For Jim, a Colorado resident who owns a rental home in Florida, this was his first experience with a hurricane. For Olivia Kollar, Marketing and Business Development Manager at Real Property Management Rental Direction, she had already experienced numerous hurricanes since her first one, the devastating Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Jim had a long-time friend keeping an eye on his property, and had renters in it since day one, but the renters had become late on payments and eventually moved out, leaving the property in less than desirable condition.
Just five days prior to Irma’s arrival, Jim met with Olivia to discuss managing his rental. “There was a lot of stuff that needed to be done to the property before it could be rented again,” admitted Jim. “Olivia and I agreed on a list of items like painting, cleaning and installing new appliances, and she began coordinating the work right away.”
According to Olivia, “Of course, being 5 days away from one of the strongest storms in history, and Florida being under a state of emergency, most of my vendors had begun to evacuate, but one said he could start painting before the storm.”
Prior to the storm, Olivia says the team at Real Property Management Rental Direction contacted all their clients, both property owners and residents. They told residents if the homes had hurricane shutters to put them up, and that they would assist them if they needed help. Also, for residents in the evacuation zones, they reminded them to use their better judgement and evacuate.
They also contacted their property owners and let them know they had asked residents to secure properties as much as possible, and that they would visit properties after the hurricane and report any damage. They stressed to owners that they may not be able to reach them for a week or more after the storm due to devastation and downed cell towers.
As most of the country and world knows, Hurricane Irma impacted Southwest Florida on September 10, 2017. It was an extremely powerful and catastrophic storm, and the most intense hurricane to strike the United States since Katrina in 2005.
Jim said of his experience, “Driving up the coast the day before the hurricane made landfall was horrendous, but I was sitting back in Denver watching the news coverage when the hurricane hit.” Meanwhile, Olivia had to evacuate to North Florida, and eventually learned that properties in her neighborhood were damaged but her home was spared.
After the hurricane, the team at Real Property Management Rental Direction divided the area into geographical segments, then everyone in the office each took an area and knocked on doors and made sure tenants were OK. They assessed property damage, took photos, and relayed the information to property owners. Olivia checked on her own home last, as she wanted to make sure her clients’ properties were OK first. “Most of our owners live outside the affected area and in other states, and only saw the news which tends to show the worst situations.”
Most of the properties managed by Real Property Management Rental Direction were damaged by Irma, primarily with fallen trees, torn screens from pools and lanais, and missing roof tiles and shingles. Two properties, however, were severely damaged and uninhabitable for a time. In one property, the roof leaked which lead to the entire ceiling caving in.
“Our tenants were happy we checked on them. Owners were also happy, but also frustrated as communication was difficult and it took some time to reach them.”
With any natural disaster, it is a challenging time and tension runs high. “Most of the team was calm before and after the hurricane. Some were anxious, primarily due to the anxiety of our owners and residents because for most of them, they have not lived in Florida for years and experienced hurricanes.”
“Luckily Jim’s property lost only a portion of its rain gutter and had a fallen tree in the yard. With no power (two weeks before it was returned) and no gas to be
found anywhere, my painter was still able to complete the job. While my staff and I were doing our best to drive around and assess damages of other properties we manage, I had a contractor doing his best to get Jim’s home rent ready. Three weeks after Irma passed, we were able to secure a tenant.”
Jim was thoroughly impressed and amazed with the dedication and perseverance of Olivia and the team at Real Property Management Rental Direction. “I left Olivia and the painter high and dry, and they stayed the course. She stayed in touch with me all along and never left me stranded. I really appreciated that. She was very accountable and was the boots on the ground during a challenging time. The whole town is still in disarray, but somehow she was able to get my property in good shape, find a tenant and get $300 more per month in rent.”
Jim was so impressed, he posted this online:
“Olivia Kollar of Real Property Management is now my rental property manager and may I say I could not be more pleased. We met with Olivia several days prior to Hurricane Irma when it was projected to hit the east coast. As everyone knows, it shifted to the west coast and slammed into the area close to our home. Olivia kept us informed and worked to get the house repaired and updated as well as placing a tenant in less than three weeks – remarkable. She has my highest praise and recommendation.”
Even though the hurricane was over 2 months ago, clean-up is ongoing. Olivia says, “There are a lot of fallen trees, a lot of debris waiting to get picked up, a lot of torn screens from pool cages and lanais waiting to be repaired, and a lot of lost roof tiles and shingles. Vendors are very busy, but because of our relationship with them we’re getting homes repaired quickly, however, there’s also a shortage of materials impacting repairs getting done. We didn’t get much sleep dealing with all of the issues, but residents have moved back in and the area and our business is slowly getting back to normal.”
In reflecting on the situation, Olivia said, “Though it was an incredibly stressful time for everyone living in this area, as well as for owners that own homes down here, it was an amazing feeling to be able to get work done so quickly. Biggest praise to my vendors for working so well on this with me in such a crazy time. It really is circumstances like this that make this job truly rewarding.”
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