By Linda Merrill, Networx
Selling a house these days is not an easy process. While things seem to be looking up in some regions, there are many areas of the country where the glut of houses up for sale make it a buyer’s market. When buyers know they have lots of choice they can get very, very picky and every real and perceived flaw is noted. If your home experienced a fire, floor or other natural disaster, selling it down the road will be tricky indeed.
Assuming you’re looking to get the best price you can, as opposed to unloading the property at any cost, you must first and foremost completely document the problem and then repair the damages. Certain repairs will require documentation as well so that you can prove that everything was done properly. Every state has its own laws regarding real estate transactions and required disclosures and anyone faced with this situation should do the research ahead of time to know what is expected of them.
Damages caused by an “Act of God” such as earthquakes, fire or storm flooding are generally seen as one time only events. The cleanup and repairs, which may or may not be fully covered by insurance, should return the property to the same, or even better, condition than pre-disaster. In the case of a fire, the water used to put out the fire may cause even more damage than the flames themselves. Wallboards and wood floors may need to be replaced due to warping and all signs and smells of smoke damage be removed. A severe earthquake may cause structural damage that may not be apparent to the untrained eye. Bringing in a structural engineer to assess any damages will prevent future headaches when a buyer, or their inspector, comes calling. Since these types of events are newsmakers, sellers are likely to get direct questions about any damages they sustained. Having documentation from a reputable structural engineer or other proper authority that there was
either no damage or that it was successfully repaired is a necessity for a smooth sales process.
Natural disasters such as these may be an opportunity to upgrade certain spaces and improve the overall property during the restoration process. Generally speaking, wall to wall carpets and wood floors that have been flooded will nearly always require replacing. Old and outdated carpeting can be replaced with new carpet in a fresher color, which would instantly add value back into the home.
Depending on the level of damage sustained, it may be necessary to enlist the services of a restoration service which specializes in home disaster cleanup. They are equipped to move in fast to mitigate further damage and to clean up and repair the existing problems. But be warned, scam artists also abound, particularly after a major natural disaster. On the heels of Hurricane Isaac the Federal Trade Commission released a statement on August 29th reminding homeowners to take the following steps after a disaster:
Ask for copies of the contractor’s general liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Check the contractor’s identification and references. Avoid paying more than the minimum in advance. Deal with reputable people in your community. Call local law enforcement and the Better Business Bureau if you suspect a con.
After a disaster, whether it’s a hurricane or small kitchen fire, it is important to remain calm and focused on the steps needed to return your property to sellable condition. Taking the appropriate steps to assess the damage, repair it and document the entire process will pay you back well when it comes time to sell.