December 17, 2017
By Kay Wilson-Bolton
There is something unique in the business transaction of helping someone purchase a home or finding the right rental.
The goal is always a good ending and the perfect match. When a Realtor® hands someone the keys to their home, it goes with our best hope that all will be well and that memories become the basis of a good and certain future. Based on how the transaction went, there is a lifetime connection. There was great temptation during the Thomas Fire to call or text clients to see if they were safe or if we could help. So many of us had been evacuated ourselves, there was often little to do other than pray, be encouraging and supportive from afar and literally stand by.
We learned from the ravages of the Thomas Fire what any particular home, apartment, single family residence or manufactured home really means. It appears that each one who lost their home struggles most with the loss of the memories made inside. Yes, each of us placed some priority on what things needed to be removed in haste, but it seems those items were attached to memories such as family photos, grandma’s quilts, special books and keepsakes or to a new future with important papers and records.
The inconvenience of losing their dwelling manifested itself differently for each family. Some had the good fortune of finding vacant homes quickly or were able to stay with family and friends. It was very different for the 11 farmworker families in Santa Paula who lost their mobile homes located on ranch which were owned by their employer. The rally to provide for them took on its own personality as did the efforts in Ojai, Ventura, Fillmore and Santa Paula. Donations at most evacuation centers exceeded need, but it was determined by all it was a good problem to have.
During the smoky days of uncertainty, there were moments of angst when lenders stopped funding loans and the issuance of insurance policies was halted. The Realtor® community had to coalesce like never before to keep clients and colleagues informed and encouraged. Most of us had agreements that we would not press for updates but would stand by and wait for them.
Special communications were required of Realtors whose clients had left the area and left the care of the home to family and friends and their Realtor. The looming issues of safety collided with the issues of an uncertain future relating to value and a potentially slow market impacted by tragedy.
The real estate community in particular mobilized and uniquely rallied around our 16 colleagues who lost their homes. There was little time lost from the moment of discovery to making connection with an offer of a place to stay and the provision of basic necessities. Within a few hours, most of us knew from Facebook who the victims were and shared their sadness. It was clear no one was exempt from loss.
At the same time, Realtors for our communities joined their neighbors to serve food, collect items, have fundraisers and be good neighbors. There was cross sharing of resources.
We found Facebook to be our reliable information source. Posts were mostly thoughtful and carefully fact-based.
What is categorically true is that while there is justified sadness over the loss of property and the comforts of home, there is an overriding sorrow for the loss of firefighter Cory Iverson from San Diego. He gave all so that we would be safe. His family gave all too. It is the one most significant memory the survivors of the Thomas Fire will recall together.
Kay Wilson-Bolton has been serving Ventura County for 41 years.