After the deluge that hit Houston yesterday, I’ve been thinking about how much home ownership is loaded with risk. First off, we’re fine, and our house is fine, although there are thousands of people that are not in that situation today. A quick recap on what happened here yesterday, according to news reports, there were over 1,200 high water rescues, and the equivalent to ~240 BILLION gallons of water fell in a matter of hours. Effectively, almost 17” of rain between 3 am and noon. Whoa… We had a lot of rain around Memorial Day last year, but it wasn’t a quick episode like this one. Even though we didn’t plan to end up in our neighborhood, more and more we appreciate where we are and how little we have to worry about flooding.
We dropped our flood insurance last year because well, we just didn’t see the need. Even after this most recent event, we still aren’t worried about our house flooding. The street didn’t even hold water this time, unlike Memorial Day, when there was almost 3 feet of water in the roads around our house. Once they turned on the pumps or opened drains, or whatever it is that they did, we went from 3 feet of water to nothing in less than 10 minutes. That wasn’t the case for the other areas that we had been so keen on moving to when we first got to Houston though. Those places seem to continually get flooded to some degree. Sure, we consulted all of the flood maps to make sure we wouldn’t be in a “bad” flood zone, but the flood zones change after each flood event. The reason the maps continually change is because with more and more asphalt and infrastructure going in, water has fewer and fewer places to go which change runoff and drainage patterns. Those patterns aren’t recognized until – you guessed it, a flood event. What a Catch 22 type situation.
There are multiple apartment complexes that had their whole first floor flooded out with water that was waist deep or higher. Some houses that were just getting their repairs finished from the Memorial Day floods last year had a foot of water in their house yesterday. One homeowner mentioned that the city of Houston told them if they flooded again they wouldn’t be able to get permitted to rebuild. Whoa… Think about that. You buy a house and live in it for 5 years or so and then you get flooded. You get it covered by insurance and the city lets you repair it, with the caveat that this was your free pass, and one more and you’re on your own. Then another flood hits less than a year later and now you’ve got a house that is destroyed – again. You still owe money on the mortgage I’m assuming, and you can’t repair it. That sounds like a nightmare of a situation.
We narrowly avoided a similar situation when we moved to Covington, LA, that involved Chinese drywall. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hammered LA and MS in 2005, there was a huge increase of new construction on the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain. Alongside that, there were 9 hurricanes that had hit Florida during 2004 and 2005. Between Florida’s rebuilding efforts, and the other Gulf States getting a double punch with 2 hurricanes, drywall was in high demand and short on supply so it was imported from a Chinese manufacturer. They had a high amount of sulfurous materials in their mix, which is not good. This led to the drywall giving off toxic fumes that would turn copper black and corrode it, and wreak havoc on electrical appliances, not to mention your own body, lungs, etc… Our neighborhood ended up having about 30% of the homes in it constructed with this drywall, and fortunately we lucked out and had none in our house. For the people that weren’t so lucky they were only left with a few options. Either replace the drywall out of pocket themselves, which was around $80k or higher, or wait for the lawsuit to get resolved and get your insurance to cover it. In the meantime, they were constantly replacing electrical appliances, and dealing with breathing issues and nosebleeds. One of our neighbors just paid for it to get replaced out of pocket because in 3 years, he had replaced 3 televisions, 2 dishwashers, 2 ac units, 3 microwaves, 3 computers, and his wife had been dealing with headaches and nosebleeds since they moved in. Other people just waited it out, but couldn’t sell their home in the meantime, because it was such a liability and no one wanted to inherit that problem.
Think about that cost to replace all of those electronics. Not just that, but who has an extra $80k lying around to get the drywall replaced? Even then, there were concerns about the effect on the wiring, so there were suggestions to replace that as well which would add another $20k, and the wood used to frame the house had to get replaced or treated to neutralize any gases it had soaked up from the drywall so that it wouldn’t continue releasing gases and destroying things… You basically have to rebuild your house from the inside out. Ugh…
It’s just mind boggling the amount of things that can go wrong with buying a house, and then you’re stuck paying and paying just to maintain your abode. We’ve had friends buy a house and in less than 2 months the water pipes connecting their house to the water system collapsed and they had to pay almost $20k to have them dug up and replaced because you need water right? That’s what’s been on my mind recently, just ruminating on homes and their associated risks. Riveting stuff isn’t it?
I didn’t expect this to go so long, and for those still reading, you did it! Woohoo! Have you come across any WTF situations with your home? Have you ever thought about all the risks associated with home ownership, or even renting for that matter? Is anyone even still reading…..