Just before the CZU August Lightning Complex wildfire devastated the area, realtor Lance Hulsey listed a house just outside Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Today, the property is totally destroyed.
“Another client bought a house in September and then lost it to the fire,” he says.
Hulsey, co-owner of Sol Property Advisors, Inc., says that over 1,000 residences and a handful of commercial buildings in the Santa Cruz area have burned, causing immeasurable devastation and suffering.
“Each of those residences housed an average of four people, plus their pets. An awful lot of lives have been turned upside down.”
Yet, he and his fellow California real estate professionals see as many people buying and selling homes as before the fires.
“During the evacuations, a Santa Cruz house for sale got 19 offers and sold for $400,000 over the asking price. Listed for $1.2 million, it sold during a very challenging time for almost $1.5 million.”
Real estate agents in the Santa Cruz area are, like Hulsey, as busy as ever. Many are much busier because they have stepped into the breach to help provide resources for people affected by the fires.
“We are working hard to get them the help they need, to help find housing for displaced people, to get the essentials to people still in their homes but without power or water, to help them with insurance claims and with the permitting process when they begin to rebuild.”
Many of these kinds of help are usually provided by social service agencies. Hulsey does not see realtors as replacing them, but rather as a bridge to social services and other resources.
“FEMA is turning people down if they can’t show that their house was destroyed; many people can’t get near their homes to see whether they are still standing or not.”
He adds, “Santa Cruz is a tourist town, so displaced residents are competing with guests for rooms. The other day, I found hotel rooms for displaced residents, but had to go all the way to Cupertino, about 40 miles away.
“The real estate industry has really rallied. In Santa Cruz, it’s a very collegial community and we are talking to each other to help determine ways we can be of help.”
The Santa Cruz Association of Realtors is sponsoring fundraisers, as is the local chapter of the Women’s Council of Realtors. Innkeepers, too, have tried to be of help: the Cupertino hotel waived its pet fees for the Santa Cruz residents.
“There is nothing in it for us other than the obligation to help,” Lance Hulsey says.