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10 Things We have Learned (so far) Living through a Natural Disaster...

natural disaster Sep 23, 2020

As many of you are aware my wife and I live in Southern Oregon, over the past several weeks the entire West Coast has been ravaged by Wildfires. In our area two fires touched our lives. The first was the Alameda fire which burned through the towns of Phoenix and Talent Oregon and touched areas of Medford, Oregon. The second was the Obenchain Fire which caused a level 2 evacuation of where our personal home was located.

The outcome of these fires is that 2300 homes have been lost with hundreds of families displaced. While our personal home was safe, we did end up losing three duplexes to the Alameda Fire. These properties were in the center of a densely populated area where you would never think a wildfire would touch the structures. The good news is that our tenants all made it out safe (with literally minutes to spare) and we are insured for the losses.

10 Things We Have Learned Living Through a Natural Disaster:

  • Have a Go Bag Ready – It’s been in the back of my mind for a few years as more and more natural disasters seem to be occurring with more frequency. Our family should have ‘go bags’ packed with essentials in the event of some catastrophic event. I resisted the urge thinking it will never happen to us. It did and it can happen to you too. 
  • Have a Family Emergency Plan – This disaster was so fast moving with multiple smaller fires starting in areas all over the county, no one had handle on good information. It is easy to think that there will be clear direction from authorities but that is sometimes just not possible. Establish a rallying point for emergencies, a phone tree, and or a text group for your family. Phones stopped working as cell phone towers burned. Having an advance plan is important. 
  • Insurance is Your Friend – The only time you love insurance is when you need it. Before a disaster take the time review your insurance policies. For our properties we were very fortunate that we had extended policies which covered rebuilding, debris removal, lost rent, landscaping, and personal property replacement. Best advice increase your coverage on everything. 
  • Get Insurance Binders Done Early – When you have an escrow in a natural disaster area something, we learned is that insurance companies put a moratorium on granting new binders until the situation has resolved. This means closings cannot occur on homes that do not already have a binder in place. Word to the wise get your binders secured early, take the risk out of the equation. 
  • Federal Disaster Areas – When an area like ours get’s declared a Federal Disaster Area all government backed loans (ie .. FHA loans) can’t be funded until 14 days from the event has passed and the property has been reinspected (for a fee). This can include another drive by appraisal. Best advise immediately extend all escrows with an FHA loan attached. 
  • Check Your Zoning – In our case the property we own is zoned EU30 which means that we can build up to 30 units per acre, so instead of 6 units on our .85 acre lot we have the potential to build 24 units. This can be beneficial for the market and for your clients if they have the financing and cash to build more units. 
  • Debris Removal – When a fire burns homes and structures it melts everything in its path including hazard materials. It would seem simple – just scrap each lot with bulldozer and start building. Not going to happen. Each property will need to be careful assessed and the debris removed according to EPA standards. This can cost thousands of dollars and take years to accomplish depending local and state government regulations. 
  • Scam Artists – Looting of disaster sites is something you might expect, but another kind of scam artist has emerged in our area. These are people posing as FEMA officers complete with badges who research specific homeowners’ names and their mortgage balance before attempting to engage them in a scheme to extract money for debris removal and lot clean up. 
  • Collaborate with Your Insurance Adjuster – During a natural disaster reputable companies generally do a great job of providing immediate assistance to their insured clients. But you still need to be your own best advocate. Have a copy of your insurance policy (you can secure a copy from the agent that sold you the policy) specifically you want the declaration pages. This will provide an outline of your coverage and what you are entitled to receive. 
  • Get Ahead of the Curve with Builders – Network with friends and colleagues about builders who may be able to help you or your clients. The line will be long as construction begins to ramp up to repair and replace homes that have been touched by the disaster. Expect costs to rise and to timelines to be extended. 

As we progress through the journey, we will keep you posted as we learn more. Stay safe, keep your friends and family close, and be thankful for all that we have.

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