Hurricane Harvey has caused a run on short-term rental properties and delays in many sales transactions, but area Realtors are optimistic the market will stabilize in longer term.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of demand, but a little less supply,” said Hank Dugie, a Realtor at Brockway Realty in League City.
“I don’t have concerns about the market falling apart and crashing,” Dugie said.
Communities around Galveston County, including Dickinson, Friendswood and League City saw severe flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey. In League City alone, officials estimate about 7,700 houses were damaged in the flooding.
Buyers and sellers in the midst of closing or with pending sales were those most immediately affected, officials said.
“Those scheduled to close have been delayed because the lenders all want the homes reinspected,” said Cindy Hamann, the chair of the Houston Association of Realtors.
Homes and buildings that were badly flooded are taken off the market, but many of the specific details are between the buyers and the sellers, Hamann said.
“Buyers getting loans all want to send an inspector back out to make sure the bottom of the beach home hasn’t blown out or anything,” said V.J. Tramonte of Joe Tramonte Realty. “One of my properties had a leak and a fallen ceiling. I’m going to have to get that fixed before closing.”
Homes set to close in the period immediately after Harvey were delayed, but Tramonte said he’s already closed on three properties with a fourth soon to follow.
“If a house is totally demolished, it’s a different story,” he said.
Most Realtors have switched their immediate focus to helping people find temporary housing, especially those displaced by the hurricane, said Kelly Kelley, a broker associate with RE/MAX Leading Edge.
“Right now we are really busy on the rental market,” Tramonte said. “People are coming here to find temporary housing. A lot of UTMB people are on six-month leases. We’ve been busy.”
What happens after the initial rental flurry is less clear.
“As to whether those people are going to start looking for new homes, that question remains to be answered,” Kelley said. “It’s too early to know. Thinking back on Ike, the process took a long time to figure out FEMA, insurance and everything else that is going on.”
In the longer term, experts don’t expect the market to slow down, but anticipate a possible rise in home prices, Hamann said.
“There’s now a more limited inventory,” said Sheri Williams of Hometown Properties. “People are now waiting for the right home to come up.”
That combination of increased people looking for new homes and a shortage of supplies could cause prices to rise, Hamann said.
“Homes that are available and haven’t flooded, homeowners are going to work top dollar for their properties,” Hamann said.
Despite the possible rise in prices, Realtors don’t expect it to hurt what was before the storm a very strong market.
“The market was very brisk before, even considering that we are going into our offseason,” Kelley said. “It definitely slowed down after the storm, but just in the last day or so, I’m noticing buyers are coming back into the market. It just takes a little time for everyone to adjust.”