The terrible news of the devastating earthquake and the tsunami that followed it in Japan was a tragedy of huge proportions, and our hearts go out to all of those who have lost family members and friends or been left homeless as a result.
The frightening scenes will no doubt bring about a wave of apprehension for many of us on this side of the Pacific as well – along with memories of our last major quake, the Loma Prieta shaker in 1989 which tragically resulted in 63 deaths. The big concern of course, is that we must be about due another ‘big one’ ourselves – something that will be worrying us all, especially our Realtors who are only just starting to feel optimistic about the housing market again.
Even minor tremors can cause havoc with the property trade. While people might be knocked off their feet, so long as they haven't been hit by any falling rubble they'll be able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and get back to it. This is not the case with buildings, unfortunately. While people are supposed to walk around, buildings are meant to keep still.
The damage that quakes cause almost always varies, from minor cracking in sheetrock, stucco, patios, sidewalks and driveways, to cracked windows and doors which may suddenly no longer be able to open or close. However, more serious damage is inherently possible – including dislocated or cracked foundations, dislodged walls, broken pipes, or in the worst case, complete collapse.
The worry for Realtors is that when homes are shook up, not only are they often uninhabitable, they are unfit for sale as well. In a quake hit area, virtually all pending transactions will be put on hold while checks are made to ascertain the damage, while many will be canceled outright.
The bottom line is, not only are quakes a human tragedy, the residual effects, even for the real estate market, can be devastating.