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Lessons the Elements Teach Us

By Datta Khalsa, Broker

As I write this, our community is being battered by storms that rival the floods of 1982 and 1954, and will likely go on the record as the most damaging ever.

Images of beloved landmarks like the Capitola Pier and the Cement Ship crumbling beneath the onslaught of giant waves breaking over them have made national news, while mandatory evacuations have forced many from their homes and businesses in the flooded areas along the beaches and low-lying river basins. And there is more rain on the way.

In the midst of this news, I hear from a client whose neighbor has just offered her what essentially amounts to land value for her commercial property in Soquel Village which was devastated by the initial storm on New Year’s Eve, and I am reminded of the old adage: “Where there is confusion there is opportunity.”

This saying applies to distress situations as well. Not wanting to see her make a decision while still in the throes of her loss—one that she might well regret later—I advised her to hold off on signing anything until the waters subside and we have the chance to make a more informed assessment of the damage which she estimates to be in the range of $70,000 or more.

Furthermore, depending on the level of emergency that is declared by the State or Federal Government, insurance coverage may be either augmented or superseded by government aid, and there will likely be funds available to assist property owners in the cleaning up and rebuilding of their properties, such as the grants and low interest FEMA loans that were administered in the wake of the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989.

In much the same way that the community came through the challenges of the many disasters that have come before, inspiring stories have emerged of people helping people, and the unlikeliest of heroes stepping in to make a difference, eclipsing the behavior of the selfishly-minded who take situations like these as an opportunity to profit at another’s expense, be it as it may by looting or a lowball offer.

On a deeper level, as my team does their best with sandbags and drainage remediation measures to battle the floodwaters that threaten several of the properties that we manage, including a few that I own personally, it gives me pause to reassess the very nature of property ownership.

For those who use property as a measure of wealth, status or power, there is a lesson in humility to be learned in the face of the elements when they take this measure away. To me, what remains once we are stripped of these possessions and faced with the challenges of dealing with loss—and our role in helping ourselves and others through situations like the one at hand—is a far better indicator of what kind of a person we really are.

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