Communities in Central Vermont and statewide continue digging out, cleaning out, and drying out from the catastrophic flood. Several trustworthy organizations are looking for all sorts of assistance, from volunteers to money to household and personal items.
At a time like this, buying or selling a house drops in priority. However, we know that there are people who have planned for a long time to make a move, and we wanted to provide a little guidance.
You may need to be flexible if you’re in contract on a house. Some sellers have experienced flooding and are working through cleanout, assessment, and even demolition/rebuilding. Often, lenders will allow a loan to close and have funds for some of these activities held in escrow. As a buyer, it’s best to have a clear understanding of the condition of your next house and what repairs are needed. Then, talk with your lender.
Everyone is affected. That means contractors and movers as well as lenders and attorneys. People may not have been able to get to work, may have been volunteering, or may have needed to be with or check in on family, friends, or neighbors.
If you’re not in contract, it’s possible that your search may slow down a bit, for all of those same reasons. That’s ok. Don’t rush into buying a house! We have seen some sellers pause on showings and others pause on listing until things settle down a little more and the path to community-wide recovery is more straightforward. So, again, patience.
If your property had any damage, take care of that first. That could mean anything from pumping out water and drying things out, to the documentation of damage and insurance claims, to raking your driveway back into place. The range of damage is from “extensive” to “none”.
If you’re in contract with a buyer, make sure everyone knows what’s happening with the house. If work needs to be done prior to closing, do your best to line up the right people. And understand that the closing date may need to change for all the reasons above.
In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, we saw real estate activity slow a bit. People had other things on their minds. For some time afterward, buyers were very interested in how properties fared. It didn’t stop buyers from purchasing homes that had experienced flood damage, but it was important for things to be disclosed. In general, we found that sellers were very honest and forthcoming about the extent (if any) of damage.
We did see a noticeable decline in sales of properties that were in flood zones (once referred to as the 100 year flood zone, now more accurately referred to as the 1% flood hazard zone). That means the property has a 1% chance of flooding every year. Sellers in the 1% flood hazard zone were well-served to document any damage, and the high water mark. If there was no damage, then even being able to say, “The water came up to that tree, and that was it.” will help future buyers have more confidence.
It’s unclear how this will impact the value of properties going forward. One appraiser that I talked with before the July flooding said that one method is to take 5-7 years of flood insurance premiums, and deduct that amount from the home’s value. That empirical method will satisfy some buyers. Others will operate on intuition, and make their own decisions. It is very likely that some buyers will decide not to purchase a home that is in the 1% flood hazard zone, or even one that sustained flood damage. We saw buyers react that way post-Irene.
It’s also unclear how this will impact the number of purchases/sales. We always tell people that the best time to buy a home, or to sell a home is when they want to. I believe that people will still want to buy, sell, and move. Some may take recent events and want to sell more quickly. Others will take the same events, and want to buy more quickly.
But it didn’t last forever. Within a couple of years, most of the stigma of Irene-damaged and homes located in flood zones had diminished or disappeared. And, if the state and communities continue as they did post-Irene, as roads, culverts, drainage, wastewater, and other infrastructure are rebuilt, they’ll be built back better, stronger, and more resilient.
Be well, stay safe, and help each other. We’ll get through this just as we have gotten through other tough times!