Few could have anticipated a storm like Hurricane Harvey. The Category 4 hurricane caused widespread destruction to the Texas Gulf Coast, as well as unprecedented flooding in the Houston metropolitan area. Hundreds of thousands of people — many living outside traditional floodplains — were forced to evacuate their homes as floodwaters rose to historic levels.
But just because the storm has passed doesn’t mean the nightmare is over. According to the Insurance Information Institute, only 12 percent of homeowners across the U.S. have flood insurance. This means thousands of families are faced with the formidable task of rebuilding their lives and homes without the financial support of an insurance payout.
All flood claims aren’t filed from high-risk areas, either. In fact, policy holders who don’t live on floodplains make more than 25 percent of flood claims, showing that floods don’t discriminate by location.
If you or someone you love is in this difficult situation, rest assured that there are reasonable options moving forward. As you assess the damages that a flood left behind, consider these four courses of action:
1. Hire a Private Contractor
Some people opt to work with a private contractor to repair and restore a house after a flood. As the homeowner, this gives you some control over what repairs are made, and you don’t have to get your hands dirty cleaning up debris or removing disgusting mold.
However, working with a contractor can be quite costly — and without flood insurance, all of those expenses will come straight from your wallet. Also, contractors rarely commit to strict time frames for completing their work, especially after large-scale disasters when job opportunities are plentiful and crews are stretched thin. So if you choose to go this route, make sure you have someplace else to stay for an extended period of time.
2. Go the DIY Route
It’s common for homeowners on a strict budget to tackle some (or all) of the repairs themselves. With a plethora of YouTube videos on home repair readily available, there’s undoubtedly enough information to guide you through every step of the DIY process.
Although tackling repairs yourself can save on labor expenses, it does require a substantial investment of your time. Be prepared to dedicate every night and weekend to home repairs for the foreseeable future. Also, it’s critical to fully assess the water damage in your home before making repairs — overlooking even one compromised area could come back to haunt you.
It’s also important to consider how much you still owe on the house. If you owe tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars on the home and then put tens of thousands more into repairing it, at some point you’ll need to stop and consider whether it’s really worth the investment.
3. Apply for Federal Aid
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does have an assistance program in place to help those impacted by natural disasters. You can check eligibility and apply online or by phone, and if you qualify, you may receive several thousand dollars in credit to go toward your home repairs.
When applying for FEMA aid, be prepared to make an appointment for an inspector’s visit of your property. A photo ID (driver’s license or passport), proof of ownership (deed, mortgage, title, etc.), and proof of occupancy (lease or utility bill) are all needed during the visit. If you are approved for aid, you will receive an electric funds transfer or check and a letter with information on how the money can be used.
In addition, business owners can apply for financial assistance, such as low-interest disaster recovery loans provided by the Small Business Administration.
4. Team Up With a Home-Buyout Agency
If you don’t have the time, money, or emotional energy to invest in a lengthy remodel, there’s still one more option to consider: selling your property as-is. Real estate investment firms — such as mine, Marketplace Homes — will visit your home, assess the damage, and make a generous offer on your property. With the equity from your flood-damaged home, you can quickly move your family into safer (and drier) accommodations.
Marketplace Homes is also partnered with many large national builders. Together, we can relieve you of your flood-damaged property and get you situated in a brand-new, move-in-ready home.
While you may not have been prepared for a flood, you can prepare for where your life goes from here. If your home was damaged in a storm or flood, it’s critical that you assess your options for moving forward so you can make the best choice for you, your family, and your future.
President, Marketplace Homes