In mid-February 2021, Winter Storm Uri settled into Texas. It brought frigid temperatures, multiple tornadoes, and a deadly power crisis. This devastating natural disaster, and the subsequent power crisis, left millions of Texans without electricity and resulted in the deaths of more than 70 Americans.
The effects of this tragedy are deep and far-reaching. In addition to more pressing concerns, people are wondering about the implications for the housing market. The market had been performing strongly before the storm. Will the storm impact this growth?
Here are five things Texas real estate agents need to know after the 2021 winter storm and power outage.
1. Vacant Homes Should Be Inspected Immediately After a Storm
First, if you’re representing an absentee seller or the buyer of a vacant home, check on that home immediately. Freezing temperatures can cause pipes to rupture, which leads to water damage.
Conduct a visual inspection of the property, including little-visited areas like storage spaces and basements. If you notice any standing water or water spots, contact a plumber to take a closer look. Even a damp smell could be cause to call in a plumber. The plumber can measure the moisture levels in the walls to see if there might be a leak that’s not yet visible.
Catching water damage early is a crucial step in preventing mold from taking over the home and ruining your listing.
In the future, if you’re listing a vacant home during the winter, get the seller’s permission to turn the water off at the main when it’s not needed. The home inspector can always turn it back on to check the plumbing when needed. You may even want to ask the seller’s permission to keep the heat on at a low temperature as an added precaution.
2. Pending Sales Have Been Delayed Due to Appraisal Revisits
Not only are homes all over Texas getting new visual inspections, but homes in escrow are also getting appraisal re-visits.
“Closings [are being] delayed due to appraiser revisits to ensure there’s no storm damage and that the home is still insurable," said real estate professional, Betsy Nava-Flores, from Harvest Real Estate in San Antonio.
This is interesting for real estate agents to note because of the timing. Most homes are naturally scheduled to close toward the end of the month. But because of the queue for appraisal revisits in some areas, closings were pushed into March. This means the market statistics will be skewed, showing February with fewer closings than it should have, and March with more closings than it should have.
Pay attention to this skewed data when analyzing market trends.
3. Buyers Have a New Appreciation for Weather-Proofing
This storm is another example of how climate change is affecting the housing market. Weather patterns are being more unstable, and homebuyers are responding by changing their preferences.
Today’s homebuyers are paying special attention to homes with solid insulation, wood-burning fireplaces, and double-pane weatherproofed windows and doors, which offer more protection against the outdoor elements.
Real estate agents should play up these features in their listings to increase buyer interest in the homes.
4. Homeowner’s Insurance is Critical
Lenders insist on homeowner’s insurance for homes that are mortgaged. Most lenders even roll the insurance premiums into the monthly mortgage payment, to be paid out of an escrow account. This allows lenders to make the insurance payments on behalf of the owner, so lenders can be sure the policy is kept current.
But if your sellers have paid off their home, they legally aren’t required to carry a homeowner’s insurance policy. This could leave them completely unprotected in the event of a natural disaster.
Asking your sellers if they have a current homeowner’s insurance policy is a perfectly valid question. It’s in their best interest as the property owner and in your best interest as their expert real estate consultant.
5. Despite the Freezing Winter, the Market is Still Hot
Due to historically low interest rates and the ongoing relocation-affect of the COVID-19 pandemic, buyers’ interest in Texas real estate has not been dampened by the storm.
"[Texas is] definitely a seller’s market," said Nava-Flores. "Buyers are struggling in the highly competitive pre-owned market but builders are filling the gaps [with new construction] in all areas of San Antonio.”
Despite the devastation, Texans are rallying. And people are still gladly moving to Texas. After all, natural disasters happen everywhere. All we can do is prepare and help our clients make informed decisions when they’re buying or selling a home.