Post-flood Brings about Options to Raise, Re-build or Sell Your Lot
By Susan Fox
With three 500-year floods occurring between 2015 and 2017, feeling safe in one’s own home and protecting investments are of paramount concern throughout the Houston metropolitan area. There is hopeful news for some affected homeowners, while others must come to terms with less attractive options.
Quite frankly, it all comes down to where you are in your life — and money, says Lynne Skinner, a Greenwood King realtor.
Skinner, a woman in her 60s, is one of many flood victims grappling with what to do next. She says of her lovely single-story home on a tree-lined street in Bellaire, “It was very shocking to suddenly have one foot of water in the house,” recalling the unbelievable day of Aug. 27, 2017.
A long-time resident of this neighborhood, Skinner says her house never had flooded — “not even close.” She was not prepared because nothing ever was indicative of her home being at risk, not once in all 35-plus years of living there.
Skinner says today she is living with her daughter while looking long and hard at her options. At near retirement, she aims to be fiscally smart about her recovery.
Skinner’s Greenwood King colleague, Jordan Longerot, is in a somewhat different boat. But, no doubt about it, he is paddling similar waters. He knows that he and his physician-wife, who are both in their mid-30s, will choose what is right for them — but it is sure to be expensive. Good news for them isthey hope to recoupe their losses over time. They are currently living with his parents while they mull over options.
The Longerots’ home is in Meyerland, an area with an easy commute to the Texas Medical Center. Unfortunately, it has flooded all three recent times. Longerot says before they bought there, the realtor in him made him look to ensure flooding was a nearly impossible happening. His and Skinner’s stories are, sadly enough, all too common in this metropolitan area.
Skinner and Longerot both now have close and personal experiences that allow them to help others move forward. The options, they say, include possibly elevating a flood-area and damaged house, rebuilding it or selling it for lot value.
NEW BUILDING CODES
The city of Houston and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) now advise that if rebuilding a home, it will be necessary to lift the house a minimum of two feet above the highest flood level.
Before granting a permit, officials with the city of Houston’s Flood Management Office (FMO) may need to do an inspection of the home, understand the nature of the work to be done and review the costs associated with the work. The department also notes it accepts only current elevation certificates. Houston’s FMO is part of the Public Works and Engineering Department located at the Houston Permit Center, 1002 Washington Ave.
Longerot says rebuilding is an option he and his wife are considering. But building a custom house, which many of his neighbors are doing, will likely take up to 24 months and cost between $175 and $215 a square foot.
Elevating an existing house is another option, and also one that the Longerots are actively considering. He says signage of two companies, in particular, have popped up all around his neighborhood. They are Arkitektura Development Inc. in Kemah and Planet Three Elevation — and there are others.
The companies handle large-slab homes. Often included in the price to elevate: Utilities/plumbing, restoring steps, stairs, landings, decks and adding a decorative skirt or foundation wall. Of course, remodeling costs within are separate from the elevation costs and depend on what level of restoration and updating is done to the house.
The companies claim nothing needs to be removed from the house — not even from the closets and shelves inside. More than 90 percent of their work centers around elevating one- and two-story homes. While costs vary, Longerot received a bid of about $80 a square foot to go this route.
“Some of the elevated homes, if they are older, may never match the value of the new construction,” says Longerot. That may be something to consider.
Elevation grants for about $30,000 are available to homeowners who have received “substantial damage” or who have had repetitive flood claims. For such an application, visit www.houstonemergency.org
HOUSE FOR SALE
If selling a flooded and damaged house, Longerot says a mortgage company will not lend money toward an uninhabitable house, so basically homeowners will be looking at getting lot value only. Location, location, location might be the mantra here, especially if the house is in a highly sought-after area.
& Custom Homes
Arkitektura Development Inc.
Cason Graye Homes
Flood Management Office (FMO)
Greenwood King Properties
Jeffrey Harrington Custom Homes
Planet Three Elevation