Despite apparent number of vacancies, Harvey-damaged homes still selling in Spring, Klein

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Two years post-Hurricane Harvey, vacant homes still dot once-flooded neighborhoods in Spring and Klein, such as Wimbledon Forest and Wimbledon Champions, both located off Cypresswood Drive.

Some homes still have varying degrees of damage. The vacant property at 16214 Wimbledon Forest Drive, for example, had a Public Health and Environmental Services Public Health Violation pinned to its door as of June 13. Just down the road, the Harris County Engineering Department placed a permit for flood recovery on the vacant house at 6214 Laver Love Drive.

On Ampton Drive, a large dumpster sits in front of an empty property that is in the process of being renovated.

Despite the apparent neglect since Harvey hit the Houston area in August 2017, local real estate agents said homes that have flooded are still in demand, provided they have undergone proper restoration. However, the homes generally sell below market value and remain on the market longer than homes that did not flood—about four to six months, said Yvonne Chauvin, a real estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene in Cypress.

“They are still selling. They take a little bit longer than other properties, of course, because people understand the potential of future flooding,” Chauvin said. “But what drags [buyers]to these properties is they see the value. They have a home that may have been built in the 1970s, but it’s being sold for $200,000, which if it hadn’t flooded … would have been closer to $300,000.”

Cathryn Cotrone, a real estate agent at Pop Realty who serves the Greater Houston area, said the reduced prices combined with other incentives, such as the opportunity to move into a better school district, attract potential buyers to once-flooded homes.

“Sellers are stuck with these homes, and they’re going to be selling at a discount,” Cotrone said. “If I’m a buyer, I’m finding that I can buy homes that are flooded that I couldn’t have purchased previously because they’re sold at a discount.”

Investors’ market

When floodwaters receded, many homeowners sold their homes to investors in as-is condition, Chauvin said.

“The biggest change in the real estate market is [probably]the number of investors that have flooded the market and the number of homes that are being purchased as distressed properties,” she said.

Iona Alphonso, a real estate agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene, said about two-thirds of the homes on Wimbledon Forest Drive, which is part of the Wimbledon Forest subdivision, sold to investors following Harvey. Every home in Wimbledon Forest flooded, she said.

“A lot of people did not have flood insurance, so that’s what killed most people. They did not have the money to fix up their homes,” she said.

Two years after the storm, homes in various subdivisions that flooded, including Wimbledon Forest, are still being sold to investors—often changing hands multiple times, she said.

“Investors are still in there turning over the homes,” she said.

Alphonso said after her home in Wimbledon Champions flooded, she sold it to an investor, who rented it to another investor, who is now selling it.

Home values

Although the Houston Association of Realtors does not differentiate between homes sold to an investor and homes sold to buyers who move in, the total number of homes in neighborhoods that flooded during Harvey, such as Prestonwood Forest and Champion Forest, jumped following Harvey.

For instance, in the Wimbledon Champions neighborhood, all 345 houses flooded during Harvey, said Elaine Holman, the president of the community’s homeowners association. In 2018, 36 homes in Wimbledon Champions were sold—a record number, according to HAR, which compiles data for the neighborhood from 1997 to 2018. By contrast, only 13 homes sold each year in 2017 and 2016.

Alphonso said in some neighborhoods such as Wimbledon Estates, homes that were renovated by investors generally sold for market value or above.

“Over the last six months … we had 32 sales in Wimbledon Estates, and the prices that they’re getting on the homes are pretty good,” she said. “People are seeing beyond the fact that a home has flooded … which is encouraging for the neighborhood.”

However, Paul Eschenfelder, the founder of Cypress Creek Association—Stop the Flooding, an organization dedicated to educating citizens about flooding issues, voiced his concern that homes along Cypress Creek will flood again if another big storm hits.

“You’ve got all this impervious surface, so if it rains here [it will flood],” Eschenfelder said. “The creek can’t handle the development.”

This appeared in print as one of our 5 Real Estate Trends. Read about the other real estate trends here.
View our other Real Estate Edition coverage.

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Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.
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