This home on Upper Hampden Road in Monson had been on the market for just three weeks before it was severely damaged by last week's tornadoes.Gerry Marafioti, a sales agent with Coldwell Banker in East Longmeadow, was supposed to be holding a broker open house on Thursday.

Her plans were thrown out the window, along with just about everything else at her client’s property on Upper Hampden Road in Monson, by Wednesday afternoon’s tornado.

The house, which sits on more than two dozen acres, was severely damaged. A separate artist studio on the property was destroyed.

It had only been on the market for three weeks.

“There was an open house the week before memorial weekend. And it was pretty good, too. We had a couple come up from New York that was interested,” said Marafioti.

Marafioti said it was terrible to hear of such a lovely property being destroyed. “There was a beautiful bridge there, and lovely waterfalls,” she said. “It’s surprising, how gorgeous it was.”

Marafioti is not the only agent in the area with properties on the market left wondering what will become of their listings.

Paul Sears, founder of Sears Real Estate in Springfield, said he spoke with a client Thursday morning that had roughly 30 trees come down on his property – so thoroughly blocking his driveway he hadn’t yet been able to leave his home.

“We had an inspection done on the house a week ago. I think they’re going to need a new inspection,” Sears said. “We have two or three houses that closed about a week ago [in the affected neighborhoods], and I’m thinking, ‘ooooh, those [sellers] got out just in time.’”

Under Contract, In Limbo

For storm-damaged properties that are under contract but which haven’t yet sold, buyers and sellers will soon have some important decisions to make, real estate attorneys told Banker & Tradesman.

The standard purchase and sale contract used by most real estate attorneys requires sellers to maintain a home’s insurance until the sale closes, and allows buyers to cancel a purchase if the home suffers a “casualty loss,” said Richard Vetstein, a real estate attorney and founding partner of Vetstein Law Group in Framingham.

But the standard contract does not explicitly define “casualty loss.” Most attorneys modify the standard contract to suit their client’s needs, often a inserting a clause specifying that a buyer may walk away if damage to a property exceeds a certain dollar amount, usually $5,000 or $10,000 said Michelle Simons, a founding partner of Brecher, Wyner, Simons, Fox & Bolan in Newton.

“It’s certainly something people will need to look at,” if they have a property under contract which was damaged by the storm, Simons said. If a clause specifying the monetary amount of damage hasn’t been inserted into the contract, how much damage is required to trigger the opt-out clause may become a subject of dispute.

Under the standard contract, buyers also have the option to complete the sale of a damaged property and take on any tussles with the insurance company themselves. That may be worthwhile: Replacement costs for new construction may easily exceed the market value of a home, especially if it’s older, said Steve Sousa, executive vice president of the Massachusetts Board of Real Estate Appraisers. The value of the underlying land may not be affected, however, Sousa added, making the overall market value of the property a complex question.

In some cases, such questions might be simpler. Marafioti’s client “feels the value is zero. The roof flew off the house, onto his car,” she said.

For now, she’s taking the property off the market while waiting for her client to hear back from his insurance company. “Obviously we don’t have what we thought we had,” she said.

Damaged Listings Leave Agents, Clients In Limbo

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min
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