The stress, hassle and time of rebuilding is causing some residents to put their flood-damaged houses on the market at reduced prices with the aim of selling quickly and starting over elsewhere.
Steven Zobenica recently sold his house on Olde Oak Drive in Dickinson. Zobenica’s Realtor suggested he list it for about 30 percent off its value because of flooding damage. A Los Angeles investment firm quickly snapped it up, he said.
Zobenica is slated to close next month on a home in Fort Worth where he’s moving to start anew with his business.
He has lived in Dickinson for about five years and had a window cleaning business in the area with customers around the North County. But Zobenica estimated he’d lost as much as 50 percent of his clients because their homes were flooded.
Zobenica’s two-story home took on about 5 inches of water during Hurricane Harvey, which dumped more than 4 feet of rain in parts of the county, swelling creeks and inundating homes.
After the rain stopped, he gutted the home, stripping out drywall and damaged floors and put it on the market, he said. His Realtor estimated the market values of the home before flooding and shaved 30 percent off for a $165,000 list price, he said. The appraisal district had valued the home at about $200,000 in 2017.
“I don’t want people to think we’re quitters, but we just didn’t want to live through the trauma of this,” Zobenica said. “I wasn’t confident real estate values could sustain it or that things would get back to normal quickly.”
Zobenica is one of a handful of homeowners Dickinson Mayor Julie Masters knows personally who put their gutted homes up for sale, but figured there were more in the community, which was among the hardest hit by Harvey, she said.
“It’s sad for the city because we’re losing some great citizens,” Masters said. “We’re losing friends and part of the community; we’re losing some special people.”
Masters also worried about what might happen to the flooded properties that were sold, she said. Many are being snapped up by investors with plans to either flip the properties and resell them or rent them, she said.
Masters hoped any investors would follow the proper process while flipping homes, she said.
“If that’s the case, we want the reconstruction to be done properly for the investment that future homeowners would be making,” Masters said.
“The fear, though, is rental properties; that’s the big concern,” she said. “It’s a bit of a double-edged sword because we need it at the moment, but long-term maybe not.”
Another looming concern with flooding is the effect it will have on property values, the city’s tax revenue and its ability to provide services at the same level as recent years, she said.
Several Dickinson houses recently listed for sale by the Houston Association of Realtors appeared to have flood damage.
Two houses on Inwood Drive, where flooding was severe, were listed for about $30,000 to $50,000 less than the latest appraisal district valuations. Appraisal district values are typically less than what a homeowner’s asking price would be in a sale listing.
Zobenica said his home was paid off, which made him more willing to take the hit.
“We’re excited about the move, but it’s sad,” Zobenica said. “We were attached to the neighborhood and had friends and our clients.”