In February 2021, the state of Texas endured nearly a week of snow and arctic temperatures as three winter storms convened. In total, 246 people died between February 11 and June 4, some from injuries sustained during the freeze. The bodies of others were only discovered later.
The freeze also created damaging effects for Texas homeowners. The state's system of power stations had not been properly insulated for severe winter weather. On top of that, the spike in consumer usage meant cities had to power down whole sections of their grid, causing millions of people to lose electricity. Because Texas doesn't share its grid with other states, there was no way to tap into auxiliary power.
Once the lights came back on, there were more problems. Pipes had burst, flooding people's homes. Tankless water heaters —typically installed outdoors because of the mild temperatures — were destroyed. People had been running the water at a constant trickle to keep their pipes from freezing, so Austin and other cities dealt with a water shortage as well.
Unprepared for cold temperatures, people were huddled in their homes trying to stay warm and boiling their drinking water due to contamination. All told, there was $130 billion in damage in the Lone Star State.
Although Governor Abbott has yet to address the issue of maintenance to the state-wide power grid, Texas homeowners emerged from this bitter storm with a new set of concerns and priorities. As a result, Texas real estate agents have learned to market properties in a slightly different way.
Here are some of the most important things Texas real estate agents learned after the 2021 Freeze.
1. Texans Are Looking for Homes with Weather-Proofing
Every time the temperatures dip now, Texas gets a bit freaked out, and with reason. Most older homes in the Lone Star State aren't constructed to handle frigid weather. Water pipes typically run through the attic crawl space, leaving them exposed to extreme temperature changes. Nor is there adequate insulation in the walls and attic space of older homes.
A selling point for new construction homes, which are required by code to have insulation, are upgrades that make them more energy-efficient and weather-resistant. Extensive weather-proofing in older homes is another strong selling point.
"Can this house survive another Uri?" is a question Texas real estate agents now ask themselves every time they list a home.
2. Being on an Emergency Grid Is a Selling Point
Not everyone lost their power during the big freeze. Cities had to maintain power to hospitals and other essential facilities, and lucky homeowners located on these grids were able to avoid most of the nuisance and property damage associated with the storm.
"I now pay attention to a listing's proximity to a critical service, such as a hospital or fire station, knowing that being close increases the probability that the house would not lose power in the case of rolling blackouts," says Jason Heffron, Broker and Principal of the Juice Real Estate Group in Austin, Texas.
3. Hidden Problems from the Storm Remain
The arctic weather caused multiple problems that can impact home sales and negotiations. One, for instance, is damage to mature trees. The freeze stunted new growth on trees that were beginning to bud when the storm hit, killing or severely injuring many mature trees. Some of these will need to be removed, either at the buyer's or the seller's expense.
Another potential problem is damage to gas lines, which may have expanded and contracted due to the storm. Irrigation systems and main water lines also took a heavy hit.
It's important that Texas real estate agents understand the hidden cost of such damage, which can be flagged during the inspection phase of a home sale and lead to further negotiation or to a buyer withdrawing their offer.
4. Displaced Residents Are Still Seeking Housing
The greater Austin and Dallas metropolitan areas were experiencing tight inventory and a lack of affordable housing well before the 2021 Freeze. The freeze compounded this problem, displacing many low-income residents from flooded and storm-damaged apartments.
In the storm's aftermath, it has been harder for people to find affordable homes. The lack of housing has had another damaging effect — increased rent.
Texas real estate agents working to help first-time buyers afford a home must cast a wider net, looking further and further from the urban centers to locate homes that are within the budget of working and middle-class Americans.
5. The Seller's Market Rages On
Neither COVID-19 nor the 2021 Freeze had a negative impact on home sales. Dallas-Fort Worth, arguably the hottest real estate market in 2021, saw an astonishing 25% jump in home sale prices that year alone. Formerly laidback Austin is fast becoming one of the most expensive cities in the United States.
In 2022, much of the state is still experiencing a brisk seller's market, with continued low inventory and a lack of new construction homes.
The Bottom Line: What Texas Real Estate Agents Learned
The big freeze has made Texas real estate agents more aware of where homes are located. Amenities like weather-proofing and solid new construction are a bonus. Agents are also more aware of hidden or lasting damage that the storm may have caused — something that might affect a home sale during the negotiation phase.
That said, the real estate market in the Lone Star State continues to be solid, and this is a great time to become a Texas real estate agent. Aceable offers online real estate courses that are approved by the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC), making it easier than ever to get your license from the comfort of your own home. Check it out today!