A Monson home was completely overturned by the winds.At the Realtor Association of Pioneer Valley’s technology education event on Thursday, vendors were displaying their wares, the chocolate chip cookie platter was attracting plenty of takers and local realtors were lining up to learn more about how to use their iPads.

Little would one suspect that less than 24 hours previously the entire association staff had been gathered in the smallest, most stable room in the building.

“I have six staff, and they’re all women,” said Executive Vice President Ben Scranton. “So when I said, ‘We’re going to go into the ladies room,’ Joanne said to me, ‘You can’t go in there!’ I said, ‘There’s a tornado coming. I’m going to the ladies room.’ So we all huddled in there.”

Such were the strange dilemmas faced by many real estate agents as they struggled to cope with the storm and its aftermath.

“A lot of our agents have been affected,” said Stacey Alcorn, co-owner of RE/MAX Prestige, which operates three offices in the area. “Thank God, all of them are safe.”

But all three offices – in East Longmeadow, Wilbraham and Springfield – were closed and she anticipated they wouldn’t be able to open for several days.

The firm contributed more than $10,000 to a crisis fund and rented three vans stationed at each of the offices to shuttle donated supplies to the towns with the most damage. “Food, water, stuff for animals, too,” said Alcorn.

Several of her agents were temporarily sheltering friends and neighbors whose houses were destroyed. She said they were still in need of bottled water, food and blankets, and that anyone in the area was welcome to bring donations to the Prestige offices, where they would be shuttled to the Salvation Army and other aid centers.

“We’ve kind of banded together as our own little group to help anybody we can,” said Alcorn.

Responding In Kind

“We had a couple people who had some family [members] hit,” said Kathleen Witalisz, broker owner of Witalisz and Assoc. in Westfield. “Here in our office, we are asking people, if they’re moving and have furniture items they don’t need, to donate those. It’s going on right now.”

Many industry organizations were still trying to determine the best way to respond. The Realtors’ Association of Pioneer Valley will be coordinating donations for agents affected by the storm though their charitable foundation, said Scranton. The charitable foundation for the Massachusetts Association of Realtors (MAR) will organize a similar effort, said Eric Berman, MAR spokesman.

Some agents were already fielding calls from clients anxious to determine how the storm’s damage would affect pending home sales and property listings.

Vincent Walsh, 2011 president of the Realtor Association of Pioneer Valley and a sales manager with Coldwell Banker in East Longmeadow, said some of his agents had suffered some property damage in the storm, but that luckily no one had been hurt. By Friday morning, his agents were beginning to be able to get around town enough to assess the damage to their listings. While he had yet to hear from the properties’ insurers, there were a few listings that his office handles which had been nearly destroyed.

The storm also put some agents’ businesses on hold indefinitely.

Gail Marengo, an agent with Zip Realty in Holland, said although her home was not damaged, she was without electricity. Because her office is in her house, she was unable to work Thursday. And it was unclear when she would get back to the business of selling homes.

“Nobody has called me,” she said on Thursday. “I can’t work, and my kids are out of school today and tomorrow.”

Local Realtors Banding Together To Begin Rebuilding

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min
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