The after-effects of a natural disaster

Real Estate Agent with Chapman Hall, REALTORS, Atlanta, GA GA RE License 129010

With recent flash floods due to thunderstorms here in Metro Atlanta, and in response to seeing news stories of flooding in other parts of the country, I am re-blogging this post I made after local flooding in September 2009:

The after-effects of a natural disaster

10-15-09Don Duvall

The slow economy is certainly something we've had to deal with here in Metro Atlanta, but recently many of us have also had to deal with flood waters damaging our homes--even damaging our neighborhoods, roads, and schools. While my home wasn't destroyed, I've had to deal with a flooded finished basement and badly damaged yard. After 29.5 inches of rain in six days and 17 inches in about 12 hours, most of my neighbors are dealing with the same problems--ruined flooring, wet sheetrock, damaged furniture and personal items, plus mud-covered or eroded landscapes. What a mess!

Several years ago in an ice storm, we had widespread tree damage in the area. We've also had tornados and winds damage trees and homes. Local municipalities, utility companies, and private companies helped clear the roads and yards of downed and damaged trees. Residents with structural damage generally had insurance to help with repairs. In time, things returned to normal and those situations were a memory.

But it is different with a flood. Unless you have flood insurance, homeowners with damage are left to their own finances or turn to federal assistance to get their homes repaired. I personally made an inquiry with a FEMA emergency office nearby my home. After learning the routine and requirements, I decided to fund my own repairs instead of using the federal loan program. Whether I use my own savings or get a federally funded loan, the repairs to my house will take several months. How long will it take others who may not be motivated the same way I am? When will things return to normal on a wide scale...and what will the new "normal" be?

My finished basement is now stripped of ruined flooring, cabinets, baseboard trim moulding, mildewed sheetrock, wet furniture and personal belongings. I'll take some time in replacing the flooring and cabinets, and I'll also get pricing for French drains in the basement and landscape changes to my yard. Then I'll get things back the way they were--or better. Every house on my street had water damage. Like me, my neighbors are handling their repairs in a timely manner; however, this probably won't be the case everywhere. Whether it is mismanagement of funds or lack of funds in general, I am concerned how other residents affected by seemingly minor flooding will handle their clean-up. I'm also concerned how the lack of proper clean-up will negatively affect certain neighborhoods and the real estate market in those areas.

When I show a home with a basement, it is a pleasant surprise to find the basement dry, mildew-free and smell-free. We have all had buyers turn their noses at musty, mildewed homes regardless of a discounted price. With reduced prices in our area, will we now see further reductions because of issues with damaged basements? Will unrepaired or poorly repaired homes join the foreclosures which can become eyesores while they linger on the market? Or...will our "500 Year Flood" be a blip on the calendar with things returning to some sort of normalcy as the economy, home sales, and prices recover?


Well, over 9 months have passed since I wrote that post. I am composing this message from my newly renovated finished basement...but what have I seen since then in other homes? In my general area, which has a number of large, expensive distressed homes on the market, I've seen too many still with water damage--leaky roofs, rotting wood, ruined flooring, and moldy damaged basements. I had a buyer this spring looking for one of these larger homes. He was disgusted with the condition in many of the homes. We finally found one which had repairs done and the basement's finished and unfinished areas were like new--but that was the exception to the rule. I've just had a close friend undertake a massive renovation to a house which was a vacant foreclosure that experienced two years of uncontrolled water damage and decay. In this case, the greatly reduced sales price and ready cash made it a worthwhile project, but that's not always the case.

What is the situation around the country? Is this same scenario common, or is it unique to metro Atlanta--or other areas--which experience the extremes of Mother Nature as well as with the real estate market...?

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