Knock, knock…upon answering, the neighbor says shut the front door. Looking out among the dark night, water flowed past the front porch, engulfing the property line. The neighbor sand bagged the door and the house immediately became an island all its own standing tall in over 5 feet of water, then the murky liquid began seeping up through the baseboards and flooring. The water flooded the home quickly, only allowing the homeowners time to grab a few things before moving to higher ground. The streets became canals, a neighbor’s boat floats past the house, it would be marked down in history as one of the longest nights these homeowners had to endure uncertainty and wait as Mother Nature’s fury decides their fate.

That’s only one of many homeowner’s horror stories from Superstorm Sandy when the hurricane collided with the nor’easter hitting the east coast last October. The direct affects the storm has had on the housing market has yet to be determined in our area, but with hundreds of thousands of homes in Sandy’s destructive path, homeowners in those flood zones will continue to face the rough road of recovery months from now. Many homeowners, including myself, have returned to our waterlogged homes, insurance claims have been filed and many of our utilities have since been restored, but it’s what happens next that will determine the future of those homes and neighborhoods. Whether you were selling your home during the height of the storm, now or anytime in the near future, everyone looking to buy and sell in those affected areas should protect themselves from further destruction and heartache.

Assuming you’re looking to get the best price you can, rather than unload the property at any cost, affected homeowners will want to consult with experts. When most homeowners or Realtors hire a home stager, they’re looking for a quick aesthetic solution, but did you know home stagers can help get a homeowner back on their feet quickly after a natural disaster?

If a home has sustained flood damage soggy carpets, warped hardwood floors, sheetrock, electrical equipment and furniture will need to be discarded. For example, old and outdated carpeting can be replaced with new carpet in a fresher color, which would instantly buyer bonus.

Home stagers understand this is an overwhelming process for homeowners, especially if they’re looking to sell. After a disaster it’s important for a seller to remain calm and focused on the steps needed to return their property to sellable condition. A home stager knows how deal with these emotions and can help sellers recreate a space buyers will enjoy.

A home stager cannot only work as a project manager during this process, but they can refer qualified vendors like inspectors, contractors and restoration companies to assess and rebuild the home. For instance, repairs, like cracks in the foundation are signs of possible structural issues that a home stager would subcontract out. However, choosing what kitchen tile or flooring to pick out, is a home stager’s specialty. Whatever the damage may be, make sure all damage is documented and when repairs are made you have receipts available to show buyers the work that has been done. This will provide buyers the peace of mind needed to make a purchasing decision.

Home stagers can also give homeowners guidance in choosing the right design layout, materials and finishes to get the maximum return on investment. Our industry follows the latest Homegain’s Survey when recommending repairs made to the home. The 2012 National Home Improvement survey suggests decluttering your home can bring in a 403-percent return on investment, improvements with lighting, plumbing, electrical and staging your home will also provide the biggest returns when selling. While the floods destroyed seller’s belongings, it gives them an excuse to remove unwanted clutter. The waterlogged structure also allows them to make the proper upgrades while the walls and floors are gutted. As devastating as these natural disasters are, they offer a chance to rebuild stronger for the future. Use this as an opportunity to make improvements to be better prepared for unforeseen disasters. Can you relocate your utility closet to higher ground? Where could you install a generator or how can green power prevent home blackouts? Is it worth raising your home? These are all questions that can help in the event more storms like Sandy pound our shoreline.

Wherever you’re at as a recovering homeowner, remember taking the appropriate steps to assess the damage, repair it and document the entire process will pay you back well when it comes time to sell.