With a new home came a new lease on life, League City resident Carol Walker said.
Well, except the home wasn’t new.
Walker’s home, where she has lived since 1982, took on 18 inches of water during Hurricane Harvey and, using insurance money, she had much of the house remodeled and upgraded after the storm, she said.
“I didn’t really have a choice,” Walker said. “All the walls were cut up.”
Today, Walker shows off her home’s new look — the kitchen has much more counter space than it once did, for instance, she said.
“And there’s a granite and backsplash here in the kitchen,” she said. “That looks really pretty.”
The longtime Bayridge resident is just one example of a growing number of homeowners upgrading their homes after Hurricane Harvey in 2017, using a combination of insurance, loans and personal savings to fund the construction.
“I think most people with insurance did upgrades and changed things,” Marika Fuller, another League City resident, said. “I know we did.”
Hurricane Harvey in late August 2017 dropped more than 50 inches of rain on some parts of the county, flooding more than 8,000 homes in League City alone, city officials have estimated.
In the months since the storm, the city has received almost 100 permits from residents seeking to repair flood damage, many of whom have stated aims to upgrade parts of their homes, records show.
Local officials still are trying to figure out the long-term effects of this trend, but it’s already having consequences across the region.
The Houston area, for instance, saw a 3.7 percent decline in the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment to $1,231 in 2018, according to Apartment Guide, an apartment rental organization.
The reason for that change, at least in part, is because of the home upgrades, Councilman Larry Millican said.
“The houses that didn’t flood were what were leasing 18 months ago,” Millican said. “Now, people are seeing the houses that were upgraded and converted now in competition to those that didn’t flood.”
That’s adding more rental units to the market as well as providing renters with options that include new fixtures and other items, Millican said.
Beyond the rental market, League City is predicting increased property tax revenues in 2019. The city’s 2019 fiscal budget predicts an increase in property tax revenues to about $45.2 million, from a predicted $43.5 million in the 2018 fiscal year, records show.
While much of that has to do with explosive growth, City Manager John Baumgartner said appraisal values related to Harvey didn’t decrease as much as expected initially.
Though many homeowners whose properties were damaged during Hurricane Harvey are upgrading their homes and adding value, far fewer are choosing to take the expensive option of elevating their homes.
One League City family is, however. Michael and Chelsy Boone are choosing to rebuild entirely on stilts, said Sarah Greer Osborne, spokeswoman for the city.
But, with costs reaching into the hundreds of thousands, raising a home is an option many aren’t choosing. Only about 57 percent of homes in Galveston County were covered by flood insurance when Harvey struck, according to the National Flood Insurance Program.
“We took on 3 feet of water in our home,” Melissa Serna, another League City resident, said. “We were forced to sell our rental property and pull from equity to fix our home.”
While most homeowners reached for comment about Harvey damage confirmed they upgraded their homes, many would not do so on the record for fear it might be against the rules.
“Flood insurance money is supposed to be used to put the home back to what it was, no upgrades,” Fuller said. “It’s a little convoluted, but there’s verbiage about it in the flood insurance handbook.”
For Walker, who had already paid off her mortgage and had insurance on the property, rebuilding and upgrading after Harvey was easier than for many others, she said.
“I got a great adjuster,” she said. “He was probably as good to me or better than he had to be.”
Harvey was the first time Walker’s home flooded since she moved in, though property records show it also flooded in 1979, she said.
Walker has many fond memories in her home in the Bayridge neighborhood, from raising children to time spent with her now-deceased husband, she said. Through all those years, the home hadn’t changed much. There simply hadn’t been the money.
So, while Harvey was no doubt an ordeal, having an upgraded home has been great, Walker said.
“It was life-changing, but I’ve come out as good as can be expected,” Walker said.