The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 3, 2011

Tornado flips housing market upside down

JOPLIN, Mo. — Jesse Bruce and his wife, Karen, lost their house in the May 22 tornado.

They — like thousands of others in Joplin — are now in the market for a new home.

But for Jesse, the destruction has a silver lining. He is a real estate agent.

One of the first things Bruce said he did — before he had even secured all of his personal belongings — was take out an advertisement offering his services as a real estate agent.

“I got a lot of calls,” Bruce said. “I got overwhelmed.”

Until recently, the housing market in Joplin was sluggish and those who had put properties on the market were sometimes selling at reduced prices.

But following the May 22 tornado, which displaced thousands of people, the housing market has been turned on its head. What had been a buyer’s market flipped over to become a seller’s market in the 20 minutes it took the storm to pass through the city.

Kim Cox, with the Ozark Gateway Association of Realtors, said 128 listed homes were destroyed that day, leaving the total number of homes for sale in the region at 1,427, but those have been going fast.

According to Cox, 163 homes were put under contract in Joplin in the first week after the storm — 10 times the 16 put under contract during an average week in Joplin before the storm.

No one knows exactly how many Joplin residents were displaced. The National Weather Service, in a preliminary assessment released Thursday, concluded that nearly 7,000 homes were destroyed and another 875 homes had some level of damage.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is trying to identify all those who were displaced, as well as available housing in the region. Both surveys are incomplete.

Josh deBerg, FEMA spokesperson, said it is too soon to know how many tornado victims are without a home. At the same time, the agency is looking at all available rental housing within 55 miles of Joplin, but what it found through Wednesday would replace just a fraction of the lost homes: 467 available rental properties within 25 miles, 1,400 within 55 miles.

“Our goal is to find those homes for residents as close to Joplin as possible,” he said, then added: “But realize that is a pretty tall order.”

The number of available rentals is not a final number, either, deBerg said Friday, as new rentals come in but others are delisted for one reason or another.

“We are really trying to make sure the resources we are getting registered are legitimate.”

Another option is bringing in temporary trailers, although that is not always popular.

City officials in Cordova, Ala., recently sparked outrage in their town of 2,000 after refusing to allow residents there who were homeless because of a tornado to live in temporary housing provided by FEMA. Storm victims are supposed to live in FEMA housing for no longer than 18 months after a disaster, yet about 260 campers are still occupied by survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast more than five years after those storms.

Still looking

Cecilia Thompson is one of those still looking for a place to live in Joplin.

She has spent every night since the tornado stuck in the Red Cross shelter set up at Missouri Southern State University. She and her two children are looking to buy a home after her apartment was destroyed.

So far, her search has come up empty.

“We’ve been driving around talking to people. Even FEMA has been trying to look for us, but we haven’t found anything,” she said.

Thompson said that her apartment complex gave her five days to remove her family’s possessions from the wreckage before they boarded up windows and doors. What few possessions she could salvage are in a storage unit that allowed tornado victims to store their belongings there free of charge until July 1.

That leaves Thompson just a few weeks to find a home. She said that her 7-year-old daughter was traumatized by the tornado and does not want to live in a house that does not have a basement. She said she has not contacted a real estate agent.

New territory

Kathleen Martz, of Charles Burt Realtors, has been a Realtor in Joplin for 32 years.

The Charles Burt office, one of the largest in the region, at 1010 E. 20th St., was among the many buildings destroyed.

Martz said that her colleagues — 39 of whom lost their homes in the disaster — are in uncharted territory.

She said that she is not allowing her clients to raise their asking prices in response to the increased demand for housing, but she said real estate agents have no control over individuals who opt to sell their own property. She also said she can understand sellers wanting to get what they consider fair value for their homes, but taking advantage of the tragedy is “not the right thing to do.”

Bruce, meanwhile, has referred several people to his fellow agents at Smith Midwest Realty. He said he can understand what many of the callers are going through.

“I am looking for a house currently, too, and that’s been kind of difficult because houses are going quick. There definitely is a sense of urgency for displaced people,” he said.

While available housing in Joplin is fast tightening up, Bruce expects to see many new houses beginning just as soon as the cleanup is completed.

“I’ve talked to some people who are going to rebuild,” he said. “I’ve been approached by several contractors who are interested in (my) lot, so I think that a lot of lots will be bought in groups by contractors.”

He said that he imagines that the process will be similar to the way in which many subdivisions are built, “only it will be the subdivision of central Joplin,” he said.

Text Only
Local News
  • State audit of Joplin School District begins

    Staff members from the state auditor’s office have begun their audit of the Joplin School District, Superintendent C.J. Huff said Monday. They are expected to be in the district four days per week for the next five to six months, or perhaps longer, until the audit is complete, Huff said.

    July 21, 2014

  • Burglary conviction draws shock prison time

    A Joplin man who received 120 days of shock incarceration time Friday in a drunken-driving case in Jasper County Circuit Court was assessed a concurrent sentence Monday in a burglary case.

    July 21, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Family gatherings mirror circle of life

    The annual family gathering is getting bigger. There tends to be an ebb and a flow to most family gatherings. When you’re a kid, and especially if you’re a kid from a large Catholic family, the gatherings seem to be huge.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Carthage man pleads guilty in sexual abuse case

    A Carthage man pleaded guilty Monday to sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl in a plea agreement that would cap the length of his prison term at no more than 15 years.

    July 21, 2014

  • Main Street TIF district study to begin

    A measure that allows the city to charge its $15,000 in administrative costs for studying a proposal to create a tax increment financing district on South Main Street was approved Monday by the Joplin City Council.

    July 21, 2014

  • 071714 Jasper Cty Dispatch1_72.jpg Area communities, Jasper County work to improve communications

    The first law enforcement officer to respond to a fatal shooting last November at Northpark Mall was from the Duquesne Police Department — not Joplin. Joplin police Chief Jason Burns said he wasn’t bothered by that. “We dispatch for them, and they had an officer close who could get there faster,” he said. “And getting help to people as quickly as possible is more important than jurisdictions.”

    July 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • New and old TIF districts on agenda for Joplin council

    Another tax increment financing district is being proposed for Joplin, this one along South Main Street. The area is close to the new Mercy Hospital Joplin that is set to open next year. RKS Development is seeking authorization from the Joplin City Council when it meets Monday night to prepare a request to establish a TIF district.

    July 20, 2014

  • AndraBryanStefanoni.jpg Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Family grows by one — a black Lab named Raven

    If you haven’t experienced the feeling of a tiny puppy in your lap at the end of a perfect July Saturday — hammock time, s’mores, leisurely walks, you know the kind — I highly recommend it. It is pure joy.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • 042017 Jo Ellis_c.jpg Jo Ellis: Car show, sidewalk sale and more scheduled for weekend in Carthage

    All roads leading to Carthage should be packed this weekend as numerous events geared toward entertainment, cultural pursuits and bargain hunting are expected to pull in large crowds.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • SusanRedden.jpg Susan Redden: Hobby Lobby lawyer to speak at watermelon feed

    Josh Hawley, who helped represent Hobby Lobby in arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on contraception requirements in the Affordable Care Act, has been added to the list of speakers for Thursday’s annual watermelon feed sponsored by Newton County Republicans.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

Must Read


Do you think Missouri should pass legislation that would allow a prescription drug database to be kept?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter