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Hurricane Sandy: What Does it Mean for the Real Estate Market?

Lori Crowell

Monday, November 19, 2012 • 7:36am

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, thousands of homes throughout the state were destroyed, countless others flooded and many home owners were left to repair their damaged properties. Locally, however, real estate professionals say the disruptions due to the storm were temporary and the housing market here continues showing signs of recovery.

“Ultimately, I don’t think Hurricane Sandy is going to affect our market very much at all,’’ said Susan Hunter, vice-president of Lois Schneider Realtor in Summit. “People still need houses. There were some immediate repercussions immediately following the storm, as during that time we obviously didn’t have a lot of people out looking for homes. But, our market will bounce back. Seasonally, this period before Thanksgiving tends to be a slower time of year in the real estate business anyway. I think this storm has made us all very grateful to live in a wonderful community where we all pull together; it makes you realize how lucky we are. This is just one more challenge we have overcome, and we will move on from here as we always do,’’ she said.

For existing transactions, Hunter said some buyers and sellers may continue experiencing short-term delays as mortgage lenders look to re-inspect homes in Federal Emergency Management Agency-declared disaster areas before closing. If a house suffered substantial damage, the owner will be required to make repairs before the lender allows the mortgage closing. The lender also may request another appraisal of the home. In light of the countless power outages experienced in this storm’s aftermath, Hunter also expects more home owners to install whole house generators. “We saw a big difference in the number of people who had generators this time around as compared to during last year’s Hurricane Irene. It’s expensive, but a generator certainly will become a desirable home feature after what we just experienced, making it a good selling point if these homes enter the market down the road.’’

Jeffrey Halpern, vice-president and manager of the Madison office of Coccia Realty agrees. “I think initially in the days following the storm things got quiet, but for us, this time of year actually is busier than it was last year. People are still going to be out buying, especially in communities along the train line which always have more appeal due to the ease of commuting.’’ Halpern said the local housing market continues to show signs of improvement. “Home prices have gone up, and properties are selling in less time. In fact home prices in Madison are up about 3 to 4 percent from last year,’’ he said.

At the Chatham office of Turpin Realtors, Manager Barbara “Barb” Barisonek notes that while it’s always difficult to forecast real estate trends, there are many positives taking place within her market area. “We are still doing business and I am optimistic. In the midst of the storm we actually did a price opinion on a house. It’s all about a consumer’s individual circumstances and what they need to do.

While there may not have been as many people out looking for homes during the hurricane as there had been in the previous few weeks, there always will be people in the market for a new home. We also had a couple of transactions that were held up by the bank due to the storm but it all depends on the financial institution; some banks just want to make sure investments are well protected.’’

Regardless of what’s taking place in other markets around the state, buyers always keep a close eye on the Chatham/Madison/Summit area, according to Barisonek. “Train lines are very important right now for commuters, which increases the desirability of these areas. People tend to watch these towns closely and will make a move when they see an attractive property come into the market. Compared to last year there is consistency with regards to the number of properties under contract and sold. We’ve had a combination of a lot of different things going in the last few weeks between Hurricane Sandy and the presidential election, in addition to heading into the Thanksgiving holiday. Still, the market currently is experiencing a lot of positive activity.’’

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