Where’s Paradise? California Community to Rebuild or Relocate After Deadly Camp Fire

Jan 9, 2019 by

Just two months ago, nearly 27,000 residents of Paradise in Butte County, Calif., fled the all-consuming flames of the Camp Fire, which broke out on November 8, killing at least 86 people in the region and destroying nearly 14,000 homes—an estimated $ 11-$ 13 billion in residential and commercial losses, according to CoreLogic data.

A substantial number of buildings and structures in the town of Paradise are gone; the spirit of the community, however, lives on with surviving residents and members of the surrounding towns. While concerns and uncertainty linger, nearby real estate markets have already experienced vast fluctuations.

Where Did Paradise Residents Go?

With the fires extinguished, residents of what was once the town of Paradise, now largely a mix of ash and rubble, are having to make significant long-term decisions: stay and rebuild in Paradise, or relocate.

According to Becky Prater, broker/owner of Becky Prater Real Estate in Chico, and Dennis Geare, branch manager for HomeSmart ICARE Realty in Grass Valley, the markets surrounding Paradise are seeing substantial changes in buyer, seller and renter activity, home values and inventory.

First and foremost, those left homeless by the fire had to find short-term housing before making more permanent decisions. While many are still living in shelters or staying with friends and family, the rental markets of the neighboring towns have seen big changes.

“There are basically no rental units left in Butte County; most survivors are living between 45-100 miles away from Paradise,” says Prater, emphasizing that any available vacant rental was gone within 72 hours of the fire. “This is also causing increased traffic, traffic accidents and heighted stress levels of all of our residents.”

A Ripple Effect

An unexpected result of the sudden need for short-term rentals? Chico and surrounding towns are experiencing a spike in seller activity and, therefore, in renter evictions.

“Chico renters are being evicted because their landlords are selling their homes to take advantage of the current market increases. These renters also have nowhere locally to live and are not qualified to get any FEMA disaster funds like those coming from the affected areas,” says Prater.

Geare has also seen a growing interest in relocation, not only from local residents looking to sell and move to other areas that may be deemed “safer,” but from incoming Paradise residents who are looking to purchase elsewhere rather than rebuild.

Prater believes virtually most individuals impacted by the Camp Fire are looking to relocate permanently, as the thought of rebuilding in the fire-prone areas is “scary and not something they can imagine.”

“We are seeing quite a few clients coming up from Paradise who are looking for roofs over their heads, generally in the lower price range of about $ 280,000-$ 350,000,” says Geare. “This is putting timing pressure on buyers in that category. Good houses are snapped up quickly, sometimes in as little as 3-6 days.”

The Markets Shift

There’s been a noticeable change from the pre-fire housing market to today’s demanding real estate environment. Immediately following the fire, Prater saw a sharp decline in inventory.

“We had a relatively tight market pre-fire, with 226 homes on the market in Chico on November 7. In the two weeks after the fire, our inventory shrunk to 41 homes on the market, and the few builders we have in Chico with subdivisions sold out of all available inventory and phases of lots not even finalized yet,” she says.

Now that the urgency has waned, inventory is starting to grow once again, also being spurred on by homeowners who are afraid of being caught in similar circumstances by living in fire-prone areas, or by those who understand there is still a growing need for housing in the area, which could lead to quick and profitable sales.

“As of [press time], we have 107 homes on the market, and even during the holidays homes were coming on the market. Those thinking of selling in the spring or anyone with a vacant home were getting their homes on the market,” says Prater. “This demand has caused an almost immediate increase in value of between 10-20 percent. Most homes in good locations and conditions are selling within days and at prices considerably over the seller’s asking price.”

As homeowner insurance checks are disbursed, more and more Paradise residents are becoming cash buyers in nearby towns, or are using the funds as significant down payments, as well as to purchase essentials such as clothing and home furnishings, says Prater.

While Geare is not located in the immediate vicinity of Paradise—instead about an hour away from the town—he has also felt market changes.

“We have a remarkably stable market here in Western Nevada County. Months of inventory based on closed sales has increased from 2.5 months a year ago to 5.5 months as of November; price-per-square foot is up slightly from $ 218 to $ 234; and days on market is stable at about 53 days,” says Geare.

Real Estate Community and Locals Come Together

Geare and Prater have both witnessed an outpouring of assistance in the aftermath of the destructive fire. From REALTOR® and Association participation to community involvement, the surrounding towns have come together in support of those affected.

“I’m so proud of our local, state and national Associations of REALTORS®. All have stepped up in donations, grants and personal help,” says Prater. “Our local Association, the Sierra North Valley Association, has donated thousands of dollars in cash, gift cards, clothing, furnishings, and more. Our state Association made $ 2,500 in grants available to local REALTORS® and others.”

Geare’s office also accepted donations for new items of clothing, gift cards and various other essential items that were delivered to Chico to be distributed to those in need.

“Other broker offices collected donations, as well,” says Geare. “Our five Rotary clubs made donations and ran crowdfunding campaigns—fundraising was everywhere. One local jewelry store ran a watch battery campaign, donating the proceeds to assistance efforts. The community outpouring is just too extensive to recapitulate.”

An Unescapable Truth

The fires may be out, but this devastating event will have long-lasting effects on not only those directly affected, but on residents of nearby towns who are helping to rebuild a fragmented community.

“This horrific event has forever changed the way that our local communities will live,” says Prater. “Our immediate goal is finding housing for as many possible. The long-term goals are rebuilding a community with better housing protections for fire safety and a community that will be able to sustain itself.

“The financial and emotional impact on all of us is still hard to quantify even today, almost two months after that date that will forever be etched in our minds for those who escaped with their lives and for those of who lived in black smoke for days and witnessed the fire,” adds Prater.

Liz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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Asian American Community a Force in Housing, but Obstacles Remain

Jun 10, 2018 by

The Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) is celebrating its 15-year anniversary as an organization this year, recently releasing the 2017-2018 State of Asia America report that highlights accomplishments from the last year, as well as challenges the association continues to fight on behalf of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.

“Over the last decade and a half, our members and leaders have fought with incredible passion and dedication to increase sustainable homeownership in the AAPI community and empower those who serve this dynamic community,” said Randy Char, 2018 AREAA president, in the report. “I could not be more proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far, or more excited about what’s yet in store for all of us.”

The AAPI community is the fastest-growing demographic in the U.S.—a segment of 22.5 million people that currently make up 6.9 percent of the total U.S. population, according to 2016 estimates. There was significant growth of 72 percent from 2000 to 2015, and a 7 percent increase since last year. And by 2055, they will be the nation’s largest immigrant group, accounting for 38 percent of all U.S. immigrants.

Their ever-growing presence should signal to the real estate community that this group will be playing a large role in the industry in the years to come; however, the AAPI homeownership rate continues to lag behind the national average by 7 percent, behind non-Hispanic whites by nearly 20 percent.

Additionally, AREAA reports that AAPI are shown 15 percent fewer homes than white Americans. The reason? Rampant discriminatory practices. This year, the housing industry as a whole is recognizing the advancements made by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, enacted 50 years ago. While the act has introduced momentous progress, discrimination challenges continue to arise. AREAA is maintaining a proactive mentality to help the AAPI community truly achieve equal and fair housing rights.

“While we have made great strides over the last five decades in regard to AAPI homeownership, we know that the fight is not yet over,” the report states.

Regardless of these obstacles, the AAPI community continues to search for the homeownership dream. Their strength is in their purchasing power, which increased by 257 percent since last year, exceeding $ 1 trillion. According to the report, experts estimate AAPI purchasing power to increase by another 33 percent by 2022, totaling $ 1.3 trillion.

What else is hindering the 17th largest economy in the world? Challenges such as student loan debt and a lack of language accessibility across the industry are deterring AAPI consumers from reaching their true buying potential.

There have been recent developments, however. In 2017, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac added a Preferred Language Data Field in the Uniform Residential Loan Application (URLA), helping to gather data and make it easier to implement in-language services in the future. A lack of language options makes it difficult for a group in which 35 percent are Limited English Proficient and 20 percent of households are considered linguistically isolated, meaning no one over the age of 14 in the home speaks English “very well.”

“Despite our success last year in advocating for the inclusion of a Preferred Language Data Field on the redesigned URLA form, our work is not over,” the report states. “AREAA continues to push for greater access to in-language documents and services in the home-buying process.”

While AAPI tend to have high degrees of education—73 percent of Asian Americans between 18-24 (excluding Pacific Islanders) have completed at least some college, while 52 percent of those over 25 have completed a bachelor’s degree program or higher—student debt remains a major home-buying obstacle for 25 percent of AAPIs over 25, according to the National Financial Capability Survey cited in the report.

2017 also saw a policy change that could make it easier for student loan borrowers to purchase a home. The 1 percent rule enacted by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)—which required lenders to assume debt repayment of at least 1 percent on all outstanding student loans, even if in deferment or forbearance—was removed. FHA lenders can now use their own judgement when analyzing how a person’s debt repayment impacts their home-buying ability.

What’s on the docket for AREAA in 2018? The search for alternative credit scoring methods that take different cultural and lifestyle backgrounds into account—such as rent and utility payments—while still maintaining the lending standards implemented after the housing crash, as well as continued realization of in-language services in the industry and the search for new ways to combat fair housing violations and discrimination within real estate, specifically instances that target the AAPI community.

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Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4cLiz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark

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A Commitment to Community and Professionalism: Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties

Nov 18, 2017 by

Ramping Up for the Next Generation of Real Estate

For the ownership team at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New Jersey Properties, it’s all about focused growth—and maintaining a company culture that thrives on performance and professionalism. The company, which reported volume last year of over $ 1.5 billion, has grown its agent population by nearly one-fourth in the last three years alone, from 650 to more than 800. “Our approach to building the company is to focus on people who can make a full-time commitment to the industry, their customers, and our company,” says Chairman and CEO Bill Keleher. “We excel at helping this type of individual reach the next level of growth both personally and professionally.” In this exclusive interview, Keleher and company President Chris Brown discuss the team’s singular strategy: a collaborative, people-centric culture that inspires ongoing quality, performance and innovation for the next generation of real estate.

Barbara Pronin: Let’s begin with a recap of your individual career paths, and how you got on this present road together.
Bill Keleher:
I grew up in Kansas City, Mo., went to college in Virginia and then came to New Jersey for a month to visit my two best friends in Westfield. When I decided to stay longer, I got a temporary job in a clothing store where I met a couple of young men who were in the real estate business with a local firm. After getting to know them, I made a decision to try real estate, as well, and 48 years later, I’m still in New Jersey and still in the real estate business.

I began in sales in a small office in Westfield, went on to become a manager, sales trainer, regional manager and finally president of the 12-office company that I ultimately purchased. I sold that company in 1986 to Schlott REALTORS® and worked for them until I had the opportunity to purchase Prudential New Jersey Realty from Prudential Real Estate in 1991. In the ’90s, I acquired numerous other small Prudential companies in New Jersey, and in January 2001, I merged the company with Prudential Pioneer (Seymour and Nancy Litwin’s company) and Prudential Brown-Fowler (Chris Brown’s company), forming Prudential New Jersey Properties. Steve Janett joined our ownership team in November 2006 when we acquired his company, Prudential Janett Real Estate.

Chris Brown: I, on the other hand, grew up in real estate, but swore I’d never get into this hectic business because I saw my dad always running out to his next appointment. So, in 1980, I graduated with a business and forestry degree from the University of Vermont and went to work for the Aspen Ski Corporation in Colorado. Returning to New Jersey that summer, but on my way to Norway to pursue a relationship with Brit, a girl I had met there during my junior year of college, my father convinced me to get my real estate license. I actually did, and soon after, sold my first house for $ 350,000, making more in that one transaction than I had made the entire year living in Aspen. Not a bad start in 1983, and it convinced me to stay East and launch my real estate career at my dad’s company, where I sold houses for many years and took on ever-increasing responsibilities. Brit and I married in 1984, and I was appointed manager of our Summit office four years later. I held that position until the untimely death of my father in 1994, when I purchased the company from his estate. In the mid-’90s, Bill, Seymour, Nancy, Steve and I came together to form a successful mortgage joint venture, which gave us the working relationship needed to later form our current company and ownership team.

BP: When and why did you become Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, and how does the brand help support your success?
At the end of 2011, Brookfield Residential Property Services, now BGRS, acquired the Prudential Real Estate Franchise Network and subsequently sold a controlling interest in the network to HomeServices of America. In 2014, we had the opportunity to join the new brand that HomeServices had created, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. It was a natural fit for us to align with the prestigious Warren Buffett brand. It’s unique in the real estate space, one of the most widely recognized and respected brands on earth, and it gave us, among other things, a tremendous opportunity to grow our company through recruitment and acquisitions, and also expand our footprint in the luxury home market.

CB: There’s a distinct energy inherent in the Berkshire Hathaway brand, and it delivers on every level in terms of innovation and support.

BP: How would you describe your positioning in the marketplace today? What is it that sets you apart from the competition?
We are one of the leading real estate companies in the New Jersey marketplace, the largest independently owned and operated Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices affiliate in the state, and a member of the prestigious Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Elite Circle—and its predecessor, the Prudential Real Estate Gibraltar Circle—since their inception. Our overall closed volume last year was over $ 1.5 billion. The key to that kind of success, I think, is really what sets us apart: our total commitment to the professionalism of our agents, and their total commitment to excellence.

CB: Communication is a good part of that. We see ourselves as being large enough to provide our people with everything they need to succeed, but small enough so that every voice counts. Our ownership team is never up there in an ivory tower. We’re all accessible, involved in the day-to-day, and we build relationships with each and every agent. We have a caring culture, competitive in the very best sense, and that’s a valued and motivating asset.

BP: How, specifically, have you been able to grow the company as you have?
It starts with the people we hire. Whether new or experienced, we are only interested in full-time, professional commitment—and because of our reputation as a company of achievers, many new and experienced agents seek us out. We are willing, able and happy to provide personalized training, coaching, and support, but only to those with an unwavering commitment to be the best.

BP: What is it that attracts agents to you, and why do they stay?
They are attracted, primarily, by our standing in the industry as a whole and our strong presence in the many communities we serve. They know we want and expect the best from our agents, and that we operate in ways that inspire success—and they want to be a part of that. For our part, we try to make very sure that the people we bring on are truly a good fit with our culture.

CB: And they stay with us, basically, because we deliver on our promises. People enjoy and thrive when working with successful colleagues and mentors, where success is celebrated, great training is ongoing, and support is available whenever needed.

BP: What is your approach to coaching and training?
We’ve been able to augment our own effective training systems with proven Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices strategies—and as president of the company, Chris has stepped up in the area of coaching and training. He hired a vice president of Learning and Development who is building a great curriculum. It’s very personalized and goal-oriented—for example, working with an agent who’s ready to navigate the leap from $ 5 million in production to $ 10 million.

CB: And at the branch level, every one of our managers is focused on coaching and training. They are very hands-on, with specific curricula designed for agents at every level of experience. Success is a partnership, and we respect that and encourage it. With our agents, as with our customers, we understand the value of face-to-face. We’re very much into building relationships, making “warm calls,” and maximizing the value of one’s personal sphere of influence.

BP: What’s your strategy for marketing the firm to serve the needs of prospects and clients?
We have an excellent chief marketing officer who understands our core belief in building customer relationships and doing so in a variety of ways, from social media engagement across many platforms to proprietary market reports to a full luxury marketing system, and more.

CB: Part of our visibility in the community comes from our longstanding commitment to the Sunshine Kids, a national organization devoted to helping children with cancer. We “adopted” the Sunshine Kids years ago as a Prudential franchise and we support them to this day, having raised over $ 1.5 million from our offices’ local efforts, our annual corporate golf outing and generous donations from the community. Steve Janett, our COO, spearheads our committee and is committed to reaching our annual Sunshine Kids goal by working with and supporting our office liaisons, as well as chairing our annual golf event.

BP: How do you stay ahead of the curve on technology, online marketing and social media?
We provide our agents with the cutting-edge tools they need to compete in an aggressive marketplace. We are engaged heavily in digital marketing, and we empower our agents to use our tools as touchpoints to remain top-of-mind with their spheres of influence. We have e-marketing campaigns and automated systems, and tech gurus who keep us on track—but we’re also aware of just how vividly a personal phone call stands out.

CB: It is always a mix of technology and personal touch. Our top four agents last year closed some 200 transactions and did $ 80 to $ 100 million in volume—and much of that was accomplished by reaching out and staying in touch in the most traditional ways. Others have embraced our online technologies including our CRM, our back-office business center and our brand’s resource center. We also encourage agents to work with industry thought leaders, such as Brian Buffini and Tom Ferry, who both deliver different messaging and strategies for agent growth.

BP: What’s on track for the future of the firm?
Our goal is to be sure that every buyer and seller with whom we work has the best possible customer experience, because we know that is the basis for growth. So, we continue to look for the best agents to represent our banner—and we are always open to new opportunities, including strategic acquisitions, that will help expand our statewide footprint.

CB: Changes to our industry and growing demands from today’s sophisticated consumer seem to be coming at a faster and faster pace. It’s a critical balance to achieve—embracing new technologies while honoring what made us successful in the first place: integrity, trust, experience, and an overarching commitment to excellence. Millennials are the future, and there is a sharp focus on understanding what makes them tick—I know, I have two. While having great technology plays an important part in attracting them to our company, treating them with respect and earning their trust is crucial to keeping them engaged. It’s still a people business, after all. That’s why our brand is more important than ever. In this day of new and emerging business models, the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand is a promise of the highest standard, and it compels us to constantly reinvent ourselves in order to remain relevant and valuable to today’s real estate professional and our buyers and sellers.

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‘We Are One Family’: Real Estate Community Bands Together for Harvey Relief

Aug 30, 2017 by

With Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts underway in Southeast Texas, REALTORS® from all corners of the country are stepping up to provide relief.

The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is encouraging its members to donate to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation (RRF), which provides housing assistance for disaster victims.

“There will be many families in the Greater Houston area who need our help,” said NAR President Bill Brown in a statement. “It will take time to know the full impact of Hurricane Harvey, but we know the devastation will be widespread and that our support will be necessary.”

“This may require our REALTOR® family’s largest effort since Hurricane Katrina—or even 9/11,” wrote Martin Edwards, president of the RRF, in an internal memo to NAR directors and staff. “Hopefully, REALTORS® across America will heed the call to donate without precedent, as the on-the-ground membership in Texas will be stretched beyond belief.”

Indeed real estate brokerages directly in and surrounding the path of the storm as well as from around the country are extending support. Local brokerages including Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper, REALTORS®, ERA Colonial Real Estate and Latter & Blum, Inc. REALTORS® shared some of their experiences.

Many affiliates of D’Ann Harper steered their boats toward Houston to help rescue stranded residents, says President Leesa Harper Rispoli, and the company is working to transport much-needed supplies, as well.

“Our company is working with the Red Cross and pet/animal shelters for donations,” Harper Rispoli says. “We have had several agents team together and take their boats to Houston to assist in the water rescue. We also have had many offices and agents come together to take supplies to the Port Aransas and Rockport area.

“This catastrophic event has affected not only our agents and families, but several of our sister companies along the coast,” says Harper Rispoli. “Our great franchisor of Coldwell Banker has pledged to match donated funds for our sister companies to rebuild. It is great to be surrounded by support and giving hearts. We believe we are one family…together!”

ERA Colonial launched a fundraiser for the Houston Food Bank, with the goal of raising $ 7,700—a cause, and sum, near and dear to CEO Tom DeWine’s heart.

“The Houston Food Bank is such a local and longstanding group, and I wanted to make sure we focused on something that was very local,” DeWine says. “We set a relatively modest goal—I picked a zip code that I had lived in when I was in Houston in the late ’90s, and when I knew that a lot of flooding was occurring [there], I set the first four numbers of that zip code, 7700, as the goal.”

ERA Colonial has achieved approximately 38 percent of its goal (at press time), and will match up to 50 percent of donations, with net proceeds going to the Houston Food Bank. The fundraiser is open now through the next two weeks on YouCaring.

The company is also lending a hand through an upcoming philanthropic event, its 19th Annual Fish Fry and 5K Fun Run Walk, which will welcome roughly 100 displaced residents relocating to the Fort Hood/Killeen area. The Fish Fry is held each year in honor of ERA Colonial agent Pat Patton; the 5K Fun Run supports the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA), the corporate charity of ERA Real Estate. The event is taking place Saturday, Sept. 2 at Harker Heights Community Park.

“It’s going to cost about an additional $ 1,000 in materials, but ERA Colonial Real Estate is committed to sharing that cost with another partner in the Fish Fry,” says DeWine, who has family in Houston. “I’m extremely grateful [to be] raising money for MDA, but also to be able to help feed these people coming to a community they don’t know. We have been touched by this as a company through our agents and staff…it’s been very personal for us.”

In terms of damage, Harvey is second only to Hurricane Katrina—a sobering reminder for New Orleans-based Latter & Blum President Rick Haase, who, as chairman of the Board of Trustees for United Way of Southeast Louisiana, is observing the destruction firsthand. Over 1,800 Latter & Blum agents are in the Greater Houston area.

“There’s a real good chance the [financial] damage estimates will reach, if not surpass, the Katrina levels,” says Haase, who pinpoints them presently at $ 75 billion. “The steps after a storm like this: rescue, response and recovery. The first step is trying to assess, the second step is making sure immediate needs are taken care of—food, water and shelter—and, then, it’s about helping during the long road of navigating FEMA, what to watch out for with contractors, etc. It’s all-hands-on-deck to educate our agents so that they, in turn, can educate their clients.”

The company is currently collecting contributions (tax-deductible, through United Way) from its 3,300 agents, and will make its own “substantial” donation, Haase says. (Checks should be made payable to “Latter & Blum Harvey Relief” and sent to: Latter & Blum Home Office, Attention: Denise Linscombe, 430 Notre Dame St., New Orleans, LA 70130.)

Several members of the industry at the franchise level are also reaching out in support. Keller Williams Realty, through its KW Cares non-profit organization, has three semi-trailer trucks packed with generators, non-perishable food and other supplies standing by near its headquarters, with U-Haul trucks from its Market Centers across the nation en route (at press time). Teams on Wednesday were busy preparing a warehouse in Houston for the supplies, which are expected to arrive on Friday.

KW Cares has distributed $ 150,000 in “emergency relief funds,” says Darryl Frost, spokesperson for Keller Williams, to agents that have been impacted. “There has been a huge outpouring of support,” Frost says. “The really cool part is that neighbors are stepping in to help neighbors, since police and local responders have been taxed. KW Cares is here to help all our agents with homes that have been affected by this storm.”

RE/MAX, which has 2,500 affiliates and 110 offices in the trajectory of the storm, is donating $ 500,000 to the American Red Cross, and establishing an “online hub” with information for victims.

“RE/MAX is concerned first and foremost for the safety and wellbeing of Texas communities affected by Hurricane Harvey including more than 2,500 RE/MAX associates and their families in nearly 110 offices in the Texas Gulf Coast that have been directly impacted by this storm,” says Adam Contos, co-CEO of RE/MAX. “We are working to ensure that our agents and their families are safe and that moving forward their needs and the needs of Texans are met swiftly.

“To do so, we’re creating an online hub with information and resources for anyone affected, including help and support from surrounding RE/MAX offices,” Contos says. “We are one community of REALTORS® supporting each other. In addition, RE/MAX, LLC is donating $ 50,000 to the American Red Cross to aid relief efforts in the days, weeks and months to come and we’ll continue to look for ways to support those in need.”

Realogy, which includes brands Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Century 21 Real Estate, Coldwell Banker, ERA Real Estate and Sotheby’s International Realty, has set up a fundraising page for the American Red Cross through The Realogy Charitable Foundation. The goal, which hit $ 200,000 on Wednesday, is now up to $ 500,000.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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When Disaster Strikes, Be Prepared to Meet the Needs of Your Community

Aug 10, 2017 by

As a real estate agent, you’re in the middle of the action. Whether it’s a prospect asking where they can find a good cappuccino or a past client wondering if you know a reputable company to come fix their garage door, chances are, you’ll be able to point them in the right direction. But what can you do when your contacts come to you with a problem that can’t be fixed with a trip to the local coffee house or a repair recommendation? In a recent interview, California real estate agent Timothy Toye shared what the days and weeks following one of the worst forest fires in California’s history were like, as well as how his role in real estate shifted to meet his community’s needs.

Play Podcast: Natural Disaster – An Agent Survival Story | Timothy Toye | Secrets Unplugged

September 12, 2015 started as a normal day for Toye, but shifted in a moment. “I had an appointment at 2:30 to meet with a seller of mine,” Toye explained. “At 2:00, the seller called and said, ‘Don’t come over. We’re getting evacuated.’”

Before long, Toye’s office was ordered to evacuate, too. Luckily, he stored most of his data in the cloud, so all he had to do was pack up the computers and leave. Toye stressed that when deciding what to bring with you, “It depends on how urgent it is; when you’re asked to evacuate, it’s obviously urgent. The main thing is to preserve human life. Everything else comes second from that.”

Toye was evacuated for about two weeks and he noticed that “everybody immediately had a shared concern…’What’s happening to the area? What’s happening to my house, your house, our neighbor’s houses?’” No one knew whether or not their home or business still existed. “There was a lot of hysteria and rumors.

“Just coming back in and passing on whatever information and helping people…at that point it was not about the business anymore,” Toye explained. “It was more about just helping people on a very human level to deal with a dramatic natural event that had all kinds of difficult financial and emotional and personal consequences for people. So that was kind of the beginning of it.”

Toye made it his mission to get involved and let people know “what areas were hit and which weren’t,” and passed along other important information to those who were still evacuated, such as when essential services like electricity were restored. People who lost their homes were able to start working with their insurance companies and move forward.

When dealing with disaster, you must “be adaptable…it was a moment just to respond…be smart, be intelligent, be compassionate.” As a real estate agent, you should “participate with your community because when you’re in need, you want a community around you. Be there for people.”

While we hope your community is never faced with disaster, it never hurts to be prepared. Help your clients be ready to hunker down or evacuate at a moment’s notice by sharing the Emergency Preparedness Checklist with your clients. Just add your contact information and share it with your friends, family, contacts, and community.

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