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Post-disaster, families rebuild bigger, better


NEW YORK – Jan. 10, 2017 – About 120 major disasters have struck somewhere in the U.S. since 1996, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). But homeowners show resilience. Following hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes or floods, they're rebuilding bigger and stronger homes that can better withstand the forces of Mother Nature.

A flood on Memorial Day in 2015 dumped a foot of water in Houston, damaging 800 of 2,400 homes in an area called Meyerland. After the disaster, about 150 of those homes were completely rebuilt.

Jennifer and Ben Deneen were two of those homeowners who opted to rebuild after their one-story home was completely flooded and ruined. Instead of just repairing the home, however, the couple opted to replace the home with one that could withstand future flooding. They rebuilt a two-story home in its place, made some remodels, and paid around $1 million.

Ed Wolff, president of Beth Wolff Realtors®, said a study his firm did following the 2001 tropical storm Allison in Southeast Texas found values of homes in affected neighborhoods dropped significantly initially. However, two years later, values were substantially higher than before the flooding, and the homes' square footage was significantly higher too.

Homeowners often use insurance money and dip into their savings for upgrades, though emergency assistance and insurance payouts usually require extensive paperwork that can delay reconstruction, and new building codes implemented after a natural disaster can also complicate rebuilding efforts.

Homeowners planning post-disaster renovations know they need to finance them since property insurance generally pays only replacement costs for a destroyed property.

In Texas, those optional upgrades ran the gamut. Many homeowners focused on kitchens and bathrooms, and maybe an extra bedroom. Many also added more drainage around the exterior of the home to help protect against future flooding.

Source: "After a Disaster, Families Rebuild an Even Better House," The Wall Street Journal (Dec. 29, 2016)

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Related Topics: Home sales