In 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced that it would be updating New York City's flood maps as a result of rising sea levels and shifting climate change forecasts. After all, in New York City, it's been estimated that approximately 80 percent of the property owners who have experienced flood damage since the maps were last updated in 1983 didn't have flood insurance.
If you live in an area that has been plagued by floods, fires or beach erosion, or if you are concerned because 2014 to 2018 were the warmest years on record, you may be asking yourself: "How will climate change impact my home's value?"
Climate change could impact your home's value in several ways, including:
- Less demand for waterfront homes.
- Higher insurance premiums.
- Higher property taxes.
- Increased property values for some homeowners.
While it's impossible to predict the future, the consequences of rising temperatures and sea levels and increasing flood-prone areas could result in adjusted home values. Below are climate change projections and factors that will likely significantly alter property values, according to experts.
Less Demand for Waterfront Homes
So far, there hasn't been a reason for homeowners in beach areas to panic, but in 2015 a study from the University of North Carolina Wilmington found that oceanfront property values could drop across beachfront property in the United States if federal subsidies were eliminated. For instance, in New Jersey, it would fall up to 34 percent. And a January 2019 study from Columbia University and the nonprofit First Street Foundation gave waterfront home owners a reason to worry. The study looked at 2.5 million coastal properties in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island between 2005 and 2017, and found that increased tidal flooding caused by sea levels rising have caused homes to depreciate in value by $403.1 million.
And in February, Columbia and First Street released another study suggesting that the Eastern Seaboard has lost $15.8 billion in home values.
Bruce Ailion, a realtor and attorney with Re/Max Town & Country, in Alpharetta, Georgia, says he's looked for several years for Gulf-front property. Two years ago, he was close to settling on an oceanfront duplex in Puerto Rico for only $210,000. He reluctantly decided not to buy it.
A month later, Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico. "If we had gone ahead (and closed on the property), we might only have an empty lot and a mortgage," Ailion says. Ailion suspects that he isn't the only one who has backed out of buying beachfront property because of worries about climate change. "It's very serious. Serious enough to keep me, and perhaps hundreds of thousands, out of the market," he says. If he does decide to ever live on the ocean, Ailion says that he is "more inclined to rent and allow someone else to take the risk of maintenance and loss."
That said, home prices fluctuate, depending on the region, among other factors. The entire East Coast has been impacted by hurricanes over the last few years, with Hurricane Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017, as well as other disasters like Hurricane Matthew and Hermine in 2016, Hurricane Arthur in 2014 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. However, Paul Grover, a real estate agent and co-founder of the real estate company Robert Paul Properties, says that in Massachusetts coastal communities "there's an increased awareness of the effects that climate change can have on a property, but overall it has not impacted home values."
Grover adds that homeowners do often discuss the possibilities of climate-related damage with their real estate agents, however. "While buyers have certainly become more mindful of characteristics such as elevation and vegetation that can prevent erosion, waterfront markets remain strong throughout the state," he says.
Higher Insurance Premiums
Assuming extreme weather patterns continue, it seems inevitable that premiums will continue to climb.
"I sell insurance in Marin County, California, a county that has both super expensive homes and has recently seen the FEMA maps change," says Scott Johnson, a manager and principle broker agent of Marindependent Insurance Services LLC in Mill Valley, California. He says many of his clients were in zones that FEMA considered safe from flooding that are now in zones that FEMA considers risky, which caused a sharp spike in insurance rates.
Homeowners are angry, Johnson says. While he doesn't know for sure why insurance has gone up in the area, Johnson says he has his suspicions. "Part of the problem is that river and water systems in this county have changed, part of the problem is that the county and state have failed to keep up with the issue and part of the issue is higher and lower king tides (the highest naturally occurring tides), and potentially more extreme weather systems," he says. "We had an atmospheric river system that came through this county several years ago that dropped over 20 inches of rain in 24 hours. It was not a hurricane, just a storm," he adds.
Higher Property Taxes
2014 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggests that by 2045, some cities, like Atlantic City and Cape May, New Jersey, can expect to see tidal flooding 240 times or more per year.
Many government officials say that if some communities are routinely swamped, residents will naturally move away. So theoretically, if you live in an area of the country that routinely sees flooding and has fewer residents and thus a smaller tax base, you could see your property taxes climb significantly. After all, somebody has to pay for your community's infrastructure.
And you don't have to be near the coast to see your property values lowered due to climate change. A 2017 study from Ohio State University estimated that due to excessive algae, a result of warmer weather, Ohio homeowners who live near Buckeye Lake and Grand Lake saw their combined property values decrease by $152 million from 2009 to 2015.
Increased Property Values for Some Homeowners
There are always going to be winners and losers in a fickle real estate market as climate change continues to take a toll on property values. That's why Jeff Fagan, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association, predicts that his city, as far as home values go, will likely soar, even as the effects of climate change continue to batter beachfront properties in Florida.
"Miami and Orlando respectively are the top two markets for vacation homes in Florida. Buyers are becoming aware of the risks of beachfront properties, the potential challenges, and costs of flood insurance. Orlando will almost certainly see an increase in demand as more vacation home buyers turn toward inland destinations and away from coastal locations," Fagan says.
Ailion, meanwhile, says that inland, Georgia has done well with waterfront living – for homeowners who want to live near lakes. "Brokers at my company are killing it," he says. But even there, he says, there have been risks. "Within the last 10 years, we have had a drought where water levels were down," Ailion says. "One or two seasons, docks sat above dry land instead of water, and local business reliant on tourism closed. I think we will continue to see dislocation associated with climate issues."
Put your property inside.
Your home is your castle, and your domain extends to the farthest reaches of your property lines – even if that’s just a few feet from your house. While it may be tempting to leave some items outside your home – for convenience, appeal or simply because you ran out of time to clean them up – you may find that the risks outweigh the benefits. Items left outside can attract pests, thieves or become a safety hazard. Here are nine things you don’t want to leave outside your house.Spare house key
Spare house key
Under your welcome mat or that decorative turtle in your garden may seem like the perfect spot to hide a spare key for the kids or in case you lock yourself out, but it’s also easy for would-be burglars to find. Even if you have an armed security system, with key access a burglar can grab the nearest item of value and be long gone before the police show up. Keep spare keys with a family member who lives nearby or a trustworthy neighbor.Bicycles
More than 184,000 bicycles were reported stolen nationwide in 2016, according to the FBI, and it’s likely many more went unreported. As you would lock up your bike outside a business or school, you need to secure it when you’re home. An ideal spot is in the garage, tucked in a corner inside the house or in a backyard shed to protect your bike from rain and snow that can cause it to rust and your tires to lose air.Kids' toys
Cleanup time may be the hardest part of ending an active day outside with the kids, but it’s a necessary step to prevent future problems. Rain-soaked toys can grow mold, serve as a breeding ground for pests like mosquitoes and break down faster over time. If a passerby trips on a scooter left on the sidewalk, you’re potentially liable for damages. Or if a stranger swipes some rollerblades or a baseball glove, the toys are likely covered as personal property under your homeowners insurance, but they're not pricey enough to file a claim. “The question is whether it would fall below the deductible,” says Jim Taylor, head of claims compliance, quality and customer experience for Farmers Insurance.Packages
A lonesome package on your stoop is an easy target for thieves. In November 2017, InsuranceQuotes reported that 25.9 million Americans have had a package stolen around the holidays – the time of year people are most likely to receive package deliveries. If you can’t be home to receive the package, inquire with your employer to see if delivery to your office is OK. Alternatively, you can opt to pick up packages ordered through Amazon at an Amazon Locker location. Set the nearest locker location as your delivery address, and you’ll receive a code to open the locker once the package has been delivered.Indoor furniture
Everyone loves an outdoor living setup, but that doesn’t mean literally bringing your living room furniture outside. Upholstered furniture meant for inside isn’t equipped to handle outdoor weather and can mold, break down or even become the perfect nest for rodents and other pests. “It’s not designed to be out in the elements, to be in the wind and the rain and the different seasons, so there could be deterioration, wear and tear, rot that happens to that furniture,” Taylor says.Trash
For a number of reasons, it's important to keep the yard free of trash or other belongings you no longer care for. “Many [insurance] carriers have conditions in the policy regarding appropriate maintenance of dwelling and the personal property,” Taylor says. “If there’s a rotting couch sitting in front of your home and the insurer goes to conduct an inspection for underwriting eligibility, that could be an indication – along with if there was excessive debris or appliances outside, trash piled up – of a lack of pride of ownership, and a potential hazard that the insurer may not want to accept.” Plus, piles of trash outside will likely irk your neighbors and can lead to fines from the homeowners association, city or county for violating debris ordinances.Electronics and appliances
Electronics and appliances
Not every electronic or appliance left outside is trash – in some cases, you may simply be looking to improve the outdoor living aesthetic with a TV and decent sound system. But most standard electronics and appliances are not fit to endure extreme heat, cold or precipitation – and when exposed to the elements for long periods can easily become garbage. While there are products made for the outdoors, including TVs and refrigerators, they’re often still unable to withstand everything Mother Nature will throw at them. Most outdoor TVs are recommended for shaded spots – to avoid the heat of direct sunlight – and many refrigerators function best when temperatures don’t dip below freezing.Your pets
While it’s not as common of a practice as in previous decades, keeping a dog chained up outside or letting a cat roam the neighborhood is still the norm for some pet owners. Animal rights organization American Humane warns against leaving a pet outside when you’re not there to supervise. Outdoor cats are more likely to contract diseases and be exposed to the dangers of aggressive animals, traffic and parasites. Additionally, American Humane says a dog that stays outside all day doesn’t get the care most dogs need. “Abandoned, but chained up, backyard dogs cannot move to comfort, shelter or companionship,” American Humane says on its website.Unsecured hazards
An in-ground swimming pool and trampoline aren’t items you can exactly bring inside at the end of the day, but it is important you secure access to these major toys to prevent someone from getting hurt. “If that trampoline is sitting out and it’s not fenced in, anybody could walk in off the street and start bouncing up and down on the trampoline. That could potentially create what’s known as an attractive nuisance,” Taylor says, which is something that makes it easy for passersby – kids, in particular – to put themselves in harm’s way on your property. To avoid this, fencing a trampoline or pool make people less likely to be in danger on your property.Read More
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Updated on March 29, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.
Williams got his start working in entertainment reporting in 1993, as an associate editor at "BOP," a teen entertainment magazine, and freelancing for publications, including Entertainment Weekly. He later moved to Ohio and worked for several years as a part-time features reporter at The Cincinnati Post and continued freelancing. His articles have been featured in outlets such as Life magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, Cincinnati Magazine and Ohio Magazine.
For the past 15 years, Williams has specialized in personal finance and small business issues. His articles on personal finance and business have appeared in CNNMoney.com, The Washington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, Forbes.com and American Express OPEN Forum. Williams is also the author of several books, including "Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America's Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever" and "C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America"
Born in Columbus, Ohio, Williams lives in Loveland, Ohio, with his two teenage daughters and is a graduate of Indiana University. To learn more about Geoff Williams, you can connect with him on LinkedIn or follow his Twitter page.
Devon Thorsby | June 5, 2019
Homeowners should not fret, as long as they're prepared for the possibility of a downturn.