When it Comes to Sea Level Rise Real Estate, Timing is (almost) Everything

When buyers are considering purchasing coastal properties in areas that are forecast to experience sea level rise flooding in years or decades to come, one of the questions they have to ask themselves is: “How long do I expect to enjoy the property?”

This question came to light bluntly when I had lunch today with friends who live on an island in San Francisco Bay. My friends, a husband and wife in their mid-60s, said they weren’t too concerned about sea level rise — though they know it’s coming — because it’s not predicted to actually flood their property for another 50 years. As the wife put it, “We’re pretty sure we’ll be dead by then.”

Actuarial tables say she’s probably right. As long as the current sea level rise forecasts hold, they probably will get to enjoy their property for the remainder of their lives.

Sea level rise vs. life expectancy is an important issue for buyers and owners in coastal areas to consider when they’re pondering their real estate options. Sea level rise forecasts are putting a potential expiration date on many communities along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf of Mexico coastlines. Knowing when rising seas will begin to inundate cities and towns is critically important for buyers and sellers. Other factors that have to be considered are how will sea level rise impact carrying costs, such as home maintenance, taxes, flood insurance and condo and homeowners’ association fees.

Combining sea level rise forecasts, your life expectancy, and your ability to afford the carrying costs as you age, is a good way for buyers and owners to tell if it makes sense to get involved or stay involved in real estate in a coastal community. When you’re talking about such fun areas to live in, this level of analysis can sound like a real downer, but not taking this dry-eyed look at the sea level rise situation could lead to an even greater downer: financial disaster.

This issue is discussed in greater detail in “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions.”

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