It was a meeting of the minds Friday as those in the real estate industry spoke with officials about a computer crisis that they say is essentialy shutting down real estate sales in Orleans Parish.
"I see it as a levee break, an oil spill, but what we need to do is resolve that and start to move it forward," said Joe Ory, president of the New Orleans Metropolitan Real Estate Association, or NOMAR.
More than three weeks after a computer crash left gaps in Orleans Parish's computerized mortgage and conveyance data, city officials are stepping in. Though the civil district court's computer crisis is unrelated to city hall, Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson called a meeting between those in the real estate industry, the city's technology expert, and clerk of court Dale Atkins, who joined via telephone.
"A lot came out of this meeting because everybody involved is on the same page for the first time. This marks the first time we've all been on the same page," said Clarkson.
But nobody knows when the data will be recovered. And real estate experts say, the longer theh crisis continues, the greater the damage.
"It's kind of like the perfect storm, we're in an interest rate increasing climate, and to have delayed closings, and lost rate locks means that buyers are losing rates," Rick Haase, president of Latter and Blum. "Some of these sales being lost are irretrievable."
Realtors say that if the data's not completely restored, buyers won't be able to get title insurance or a clear title on any property in New Orleans, effectively putting the brakes on real estate sales.
"It's billions of dollars of transactions to this city, and it's disastrous," said Clarkson. "I'm a little prejudiced because I'm a 40 year realtor, but this is one of the biggest disasters we could ever face."
While court officials work to recover the missing data, those in the private sector made it clear they're ready to help Atkins, who told them they must be trained and put on the payroll in order to help.
"We made it clear today that we stand to support her, give her whatever manpower is necessary. That offer has been on the table and she's agreed to take us up on it," said Brent Laliberte, closing attorney for Bayou Title, Inc.
The city's information technology expert, Allen Square, joined the effort to restore the missing data directly after the meeting at city hall ended Friday.
"We know now that we have direction, and we'll be able to accelerate what's going on," said Ory.
According to Clarkson, the back-up systems failed, and three back-up companies have been unable so far to retrieve the missing data. But new experts have been brought in to help.
Meanwhile, the civil district court is manually reindexing affected data.
Haase believes new back-up systems should be put in place so records are better protected in the future.
Mortgage data through August 6th of 2009 and conveyance data through March 27th of 2009 has been fully recovered. Additional data recovered through October of 2010 is available, but, according to the IT contractor, contains gaps in computerized records.