Natural disaster: what to do before you make home repairs. There are three things to consider before renovating to repair damage from a natural disaster.

Welcome to hurricane season. And, an extraordinarily rainy/delayed planting season in the Midwest. And, wildfire season on the West Coast. Whew! Exhausted yet?

As natural disasters become more frequent, more homeowners find themselves visiting Home Depot, Lowe’s or calling their local home improvement company to help them repair damage from a natural disaster.

This year, Houzz asked homeowners how natural disasters affected renovations over a 5 year period for their annual Houzz & Home report. In this Q&A, Nino Sitchinava, Houzz principal economist, takes us through their findings and the three considerations homeowners need to make when renovating to repair damage from a natural disaster.

Nearly 30 percent of owners are renovating their homes to repair damage, what types of damage are homeowners repairing?

In the last five years, we found that damage was more common than we anticipated. Damage breaks down into natural disasters or a plumbing malfunction, and at a similar frequency. It seems like you’re just as likely to be hit by a natural disaster as you are to have a plumbing malfunction, which, to me, is really interesting.

Is the percentage of homeowners renovating to repair damage from a natural disaster on pace with prior years?

Natural disaster frequency has increased and we have seen evidence of that from our pro community, from our homeowner community and other third-party reports as well. If you go back to 2015 or 2016, we have seen that only 4 percent of renovations in a given year were triggered by a natural disaster. In 2017 and 2018, that percentage went up from 4 to 6 percent.

What did Houzz learn about homeowners renovating as a result of a natural disaster?

We were interested in learning how natural disasters impact renovations over the long term. It’s not like a hurricane hits and you repair the damage right away. We know, roughly, that renovations due to a natural disaster may take place anywhere between immediately and a five-year window. We went back and we asked homeowners, how many of you have been affected by a natural disaster? Over the last five years, 12 percent of renovating homeowners were affected. That’s over one in 10 renovated homes being impacted by a natural disaster.

Do you have any advice for homeowners renovating to repair damage from a natural disaster?

There are a number of considerations that homeowners should take into account when making the decision of when to renovate after a natural disaster.

  1. The number one consideration is personal safety. Is the home in jeopardy? Is your personal safety at risk? Those answers have a profound impact on the timing of a renovation. Clearly, the answer is as soon as possible if personal safety is at risk.
  2. The nature of the damage will also determine the urgency of repairs. In 2017, when Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area and Hurricane Irma hit southern Florida, the timing of renovations was very different.
    • In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, flooding was the number one source of damage to homes. Water damage is not something a home can withstand for a long time. Immediately, the wood and the drywall starts rotting. Homeowners need to address water damage right away, otherwise, the structural integrity of the home is really in jeopardy.
    • In the case of southern Florida, where wind/storm was the primary source of damage to homes, we saw renovations take quite some time, two to three years. Even today, there are a lot of people waiting on the claims check, their insurance payout and so forth, because it’s not as urgent.
  3. Once you have personal safety resolved and the nature of the damage has been addressed, the third consideration is funding. If your homeowner’s insurance can support some of the repairs, it makes sense to start repairs as soon as possible, but if you’re waiting for a FEMA check, federal assistance where the outcome is not certain that you would qualify, then you do have to take into account that waiting might make more sense.

To read more about renovation trends from the Houzz & Home report, click here.

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