Hot housing blasts through OKC ice storm
Not even a devastating ice storm could cool homes sales, even with powerlines down and electricity off for days, and trees shattered, splintered and felled across every square foot of the Oklahoma City metro area.
It wasn't pretty. It's still not. Old-growth trees went down, and they won't be replaced for decades, for as long as it took them to grow old. It will be weeks before the debris can be removed for sheer volume.
There were obstacles to overcome, literally, with scattered limbs, then piles of brush, blocking access to houses for sale and camouflaging for-sale signs, but that's more insult than injury in the age of online sales and marketing.
Who would pay for what, though — for tree work and debris removal — was a hot topic among real estate agents on social media before the ice even melted.
The basic answer for homes on the market? Sellers. As one agent said, it was "no different than if the AC went out or the house flooded before closing."
But for homes under contract but not closed, many sellers found they had some more negotiating to do. When the ice storm hit, nearly 2,300 sales were pending, according to the Oklahoma City Metro Association of Realtors.
"I think each deal will be negotiated differently. But ultimately the seller should deliver in same condition as when contract was signed," one agent posted on a Facebook group for agents and people in related business. "Obviously can’t replace all trees, but damage to fences, roofs, etc. should be repaired. I have seen in the past after a 'major event' (like [tornadoes] and earthquakes) where lenders required appraisers to go back out for reinspects before they would fund.
"This time would be even harder, with appraisers already behind in regular deals!"
If appraisers are behind, it's because the market is so hot. The housing shortage and persistently low mortgage interest rates are giving sellers the upper hand in negotiations. Multiple offers have houses selling for more than their appraised value, especially entry-level and move-up homes, despite the coronavirus pandemic and weakened economy.
The ice storm did give buyers a chance to make last-minute demands. Sellers seem to be meeting them.
Brenda Woodard, an agent with Whittington Realty, 26 SW 104, said a deal was set to close on Oct. 29. The agent went to check the property on Oct. 27, took some photos and sent them to the buyer.
"All was well with the huge, five-trunk backyard masterpiece maple tree," she said.
The storm hit later that day.
"We did the final walk-through Oct. 28, and the yard was a disaster," she said. The house itself was fine. "The seller agreed to give the buyer $500 for cleanup. We closed on time."
Some closings were delayed, however. Tim Lloyd, an agent with Verbode Group, 415 N Broadway Ave., said he had a closing set for the day after the storm on a house at 5405 N Military Drive, where trees were severely damaged and power was still off late Tuesday. The inspection was done, and dealing with tree damage wasn't part of the TRRs — post-inspection Treatments, Repairs and Replacements that are a legally binding part of final contract negotiations.
The buyer didn't want to proceed with the purchase without some break. Lloyd said the buyer and seller were working it out — and that his fingers were crossed. He said it was the first time for him to work both sides of a transaction. It could have been worse. Lloyd also owns and operates Echelawn Complete Lawn and Landscape, 4600 N Oklahoma Ave. He opted not to get into a three-way tug-of-war by offering to do the cleanup.
Joy Patton, an agent with ERA Courtyard Real Estate, 3553 W Memorial Road, has a house listed at 3421 NW 25, still without electricity at midweek, and with shattered limbs piled high.
"The house is vacant. I'm not sure whose trees they are," Patton said, although the seller, who moved to another part of the city, probably does.
The market continued on.
Shannan Booher, an agent with Block One Real Estate, 14209 N Santa Fe Ave., said she'd planned to list a house at 6709 Edgewater Drive two days after the storm, but the power was off. It came back the next day, her stager and photographer "were super flexible," and she was able to list the house on Halloween.
There was a snag, but it was slight.
"Can’t see my sign coming from the south because of all the limbs piled up," she said.
Across the street, houses were still dark, but she was able to hold an open house last Sunday. She was thrilled to have 40 to 50 home shoppers come through.
"Thank God for power!!!" she said in an electronic message. "The second-best one I’ve ever had! I thought it might be slow with people cleaning up because the weather was nice. I’m happy I was wrong!"