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  • Writer's pictureJulie Nelson

FROVID Part II: the real estate version

I wrote a post yesterday with my personal experience with TX FROVID 2021. This post tackles the real estate implications, lessons from a natural disaster. I say natural disaster as in Mother Nature drove a Siberian freight train all the way to the TX coast (you know Corpus Christi froze & lost electricity too, right?) and parked it here for 7 days, 144 consecutive hours below freezing. But there was also a public policy disaster in that ERCOT, privately-held electric grid in TX (the only private in the country ... 5 board members do not even live in TX, 1 in Canada), was totally unprepared and threw the state into a critically compromised near black-out. So the politics version of FROVID would be another post, Part III (I may keep that to myself or Facebook).

We are not accustomed to the extended freeze in TX. There is a reason there are basements in the Midwest, with plumbing & water heaters & the like nicely protected down there in that musty extra space. (You should see our garages here in Austin, all crammed with stuff because we don't have basements to hide away all the extra.)

As Realtors, we learn to deal with curve balls ... an untimely hail storm, a seller who did not remove their junk, a chandelier that was removed that was supposed to stay in place, an appraisal that goes sideways, a gas leak, a client not handing the stress, a buyer who is leaving the country but cannot find a notary, a seller whose wife gave birth unexpectedly 7 days early ... we learn to navigate these things. The FROVID 2021 electricity loss combined with the freezing temps wreaked havoc on homes, causing a state-wide damage estimate that exceeds the last big hurricane. And herein lies the real estate lessons learned, in no particular order and certainly not a complete list:

  • The majority of closings are delayed due to one of the following: title companies were closed last week because they also had no electricity, appraisers now want either a re-inspection or fell behind as they too were closed, plumbing has to be fixed before it can close (and all the plumbers are booked).

  • Speaking of plumbers ... They are the most popular people in TX right now as everyone needs one. One of my pendings has an agreed-upon "non-critical" (the house is not flooding) plumbing repair that the seller agreed to & signed before the storm but had not yet set an appointment with the plumber ... and now the plumber is not returning his repeated calls. If this closing is delayed, the buyer could be exposed to a new rate-lock fee as interest rates ticked up a tad.

  • Insurance claims - There are a bunch of them.

  • Plumbing in attics - While not a great idea, it does exist some and these homes were a tremendous risk last week. Some of the biggest damage claims to homes is where there was a busted pipe in the attic. The most enormous damage claims are the attic leaks that went undetected because the family left the home 2 or 3 days earlier to go stay with a friend or at a hotel because they had no electricity. I heard of a woman who received a call from a neighbor to tell her there was water pouring out her front door.

  • Water bills - If someone had a pipe leak & was main-shut-off-valve unaware or incapable, then just how long did that pipe flow freely? So will the City of Austin or your water district have grace with these expenses?

  • Water main shut-off valve is your friend! You MUST MUST know where your main water shut-off valve is before you need it! Many water shut-off valves are a bit buried, the cap covered with dirt or grass or once you open the cover some of them need a special tool to turn the valve 90 degrees to off or the valve is rusty & tight or the access point is a bit filled with dirt or mud & needs a cleaning. One of my most practical friends, who happens to travel a lot, always turns off her main water valve anytime she is leaving town. She was stuck in CO for TX FROVID but her water was already shut off.

  • Pools - As long as the electricity was running, most pools were fine as our pools have freeze mode which basically moves water through all the pipe non-stop. When the electricity went off (we had about 36 hours, some folks had 5, 6, 7 days), some of those pipes started to freeze & break. I had to chop ice forming in my pool as that was the water we were using for all the animals & to fill the toilets. So from a real estate perspective, there are homes with pools that need work and homes with pools that are seriously in high $$ peril. If I had a buyer pending with a home with a pool, I would want a professional opinion on it and pool companies are totally booked right now.

  • Cedar trees - Evergreen trees can hold a lot of ice & snow on their branches thus can easily break in a storm like this. So for real estate, most homes had a branch or two down. So the question for any of your pendings is not just tree damage, but did anything fall on the house, a fence, a water tank etc.

  • Frozen well line - This happened at our home.

  • Annual service contracts - I personally have an HVAC & water heater/filter annual contract with a service company. I'm a huge fan. When there is a major disaster like this, they put their existing contract clients on the priority list. It is why we had a plumber out to our house in 2 days while some were still waiting for a return phone call. Having your major appliances on an automatic annual service plan, it makes you a better homeowner and gets you in the priority line.

And I'll throw in a little non-real estate but important:

  • Chickens - I throw this is just for color, not for real estate. We have 12 chickens & moved them into the house for FROVID ... dog crates in the laundry room & the shower. I know, lovely. It was actually a huge stress-reducer to not have to worry about them.

  • Family & neighbors - In a crisis, you regain a huge appreciate for your neighbors & family who come together to help each other out, regardless of temperature.

And finally:

  • Grace - This is real estate related. And life related. With acts of God & the aftermath, the vast majority of folks get all sort of flexible and bring reason and grace to the table. There are still the handful that do not, and that's unfortunate but they may have other stuff going on and that deserves a heaping dose of grace ... but you can only control certain things. My coach reminded me earlier this week that grace starts within ... it seems I was applying grace to everyone else and not so much to my tired self.

Reach out if you still need help or have questions. Oh, and it was 74 & sunny yesterday.

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