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Visualizing Hurricane Florence’s Impact on East Coast Housing

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With Hurricane Florence hitting the East Coast, residents on the ground are bracing for the impact and the industry is bracing for the aftermath. The past year has seen a series of damaging storms such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, events that caused thousands of deaths and billions in damages. As with any disaster, both preparation and response are paramount, but what will the impact of Hurricane Florence look like for the servicers who will be helping navigate the housing damages in the weeks and months to come?

Now DIMONT, a Dallas-based provider of insurance claims management and adjustment services for mortgage and auto lenders, servicers, and investors, is offering its skills to servicers with properties in the region.

Denis Brosnan, CEO and President of DIMONT, said, “As part of our effort to assist the mortgage and housing industries, DIMONT is asking servicers to reach out and we will run projections based on historical damage from prior hurricanes, tailored to the specific properties for that servicer in potentially impacted areas. As a service to the industry, we will not charge those servicers who reach out to us looking for a more custom data visualization.”

DIMONT provided DS News with a 3D map analysis examining the potential impact of Hurricane Florence on the East Coast, specifically on vacant and foreclosed properties. While damage to those properties thankfully holds less potential for human loss, DIMONT’s Chief Solutions Officer Tom Stover told DS News that they often have an increased chance of sustaining damage, simply because they often have not been maintained as well as an occupied home, and they have no one on hand to secure them before the high winds and water blow in.

“DIMONT’s data visualization for Hurricane Florence provides historical damage assessments that can be used by servicers to gain the perspective they need to speed up and improve their decision-making processes,” Stover said. “This enables them to communicate much faster and more effectively with both investors and homeowners and help mitigate any potential losses.”

DIMONT’s video above tracks potential increases in both claims and damages across two regions. Tier 1 areas are most likely to bear the brunt of Hurricane Florence’s initial landfall. The storm will likely weaken as it reaches the Tier 2 areas, but there’s a catch—those areas are further inland and usually have a higher population density, meaning more homes could be impacted. Stover told DS News that the cumulative damages across a Tier 2 region often surpass that of Tier 1 areas, in spite of the storm being much weaker by the time it reaches them.

DIMONT told DS News that servicers typically see a 285 percent increase in the number of claims and a 700 percent increase in the total damages on foreclosed and vacant properties in the Tier 1 Impact Zone. For properties in the Tier 2 Impact Zone, the claims typically double in volume with the damages increasing by 150 percent.

After a meeting yesterday with President Donald J. Trump and other senior officials, FEMA Administrator Brock Long said, “Hurricane Florence is setting out to be a devastating event. We’re supporting the governors with achieving their life safety evacuation and movements. We’re focused on mass care and sheltering. And then we’ll be focused on helping them to execute their response and recovery goals.”

Today, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have released a reminder of their disaster relief policies, including disaster relief options that are available to borrowers whose homes or places of employment are located within a Presidentially declared Major Disaster Area, where federal individual assistance programs are made available to affected individuals and households.

“It is important for those in the Carolinas and nearby states to focus on their safety as Hurricane Florence approaches,” said Yvette Gilmore, Freddie Mac’s VP of Single-Family Servicer Performance Management. “Once out of harm’s way, we strongly encourage homeowners whose homes or places of employment have been impacted by Hurricane Florence to call their mortgage servicer to learn about available relief options. We stand ready to ensure that mortgage relief is made available.”

For those within a Major Disaster Area, options include suspending foreclosures by providing forbearance for up to 12 months, waiving assessments of penalties or late fees against borrowers with disaster-damaged homes, and no reporting of forbearance or delinquencies caused by the disaster to the nation's credit bureaus.

For homes impacted by the hurricane but not covered by the Major Disaster Area, Fannie Mae authorized servicers to suspend or reduce a homeowner's mortgage payments immediately for up to 90 days without any contact with the homeowner if the servicer believes the homeowner has been affected by a disaster. Freddie Mac encourages servicers to refer to their standard relief policies, which include forbearance and mortgage modifications.

“We want to ensure those in the path of Hurricane Florence have peace of mind and time to focus on their safety,” said Carlos Perez, SVP and Chief Credit Officer at Fannie Mae. “Fannie Mae and our lending and servicing partners are focused on ensuring assistance is offered to individuals and families in need.”


About Author: David Wharton

David Wharton, Editor-in-Chief at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has nearly 20 years' experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. He can be reached at [email protected].

About Author: Seth Welborn

Seth Welborn is a Reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Harding University, he has covered numerous topics across the real estate and default servicing industries. Additionally, he has written B2B marketing copy for Dallas-based companies such as AT&T. An East Texas Native, he also works part-time as a photographer.

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