On the move: What the post-Harvey Houston market means for relo buyers
The flood waters might have receded in the Houston area, but some confusion still exists about the local real estate market for some relocation home buyers.
Many find it difficult to weigh the images that they saw on national news reports of flooded Houston, against the real estate data that they are now seeing online or elsewhere. So, it is important for relocation buyers to understand that national news reports and local real estate data don't always go hand-in-hand.
Meanwhile, many leaders within the local real estate community have continued to impart a positive message to people who will be moving here in the near future. This includes helping them to understand the impact of Harvey on the region as a whole, while looking closely at specific areas, neighborhoods, and even drilling down to exact streets, blocks and properties.
At the same time, words like "the new normal," have been widely used to describe the state of Houston's post-Harvey market.
So, what is the new normal, and what does that mean for relocation home buyers?
In terms of the real estate market, Kirsten Abney, senior vice president for Heritage Texas Properties, said that it might be too early to tell what the overall impact will be.
"By the end of this year or early next year, we should have a better idea of the initial impact, but I don't think this changes anything for relocation buyers. We still have inventory. We are entering a slower selling season, but interest rates are still low, so buyers will continue to have options, the majority of which will be homes that did not flood," said Abney.
Likewise, Tess Chaney, relocation director for Martha Turner Sotheby's International Realty, pointed to a new normal in terms of the acute awareness that buyers will have moving forward about a property's proximity to the bayous and water retention areas.
"Pre-Harvey, elevation certificates were only required for high risks flood zones in order to obtain flood insurance," Chaney said. "Today, we recommend that all relocation buyers obtain an elevation certificate during their option period, so that they can feel confident in case of another major storm event."
Both Chaney and Abney agreed that many people who are moving to Houston right now have the wrong idea about the number of areas, neighborhoods and homes that actually flooded or had water damage.
"The misconception is in generalizing that an entire area of a major suburb or neighborhood flooded," Chaney said. "This creates a negative stigma for the entire community. The reality is that a small portion of several areas across the greater Houston area were affected, not the entire community."
"While the numbers are still fluctuating, only about 10 percent of the homes flooded, which means that 90 percent did not," Abney said. "What many people saw on the news made it look like the entire metro area flooded, which was not the case. This was truly a natural disaster of significant proportion, but it is not a normal representation of our climate."
In order to ease the minds of people who will be moving to Houston in the near future, Abney said that it is important to reinforce the message of the relatively low percentage of homes that actually flooded, and then to make recommendations based on specific properties.
"If a home flooded, the buyer should request a remediation certificate that shows that there was no evidence of mold or elevated moisture levels before renovation began, and also request receipts for the work that was performed," Abney said. "Buyers also need to have appropriate inspections done. If a home flooded and was renovated, and there are any concerns raised in the general home inspection, or if the seller is unable to provide the appropriate documentation, then a mold inspection might be prudent."
Chaney said that there is also some practical advice that can help to ease the minds of people who are moving here.
"Work with a local Realtor who has lived and worked in the immediate area where you want to purchase. Someone who has witnessed these weather events firsthand will be more knowledgeable and a better resource for the buyer, because they know the history of the areas that have been affected by previous weather events," Chaney said.
For relocation buyers who want to live on or near the water, that this is still a great option, but that they need to protect their property as best as possible, she said.
"They need to know their elevation, have a plan, stay alert and be proactive. We strongly advise all buyers to purchase flood insurance, regardless of where their home is located," Chaney said.
Michelle Sandlin is an award-winning writer, journalist and global mobility industry expert. Her work is frequently featured in Worldwide ERC's Mobility magazine, and in various business and industry related publications and corporate blogs. Follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheMichelleSandlin and on Twitter: @MichelleSandlin. Also visit "On the Move" at blog.chron.com/onthemove.