When Kate Thulin and her husband bought their house in South Uptown two years ago, they quickly realized that the garage was too small for their two cars.
“We were kind of blindsided,” she said. “Our realtor was like, ‘Unless you have a huge Buick, you’ll be fine.’ We didn’t measure it, we just bought the house, but didn’t do our due diligence with the garage.”
So they built a brand new one this past fall. All was going well … until winter hit.
“We had two inches of icy water slush filling the entire garage,” Thulin said. “Once that receded, my husband would go in there every day, and would hack at it and sweep it out as much as he could. Then we’d get more and would just fight this battle with it.”
This year’s snowmageddon has already caused headaches for homeowners, but the flooding could have further consequences. Some folks trying to sell their homes have found that water damage can, in some cases, affect real estate prices.
Constance Vork, a realtor at Keller Williams Realty Integrity Lakes, said the effect of water damage on home prices isn’t an exact science. “It’s complicated and it depends,” Vork said. “It depends on the type of house and the extent of damage and who the buyer is.”
While water can be a real problem for buyers who worry about mold, others are not so bothered by it, Vork said. It also depends on whether it’s a newer or older home. A 1909 four square with an unfinished basement made of concrete or limestone will raise a lot less concern than a finished basement with carpeting.
Vork said she doesn’t think this spring’s flooding has taken a major toll on the real estate market. Because there’s been so much talk about the water on Nextdoor and on social media, “it sort of feels like everybody in the market understands we are all in the same club here,” Vork said. “I didn’t observe that prices were affected, but I saw plenty of sellers making repairs.”
For a finished basement, Vork said water damage might cost thousands to repair. How much does that affect the price of a home? “It’s really anybody’s guess,” she said. “I’d say between $5,000 to $10,000 for an average home.”
That could happen even if the damage is repaired, because buyers might have concerns about whether the repair was done properly.
That being said, in Minneapolis’ climate of low home inventory, they might be inclined to brush off one flooding incident. “If the buyer is really motivated because their lease is up or they’ve sold their home, or there are multiple offers on the property, they might suck it up,” she said.
For Jeff Skrenes, who was selling his home in the Jordan neighborhood of Minneapolis, basement flooding cost him a buyer. The first offer he received fell through when the buyer saw water in the basement, even though the damage was minimal and the basement was unfinished.
“The buyer said this was evidence that the house wasn’t being maintained well,” Skrenes said. “The irony was that I had just done a seal coating paint to keep the moisture out as much as possible. It would have been worse if not for that.”
Luckily, he had multiple offers, so he went to the next offer, disclosed the situation, and the second buyer decided to buy the house.
“At the end of the day, it cost me an extra house payment and an extra utility payment,” he said.
Kate Thulin incurred plenty of expenses when her garage flooded. Water sat in the space for more than two weeks, damaging her battery charger and edger and rusting the blade of her lawn mower. The brand new concrete slab she bought just five months ago is now pock-marked and cracked.
What’s a new homeowner to do? Thulin posted about their iced-over garage experience on Nextdoor to see if what she was experiencing was normal.
“I got a ton of responses,” she said. “It skewed slightly toward people saying, ‘This is an unusual year. This is happening to us, too.’”
After doing some research, Thulin and her husband realized that part of the problem was that there was some micro-grading in her yard. One solution would be to build a kind of moat around the garage, which can cost a few thousand dollars. Instead, they’ve decided to hire a landscaper to regrade the lawn, and they’ll put gutters on the garage.
“I think it was a mix of a bad winter, no gutters and slightly bad grading. Hopefully we can address those things and not have the problem next year,” she said.
Preparing for future flooding
Emily Harrington, a Hennepin County meteorologist, said 165 county residents reported being impacted by flooding this spring in an online survey. Using the FEMA criteria for disaster relief, they found that of those impacted, eight experienced minor damage of 3 to 6 inches of flooding and two experienced major damage such as collapsed basements.
Harrington said the actual number of people affected in the county is likely much higher.
The county encourages homeowners to purchase flooding insurance, which can be added as a rider to home insurance policies. “People tend to think if they are not in a floodplain they don’t need it,” Harrington said.
This year, however, proved otherwise.
Harrington said last fall’s saturated soils added to the flooding problem.
“It’s so moist right now that even if the ground thaws, the water can’t go anywhere,” she said.
Troubleshoot your flooding problem
Mike Morrison, a landscape designer at Metro Blooms, shared a few flooding prevention tips.
The easiest way to stop a garage from flooding doesn’t cost a thing.
“The most simple thing is to turn the downspouts on the house so they aren’t pointing towards the garage.”
The next step is to buy drain tile, which is a four-inch corrugated ribbed tubing that draws water toward it. That’s $5 for a 10-foot piece; for a garage flood you’d need about four.
You can also plant shrubbery or other vegetation in your garage.
“Planting native plants is a way to reduce some of the stormwater issues, especially if you can intercept water.”
If those don’t work, you’ll have to get the positive drainage away from the structure that’s flooding.
If the driveway slopes down to the garage, you can saw-cut part of it to create a channel drain.
The drain costs about $1,000 and cuts perpendicularly into a rain garden in order to divert the water.
The expensive part is hiring a contractor, but there are lots of YouTube videos that teach you how to do it yourself.
“The main thing is the labor portion. It’s a decent amount of digging.”