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Learning The Signs of Storm Damaged Real Estate Properties

Most people do not know that Tennessee got hit by both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. The massive attention given to the damage caused by these storms on the Gulf Coast may cause some real estate investors to miss the fact that tropical storms produce damage over a wide area. In addition, “ordinary” tornadoes and violent thunderstorms do as much damage as hurricanes every year. Given this, it is critical for any real estate investor to learn how to spot storm damaged property.

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Inspect The Roof of The Property

A thorough inspection of a real estate investment opportunity starts at the roof. This is a good place to consider hiring an expert, but if you have no fear of heights take a look for loose or missing shingles. Also count the layers of shingles to see if a tear-off will be necessary when doing repairs. Look for loose flashing along chimneys, dormers, walls and roof penetrations such as plumbing and gas vents. While up there take a close look at the soffit behind the gutters and the condition of the down spouts.

Check The Condition of The Electricals

Inspect the electrical service, starting with the power lines from the street to the service drop on the structure. Make a note of any recently trimmed tree branches near the power lines. They may be routine maintenance, but they may also be evidence that limbs came down on the lines and had to be removed. Check the lights and receptacles in each room. Flickering lights could mean loose connections caused by stress on the wiring during a storm.

Be Sure to Check The Water System

Plumbing lines are notoriously rigid, and frame construction houses can sway a remarkable amount in heavy winds. This means that connections inside walls can be stressed and begin to leak. If the leak is over a finished, drywall ceiling it may take some time to manifest itself, and by then it may have caused significant damage. To check, turn off all the water in the house, including water softener systems. Make note of the reading on the water and check it again after your inspection. The numbers should match.
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Observe The Frame Foundation

As was mentioned, frame construction has a remarkable amount of give during windstorms. Brick face does not. Look for continuous cracks in bricks or separation between the siding and the trim. Cracks in brick construction over and under doors and windows may be settling and not storm damage. Step back from the house and look at the ridge line in the roof. If necessary, hold a ruler up to it and check for a level ridge. Of course, look at the foundation for any cracks greater than 1/8 inch wide.

Look Out For Mold

Mold grows quickly after drywall gets wet and can continue to grow inside the wall even after everything else has been dried. Professional air testing is the surest way to make sure there is nothing growing where it should not, but do-it-yourself kits are also available. Since mold has a distinctive odor, someone with a sensitive nose can often do a reasonable job. Take the cover off an electrical receptacle or switch to get access to air from inside the wall cavity.

Investigate Any Landscape Issues

Recently removed tree limbs have already been mentioned in the context of power lines, but look for signs of recent trimming on any of the trees on the property. Weak limbs break more easily, and a tree that suffered limb damage during a storm may be weak or diseased. Mature trees can add significantly to property values, and needing to remove a tree shortly after buying a property is both an expense and a hit to market value.

Storm damaged properties can sometimes represent good real estate opportunities if the other market factors are in place. However, they are a fraught proposition. Every homeowner, real estate investor or not, knows every repair costs more than expected. Every real estate investor knows unexpected repairs are the most expensive of all. A good inspection of storm damaged property can help avoid those costs.

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