Hurricane Florence is imminently making landfall, with the Category 4 storm (at press time) on track to batter the Carolinas and parts of Virginia, causing catastrophic damage in the region. According to CoreLogic preliminary projections, an estimated 758,657 homes could be devastated by the hurricane’s storm surge, and reconstruction could total up to $170.2 billion.
For agents and brokers in the path of the storm, preparations have been underway since the weekend.
“As soon as mandatory evacuations were announced, we gave our employees/admins the day off until the order is lifted,” says Mike Cole, owner of Realty ONE Group Dockside in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “We wanted to make sure that they all had time to pack and be as secure as they needed to. We also notified our agents that there would be no admin/staff support on site at our offices, but that we were available via phone and email should they need us. This past weekend, we requested that agents go out and make sure their For Sale signs were picked up so they wouldn’t become flying missiles should we take a big wind hit.”
“Already, the grocery stores are empty as people prepare—the water and bread aisles are empty and gas stations are running out of gas,” says Lee Goldstein, president of InTrust Realty in Raleigh, N.C. “It’s a little bit of a frenzy. We’ve asked all of our agents to call their client database and let them know to call us should they sustain any damage to their homes. We can help them because we have an extensive list of people who can help solve their problems.”
“I foresee the biggest challenge being power outages,” Goldstein says. “People could have trouble getting out of their neighborhoods, there won’t be any showings or viewings, and there won’t be any open houses. When Hurricane Fran, a storm of similar strength, hit in 1996, there were trees down everywhere and people were out of power for 2-4 days.”
According to Cindy Lisiecki, a REALTOR® with Charlotte – South Wilkinson ERA in North Carolina, there will be delays in transactions, as well.
“Homeowners insurance companies will not write new policies right now and all closings have been delayed until after the storm,” says Lisiecki. “Additionally, agents are waiting to put new listings on the market until after the storm passes, and we’ve cancelled all open houses.”
With catastrophic flooding predicted, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) again called for long-term reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) ahead of the storm.
“As Hurricane Florence bears down on the East Coast, our prayers are with the millions of Americans in its path,” said NAR president Elizabeth Mendenhall in a statement. “In these times, we are reminded of the importance of peace of mind for property owners with access to quality and affordable flood insurance.
“Although the National Flood Insurance Program is currently authorized through November, the NAR remains focused on ensuring Congress and the White House enact long-term reauthorization and reforms to strengthen the program’s sustainability. Flooding is the most common disaster in the United States—one that affects Americans in communities both coastal and inland every year. As another potential historic flooding event looms, we urge Congress to take up the fight for responsible long-term NFIP reform as swiftly as possible.”