Tag Archive for: home value

Effects of Harvey on Seniors and Real-Estate: The Enclave Case Study

We like to think of change as being steady and continuous. For instance, we get a little bit older each year, and depending on our age, we get a little bit stronger or weaker.

A “State Change” in Peoples’ Lives

But in nature, the major changes are not steady and not continuous. They are sudden, jarring and dramatic. They involve toggling from one “state” to another. For instance, water is a liquid until the temperature drops to 32ºF; then it becomes a solid. A tenacious leaf hangs on the tree through spring, summer and fall, until a winter storm finally blows it to the ground. Snow piles high on the mountain until weight and temperature … create an avalanche.

So it was with many Kingwood seniors – safe and comfortable, living a somewhat privileged existence in the center of Kingwood…right up until the moment a monster named Harvey crept under their front doors.

Bill Fowler, a real estate expert, worked for ExxonMobil until he retired. He is now co-chair of the Lake Houston Area Grass Roots Flood Prevention Initiative. Fowler has been analyzing the impact of Harvey on local real-state. Recently, he concluded an analysis of home values in The Enclave. This post is based on his hard work.

About The Enclave

For those of you not familiar with the Enclave, it is an upscale subdivision in the heart of Kingwood, south of Randall’s in Town Center. Homes average 2369 square feet. All but one or two are single story. Most of the homes are zero-lot-line or have postage-stamp yards, perfect for empty nesters who hate mowing lawns.

Enclave residents can walk to shopping, restaurants, banks, drug stores, public transportation, the library, parks, trails and more. Virtually all are on a series of short cul-de-sacs where people get to know their neighbors for an exceptional sense of safety and security.

In the Heart of the Heart of One of Houston’s Most Prestigious Communities

For all the reasons above, the Enclave has always been popular with older people approaching or reaching retirement. People didn’t just move there, they put down roots there. A home in the Enclave put you in the heart of the heart of one of Houston’s most prestigious communities.

  • Of 165 homes in the Enclave, 74% had over-65 exemptions on their real-estate taxes in 2017.
  • According to the National Association of Homebuilders, 12% of Americans have lived in their homes for 20-29 years; but 35% of Enclave residents have lived there that long, virtually triple the national average.
  • Half of the residents have owned their homes for at least 13 years.
  • Despite the age of the residents, many years have gone by with less than five homes changing hands.
  • While 11.2% of Americans moved in 2016 (a historical low), only 3.2% of Enclave residents moved that year, about one fourth of the national average.

Then Came Harvey

Things changed suddenly. All 165 homes in The Enclave flooded. Harvey uprooted all residents – at least temporarily.

Forty-four owners sold damaged homes “as-is” that were their primary residences. We know they were primary residences because they received Homestead Exemptions from the Harris County Appraisal District [HCAD]. Thirty percent of all owners decided to bail (pardon the pun) rather than go through the challenge of restoration: ten times the percentage that moved the prior year!

Sixteen additional homes in the Enclave did NOT have homestead exemptions, according to HCAD. This indicates they were being rented or leased. It is highly unlikely that renters would return to damaged homes; they had no equity, only risk.

So if we add those sixteen to the other 44 homes, we have 60 homes where residents likely chose not to return after Harvey. That takes the percentage of those not returning up to 36% of the community. Twelve times the prior year’s rate!

Due to limitations of the available online HCAD data, it is not possible to further delineate the demographic makeup of the non-owner occupied homes.

However, it is interesting to note the following about those over 65:

  • 74% of all owners had an Over-65 exemption before Harvey.
  • 89% of owner/residents choosing to sell were over 65. This indicates the flood was disproportionately harder for older people to deal with.
  • 36% of all primary-residence homes owned by those over 65 were actually sold.
  • Of those over-65 electing to sell their homes, on average, the owners had lived in their homes 15 years—some as many as 25 years.
  • 49% of primary-residence homes sold by those over 65 were owned by a single owner (divorced, widowed or never married), rather than jointly owned.
  • Eighteen homes remain for sale or rent, many by owners rather than through agents.
  • The total HCAD value for all 165 homes in the subdivision dropped from $40.7 million before Harvey to $30.4 million after. Owners lost more than 25% in market value due to Harvey.
  • The City, County and School District lost more than $10 million in assessed value from this one subdivision.
  • The average home went from $247,000 in value to $184,000, a loss of $63,000 overnight.
  • Those who chose to stay and repair their homes, but who didn’t have flood insurance, lost even more.

Fourteen months later, construction trucks still line the otherwise quiet streets and driveways. The shrill whine of circle saws still pierces the afternoon calm. Construction permits still dot the windows of empty homes. Eighteen homes remain for sale.

Waiting for Mitigation

Retirees who lost their largest investment pray the politicians aren’t playing games with flood mitigation. Dredging has started, but is leaving the largest blockage in the river where it will do the most damage in another flood. More flood gates for the Lake Houston Dam are still two or three mayors away. Most residents won’t live long enough to see the benefit of additional upstream detention. And the grant application for a watershed study that’s a pre-requisite for all of those mitigation projects? Well, that has been sitting on someone’s desk at FEMA for seven months.

The residents I have talked to say they will rebuild this one time, but never again. More on that later this week in another Impact interview.

Statistical Analysis by Bill Fowler, Co-Chair, Lake Houston Area Grass Roots Flood Prevention Initiative

Posted by Bob Rehak on November 2, 2018

430 days since Hurricane Harvey


How Much Would the Flood Bond Cost You?

When considering property tax implications of the proposed $2.5 billion flood bond, start with how much you currently pay in Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) taxes. Hint: It’s very little.

Only about 1.4% of Typical Property Tax Bill Currently Goes to Flood Control

Only about 1.4% of the average annual property tax bill now goes to Flood Control. The rest funds schools, cities, hospitals, law enforcement, etc. How much you currently pay each year in flood control taxes depends on your home’s value and your exemptions. See some representative costs below.

What homes assessed at representative price points will pay in additional taxes if the Harris County Flood Control Bond passes.

Amount Will Vary Depending on Age, Assessment and Exemptions

If your home is assessed at $200,000 and you are under 65, you pay only $45 annually for flood control.  If over 65 in that same home, you pay no flood control taxes.

In a worst-case scenario, Harris County says the flood-control portionof your taxes would double. Would doubling one of the numbers above create a hardship for you? Or would it help you sleep better?

Remember, any increase applies only to the flood control portion of your tax bill, not the entire bill.

Less than Cost of Flood Insurance

Any increase would be gradual. Bonds are only sold when projects are ready to start. Harris County expects no increase at all until 2020 at the earliest.

Flood Control improvements cost much less than flood insurance. And unlike flood insurance, they might actually prevent your home from being damaged.

Protecting Home and Community Values

Once implemented, the flood mitigation measures in the bond package will help make our entire community more resistant to flooding. That’s important. It helps protect your home’s value, your schools, businesses, roads, bridges and other infrastructure. That helps keep your community growing and makes it attractive for people looking to relocate. In the long run, rising home values will pay you back many times over for your investment in flood control. So send a signal to the world that we’re willing to invest in our future.

How to Check Your Current Assessed Value

To see how much you pay right now, go to hcad.org, click on “Property Search”, then “Real Property” followed by “Search by Address.”

Posted by Bill Fowler on July 29, 2018

334 Days since Hurricane Harvey