment complexes and brand new restaurants,” explained Zeitlin Sotheby’s International Realty CEO Jessica Averbuch. “So, there’s a broad spectrum of damage.”
In the short term, Averbuch said pending sales will likely take a hit as lenders are requiring additional inspection appraisals for pending listings in 10 zip codes impacted by the storm before they’ll close a loan.
RE/MAX Fine Homes Operations Manager Robert Creecy said home sales could also take a dip since large swaths of homes in the affected areas are badly damaged or destroyed.
“If you have someone looking for property in Mt. Juliet or East Nashville, it’s impossible,” he said. “We don’t have the infrastructure there.”
For the long term, experts and professionals expect home values to actually tick up, as homeowners and businesses rebuild newer, higher-value homes and properties.
“The areas it hit were extremely hot real estate markets with thriving community districts and were densely populated with homeowners,” Doorbell Real Estate broker Brian Copeland told realtor.com. “But I just can’t imagine [the tornado] affecting the real estate values.”
Although there’s little question about the market’s ability to bounce back, Holmes, Wilson, Averbach and Creecy said sales and commissions are the last thing on their minds.
“We’ve survived floods, we’ve survived tornadoes to this degree back in the ’90s, unfortunately in the same area,” Creecy said. “When tragedy hits our city, we come together first.”