Couple plan to rebuild home in floodplain
The house they’ve lived in for almost a year at 1722 Charles St. in the Mole & Sadler’s subdivision has shifted on its dirt foundation, the floors and ceiling are cracked and the walls are starting to buckle.
“According to our contractor … our house could collapse in on itself,” Courtney said.
The young couple and their neighbors in the flooded subdivision on the banks of the Rock River face a tough decision: they can raise their homes above flood level or they can accept a city buyout.
About 15 properties in the Mole & Sadler’s subdivision have been declared “substantially damaged” because repairs are estimated to cost more than half the property’s equalized assessed value.
Residents can sell their damaged homes to the city at pre-flood fair market value. If they choose not to sell, residents would be required to raise their homes 2 feet above flood plain level.
Nick, 25, and Courtney, 28, were on their honeymoon in Jamaica when the flood hit. When they returned June 18, they took a boat from the middle of Charles Street to their front door.
“We wanted to see for ourselves what was happening,” Courtney said. “We were very concerned about what was going to be left.”
The garage was flooded. Contaminated water seeped into the crawl space under the house and into the laundry room. The yard resembled nearby Riverside Park.
But the house was mostly spared.
“Whatever the smallest measurement of an inch is, (the water) was within that of getting in our house,” Courtney said. “It was right at the door.”
Since the floodwaters have receded, the couple have gone back to the house daily to retrieve belongings.
“It was just getting grosser and grosser by the day,” Courtney said.
A contractor has estimated the damage to the 740-square-foot house at almost $190,000—more than three times its 2007 assessed value of $61,600 listed on the city Web site.
“It’s just a small, teeny little home,” Courtney said. “This was our starter place.”
The couple are having trouble getting the insurance company to cover the cost of repairing or replacing their home.
Although they live in the house, pay the property taxes and pay for the insurance, the house and the insurance policy are in Courtney’s parents’ name.
“We’re not the principal residents, so they won’t replace it,” said Beth Norwood, Courtney’s mother. “We didn’t know that when we bought the policy.”
And now the couple are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“It’s no where near worth that much,” Courtney said of the house. “We’re trying to balance everything. We’re trying to take as much of the emotion out of this and look at this as business people.”
It’s looking like it’s in the couple’s best interest to rebuild the house instead of taking the buyout, they said.
The city told residents in the Mole & Sadler’s subdivision that the soonest they could get reimbursed for their properties as part of the buyout program would be six months.
Nick and Courtney can’t wait that long.
“It’s so many unknowns,” Courtney said. “My husband and I are waiting to be newlyweds, and we’re living in one bedroom (in her parents’ house).
“It’s very overwhelming.”
Don Norwood, Courtney’s father, said the couple could use a new house as an investment because there’s “not much to be gained” by accepting the city buyout.
“I think we’re going to completely tear it down and build a new home,” he said. “That’s the way we’re leaning … A new home would have a value much higher than it was pre-flood.”
Many of the couple’s neighbors—some who have lived in their houses for decades—are taking the buyout, Courtney said.
“There’s a lot of history here for these people, and they’re still going ahead and saying it’s time to abandon ship,” she said.
Nick and Courtney realize rebuilding would be risky.
“You want that one person to say, ‘This is what you have to do,’” Courtney said. “One wrong decision … We could build up another house and then there’s a 500-year flood.”