HOUSTON – (By Michelle Leigh Smith for Realty News Report) – Extreme cold, broken pipes and power outages disrupted the Houston realty market and left Houston Realtors scrambling to deal with properties damaged by wintry weather last week.
Many houses that were under contract to be sold suffered water damage as pipes burst in the exceptionally low temperatures.
Closings are being delayed. Some houses that were for sale have been withdrawn from the market due to weather-related damage.
“First Covid. Now this.”
For Greenwood King Properties’ Heidi Dugan, who is consistently ranked as a top Houston producer for the last 15 years, the freeze has presented a new level of challenge. “This has definitely impacted us,” says Dugan. “First Covid, now this. I have a closing in two weeks on a house that now has broken pipes and now there is water damage. I don’t think we can have an adjuster out there and have all the numbers on time to close on time. We have to figure out how to assign insurance claims and how to assess the damage, etc.”
At Bernstein Realty, Owner/Broker Amy Bernstein says the issues resulting from last week’s freeze have loomed large.
“Some of our clients had leaks resulting in water damage as well,” says Bernstein. “Some of the lenders are adding a policy that they want the property to be re-inspected to get verification that there are no leaks or damage to the property resulting from the conditions of last week,” Bernstein says. “Getting the proper vendors to come out to assess the situation and make repairs is not easy. Finding plumbers to come out in time to handle the situations before closing has been a real bear. As a result, we have had multiple closings delayed throughout the company.”
The freezing weather shifted Bernstein employees into high gear.
A Shortage of Plumbers
“Our property managers have been working around the clock, dealing with pipe damage and water damage,” Bernstein said. “There are not enough plumbers available to handle it all since so many are so busy. There are some plumbers who perform an air test. They run air through the pipe and see if it holds. If it does not hold, they listen for where the air is coming from. This way, they can fix the damaged pipe before turning on the water, thus repairing the pipe before causing water damage when the water is turned on and more damage happens. Even if you can get a plumber to come out, then you have to fix the damage associated with the pipe break, which all takes time, resulting in delayed closings.”
“I’m hearing some insurance companies authorizing to go ahead and begin repairs, even before the adjuster comes out,” Bernstein says. “There are not enough adjusters to jump on so many cases right away. The other component of this is finding supplies. If you go to the store to buy plumbing supplies, many of their shelves are often as empty as the grocery stores with the shortage of water last week.”
“This too shall pass, and made everyone enjoy electric and water even more,” she said. “The sun was out this weekend, and the market remains strong!”
Signing Affidavits About Storm Damage
“I was worried lenders would want to the inspector to go back and reinspect,” Annie Ortiz, an escrow officer with Chicago Title who offices at 1208 Hutchins. “Instead, they are asking for affidavits to be signed by the borrowers stating the properties have not been affected by the storm. Our office did not lose power, but all my closings were pushed back to this week.”
How will the February ice storm and rolling blackouts change the Houston real estate market in the future?
Avoiding Future Blackouts
“Buyers will be asking which properties share a grid with a hospital or other essential locations such as a fire station. They will also likely ask if there is a generator or the possibility to have a generator installed,” says Ruthie Porterfield, an agent with Martha Turner Sotheby’s.
The week prior to the ice storm, the Houston Association of Realtors reported pending listings achieved another positive performance for the week ending February 8. A total of 2,656 property listings went under contract versus 2,419 a year earlier, a. 9.8 percent increase over the comparable week of 2020.
Then came Valentine’s Day and the frigid weather and the Houston housing market was challenged again.
Houston’s Realtors say they can cover all the bad-weather bases as the widespread storm damage disrupts the normal flow of business and the timely closings of deals.
“I have nine transactions pending right now. Some had a little sprinkler damage or exterior damage, but that’s all minor and all outside,” says Kristin Tillman, an agent with Greenwood King Properties. “I have one listing where the buyers are coming to do a walk through to make sure there are no leaking pipes.”
“I did hear from a lender that the lenders will not be doing reappraisals like they were having to do with Hurricane Harvey,” says Tillman. “I know there have been some listings that have been withdrawn from MLS due to plumbing issues. None of my listings had any damage in their homes, thank goodness.”
Realtor Neal Hamil with Martha Turner Sotheby’s says, “I had a closing moved from Monday to Friday, and two listings with plumbing issues. Two of my new listings are now delayed coming on because of problematic pipes.”
Hamil is no stranger to navigating extreme weather. Earlier in his career as the top executive of the iconic Ford Models in New York City. In the modeling world, swimsuits are photographed in January and wool coats roll out under a blazing July sun. “In New York City, fashion shows were often impacted by blackouts, transit strikes, garbage strikes, you name it. At my house in Connecticut, I had a furnace go out while I was in Europe for six weeks for the fashion collections. That unfortunate loss caused everything to freeze, even the liquid soap in the house. When the pipes thawed, down came the ceilings in a few rooms on the first floor. Then, when the furnace repairman came to make repairs, they set the basement on fire.That was all the biggest mess ever. I am so glad I live in Houston now.”
Feb. 22, 2021 Realty News Report Copyright 2021
Caption: Cold weather caused copper pipe to break in Texas winter storm. Photo credit: Ralph Bivins, Realty News Report. Copyright photo 2021.
File: Widespread Storm Damage Disrupts
File: (2) Texas. Snow. Ice. Widespread Storm Damage Disrupts Houston Realty . Broken Pipes. Bernstein Realty. Martha Turner Sotheby’s. Greenwood King Properties.