The Real Estate Professional's Role After A Natural Disaster

Real Estate Agent with (512) 786-8300

As many of you know, we in Central Texas, have been dealing with wildfires, that have destroyed over fifteen hundred homes. The stories of loss, despair, heroism and emotion fill our local evening news. The daily broadcasts are filled with images that are stunning to say the least. But today that news became reality, as I met with some folks who suffered a loss, and are looking for a new home.


Real estate professionals see homes on a daily basis. We sell, lease, and look at homes through what are usually favorable conditions. Divorce and foreclosure happen, but the actual structure is still intact.  But unfortunately, sometimes there is another side of real estate. Today I encountered a couple that literally only have the clothes on their back, from the home they lost. They were understandably emotional, because losing a home, with possessions and memories, is something they don't prepare you for in home ownership 101. Furthermore, with a devastating event like this fire, entire neighborhoods are lost, and communities are damaged.

In most instances, there isn't much to say to someone who sustains such a loss. But as real estate professionals we are in a position to do even more. On my drive back to the office, I tried to put together a list of things we can do as agents, to take extra care, to help folks who suffer the loss of a home:


- Work closely with the insurance company, to ensure a smooth transition to housing of some sort

- Stay in constant communication with the affected parties, since this is already a confusing and unsettling time

- Be prepared to go to the client, wherever *there* is, to deliver contracts, paperwork or recieve funds

- Communicate with contractors, furniture delivery companies, and other vendors to gain acces and answer any questions.

- Work with other real estate professionals, who are likely aware of the challenging circumstances


Most folks are pretty resilient after the shock of a devastating natural disaster occurs. I met two fighters today, who will get on their feet. But we can use our role, as real estate professionals, to ensure that road back is a smooth one.



Posted by

Scott Hayes

Austin Real Estate Agency

Extraordinary Service, For Extraordinary People

Direct: 512-786-8300

Comments (53)

Paula McDonald, Ph.D.
Beam & Branch Realty - Granbury, TX
Granbury, TX 936-203-0279
This is all so sad for us. Great post. The fires are very scary and we are seeing them get closer and closer to us.
Sep 14, 2011 04:20 AM
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

This is an excellent post and timely.  I had a property for sale when the Northridge quake hit.  My agent, obvisously, didn't read your post!! They didn't help much and I was out-of-state when the quake hit.  I really could have used an agent like you!!

Sep 14, 2011 06:22 AM
Yvette Chisholm
Long & Foster Real Estate, Inc. - Rockville, MD
Associate Broker - Rockville, MD 301-758-9500

I remember last year's earthquake....we went and checked on everyone's vacant home right afterwards.   One of our clients cried because she was so happy we actually cared about her home enouch to check on it.

Sep 14, 2011 07:12 AM
John Meussner
Mason-McDuffie Mortgage, Conventional Loans, Jumbo Loans, FHA, 203(k), USDA, VA, - Walnut Creek, CA
#MortgageMadeEasy Walnut Creek, CA 484-680-4852

What a toughtful post, Scott.  Nice to see a reminder of the good side of the business-  we're dealing with more than brick, mortar, and money-  we're dealing with people, and your post reflects the importance of realizing this.

Sep 14, 2011 07:29 AM
Team Honeycutt
Allen Tate - Concord, NC

This was a thought provoking post.  I can't imagine losing everything and starting all over.  There are a lot of facets to that kind of devastation.

Sep 14, 2011 08:26 AM
Nick Smith
Jpar Live Local - Boise, ID
Boise Idaho Real Estate, We Love Boise

I believe that we should always look for opportunities to service in our communities. Thanks for the great post.

Sep 14, 2011 09:06 AM
Christine Donovan
Donovan Blatt Realty - Costa Mesa, CA
Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M

Scott - I think these are great things to do to help people after a disaster.  The pictures I've seen from there are incredible.

Sep 14, 2011 01:36 PM
Tamara Inzunza
Realty One Group Capital - Alexandria, VA
Close-In Alexandria and Arlington Living

Great post!  We've had an earthquake, seen Hurricane Irene, and just got the last rain from Tropical Storm Lee.  The earthquake didn't do much but get people talking, but the rains that we got here in DC I believe were meant for you in Texas, but Mother Nature took a wrong turn.  Lots of flooded basements here and opportunities to check on clients.

Sep 14, 2011 01:36 PM
John Conoran

What would be nice to see are Real Estate Agents forgoing their commissions to help these poor souls get into new housing quicker and easier.  The commissions can be used by the person instead to help offset their great losses.  Has anyone taken that action yet?  That is the right thing to do!

Sep 15, 2011 12:11 AM
Dan Walker
Walker Realty - Salt Lake City, UT
Specializing in Gated Communities


Great post and timely. It's amazing how many parts of our great country are going through some or have gone through some natural disaster. This has been the year it seems.

Sep 15, 2011 12:47 AM
Karl Mengers

Talk about opportunity! I mean opportunity to SERVE! An opportunity to serve like almost nobody else is in a position to. As an individual realtor, I can see many ways to be of more service than almost any other single individual in helping to put their lives back together.

Sep 15, 2011 02:05 AM
Susanna Boyer, Broker/Owner, 1st Source Texas Realty

Wonderful post Scott. As of this morning, the Bastrop fire is about 70% contained - after burning for almost 2 weeks.  Last night there were more fires that were SET...someone got the license # of the vehicle and hopefully they will apprehend these arsonists and put them away for a long time.

For those AR members that want to help, you can donate online to the Red Cross, as they are running low on supplies.  You can also send $25 Visa or Wal-Mart gift cards, to help replenish supplies for the fire fighters and other responders.  There is also a need for dog and cat food and feed for cattle and horses that have all had to be moved to safety. The local animal shelters need help for these "foster" pets.  There are people delivering (donating) hay from as far away as Minnesota and Missouri.

I've been praying about a way that I can help, besides the obvious, and one of the commentors - #47, John Conoran has a great idea.  I will be offering 1/2 of my commission back to the victims that buy a house through me.  I just have to figure out a way to let them know that (market it), in a way that doesn't make me look like an "ambulance chaser"...If anyone has any suggestions, please email me. 

God bless you all!

Susanna E. Boyer, Broker/Owner of 1st Source Texas Realty, (512) 785-4568,

Sep 15, 2011 03:16 AM
Lucien Vaillancourt
Native Sun Realty, Inc. - Jacksonville, FL
Jacksonville Florida Real Estate

What a great way to improve the way the public views real estate agents.  Best of luck to you and the "two fighters" you are helping.

Sep 15, 2011 03:52 AM
Jim McCormack
Nashville Short Sale Specialist - Jim McCormack - Edge Advantage Realty, LLC - 615-784-EDGE (3343) - Murfreesboro, TN
Nashville Short Sale REALTOR - Stop Foreclosure

Good advice.

Sep 15, 2011 04:19 AM
Carrie Sampron
Home Smart Realty Group - Highlands Ranch, CO
ABR SFR & Kathy Sampron (303) 931-3629 Highlands R

Scott: Great tips. We've all been watching the coverage on the news and it truly is devastating to hear, even for those of us not involved. Best wishes to everyone. Carrie

Sep 15, 2011 05:57 AM
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTORĀ®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Great job!  Kudos to you for stepping up to the plate.  You'll be rewarded far more than a paycheck for providing excellent service. 

Sep 15, 2011 07:55 AM
Michael Singh,Broker
Singh Real Estate - Corral de Tierra, CA

Going the exta mile to help someone in need is always a good deed 

I hope Texas recovers soon.


Sep 15, 2011 11:07 AM
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

Even if there is no Business in it for you now would be a good time to be a resource for people.  List of temp housing and such.  

Sep 16, 2011 02:10 PM
Yvonne Wilder
Halter Associates Realty - Woodstock, NY

Here in the North East we have also suffered unimagined natural disasters lately.  Towns and village centers that stood for well over a hundred years - sometimes 200 -  were suddenly swallowed by rampaging waters.  Bridges and roads suffered incredible damage.  At least one trailer park was completely destroyed.  As of earlier this past week, at least one family from that trailer park was still being housed in a not-so-local shelter.  These incredible disasters that are occurring in almost every area of the country decimate communities and funds.  Sometimes it is weeks before areas are accessible again - we still have roads that are closed, except now the local paper has taken to putting "indefinitely" in parenthesis behind some of them. Shelters and food pantries are valiantly attempting to cope with the massive increase in demand.

This is a great post, a jumping off point for the many ways we Realtors can help.  As another featured post mentioned, I don't work for free, but I love to offer free help.  Maybe we can work through Habitat and other organizations to help rebuild/restore some of the properties that are not too far gone.  Maybe we can volunteer at food pantries, give blood, help with clean-up efforts. 

It has been a tough market through the past few years.  There seems to continue to be a backlog - shadow inventory - of preforeclosures or foreclosures not released to market.  Maybe there is a way to persuade the owners of those properties to allow renting or marketing to help replace some of the housing we have lost - that could be a win-win situation.  Maybe there is a way to petition and persuade the lenders of the destroyed properties to work with the insurance companies to satisfy mortgage commitments and allow owners to move on more quickly.  Maybe there is a way to persuade governing bodies to forgive taxes on those properties that were lost (ok, so this is a pipe dream).  What I have heard, more than once, is: I have no home left, nowhere to go, no possessions; and the mortgage and taxes are still due and payable.

This is not easy, and it will not be quick.  But as a group we can be influential.  Maybe this is an opportunity to restructure some of the things we see as inappropriate - like built up flood plains along rivers and crazy high taxes and uncared for infrastructure, communities that could be designed more efficiently to make life better for the inhabitants.  Let's all put our thinking caps on and start locally to build to the national level.  It may feel devastating and absolutely aweful, but it is an opportunity of the highest order. 

Sep 17, 2011 10:34 AM
Claude Labbe
Real Living | At Home - Washington, DC
Realty for Your Busy Life

Very nice thinking here.  This surely is how we can make a difference as realtors.

Based on where you are in 2011, it seems there's a disaster, simply a different type.  Fires, floods, storms. Lots of opportunity for people to get involved.

Sep 19, 2011 05:00 PM