Why is Due Diligence Critical When Considering Real Estate at Risk of Sea Level Rise Flooding?

In this video, I give a general overview of why due diligence — seeking answers from several information sources — is critical when buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents are considering properties at risk of sea level rise flooding. For more detailed information, check out “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents”.

There is no single source of reliable information buyers, sellers, owners and real estate agents can rely on when they’re pondering how to deal with a property in a coastal community now experiencing or soon to experience sea level rise flooding. That’s why they have to practice due diligence and turn to multiple sources for answers regarding the flooding status of a property to make informed decisions that protect their financial futures.

Due diligence is discussed in detail in my recently updated book “7 Sea Level Rise Real Estate Questions for Buyers, Sellers, Owners & Real Estate Agents”. If you watch this video, you’ll get a more general sense of why performing due diligence is critical and the strengths and weaknesses of several informational resources, including sellers, real estate agents, flood insurance providers, and neighbors.

As an example of why due diligence is necessary, let’s take a look at sellers and real estate agents as sources of information. Often buyers believe sellers are legally obligated to tell them if a property floods, but the fact is that every state has its own seller’s disclosure law. The state regulations range from very strict to so loose buyers are essentially on their own. Even real estate agents don’t always know flooding is impacting a specific property or neighborhood, and they might be pressured by a seller not to disclose what they do know to a buyer. (Note: This is a risky practice that may result in a costly lawsuit.)

With the limits of every informational resource, buyers who want to purchase property in coastal communities must perform due diligence and use several sources to determine if a property floods, how soon it might flood, and even whether the road out front floods, which can make it hard to access a property. Sellers should practice due diligence to determine their obligation to disclose flooding to a buyer. Owners should use it find out what they can do to address flooding or the threat of flooding and to decide whether it’s even worth the effort. Real estate agents should understand what due diligence is so they can tell their buyers and sellers how to gather more information to make informed decisions.

When you get down to it, you never can have too much information about a piece of real estate. In coastal communities experiencing or at risk of experiencing sea level rise flooding the more information the merrier.

Human Activity, not Earth’s Distance from the Sun is Driving Sea Level Rise

Scientists at Rutgers University have released a study that proves humans burning fossil fuels are creating global warming, not, as some people contend, Earth’s proximity to the sun.

In the past, slight changes in Earth’s orbit drove global warming that resulted in glacial ice melt. In the modern era, the scientists found that a human-driven rise in carbon dioxide — a powerful greenhouse gas — is warming the planet. As a result, glaciers — especially in Antarctica and Greenland — are melting and the oceans are expanding. This is causing the sea levels to rise.

The scientists reached their conclusion by reconstructing the history of Earth’s glacial and ice free periods. They found that sea level declined 20,000 years ago during the last glacial period then it began rising rapidly as the ice age ended. Sea level rise gradually slowed to the point where it was nearly at a standstill in 1900. The researchers said it then started rising again due to human activities, and it has been rising since.

Kennth G. Miller, the study’s lead author and a Distinguished Professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Rutgers, told Rutgers Today: “Our team showed that the Earth’s history of glaciation was more complex than previously thought. Although carbon dioxide levels had an important influence on ice-free periods, minor variations in the Earth’s orbit were the dominant factor in terms of ice volume and sea-level changes – until modern times.”

The Rutgers research puts another nail in the coffin of climate change deniers who refuse to recognize that the planet is warming and the seas are rising due to human activity. When combined with the pile of scientific evidence that proves the seas are rising at an ever-accelerating rate, it’s clear that governments and buyers, sellers and real estate agents in coastal areas need to stay up to date on this critical issue that is already threatening their way of life.

Sea Level Rise Scientists Plan to Retreat from Vulnerable Research Facility in New Jersey

Sea level rise flooding isn’t just a problem for coastal governments or real estate owners, it’s also a challenge for research scientists.

According to a NJSPOTLIGHT report, researchers at the Rutgers University Marine Field Station, located in the middle of a marsh near Tuckerton, New Jersey, are seeking a federal grant to enable them to work inland. The researchers are eager to move because sea level rise-driven flooding frequently inundates the only access road and puts the facility itself at risk.

Lisa Auermuller, who works at the field station, told NJSPOTLIGHT reporter Jon Hurdle that retreat is the right thing to do considering that their mission is to study the impact of rising seas on coastal communities. “How long can you keep telling people that they need to pay attention to this when we’re not paying attention to it ourselves?” she asked. “We need to be leading by example.”

Scientists Identify the Greatest Obstacle to Educating Real Estate Owners about the Threat of Sea Level Rise Flooding

Social scientists studying the effectiveness of climate change communications strategies wrote an opinion piece that concluded personal financial interest is the leading cause of real estate owners in coastal areas denying that sea level rise flooding poses a threat to their property.

Risa Palm, a professor of Urban Studies and Public Health at Georgia State University, and Toby W. Bolsen, an associate professor of American politics in the political science department at Georgia State, wrote the column for The Conversation. They said they showed property owners who lived in South Florida neighborhoods at-risk of sea level rise flooding and hurricane storm surge maps produced by First Street Foundation that indicated that their properties could be inundated or be impacted in other ways by floodwaters in the next 15 years. Their homes were also identified as being at risk of devaluation due to their proximity to the threat of sea level rise flooding.

“Surprisingly, we found that those who had viewed the maps were on average, less likely to say they believed that climate change was taking place than those who had not seen the maps,” Palm and Bolsen wrote. “Further, those who saw the maps were less likely than those survey respondents who had not seen the maps to believe that climate change was responsible for the increased intensity of storms.”

The researchers said Republicans surveyed “had the strongest negative response to the maps.” In fact, they found “party identification was the strongest predictor of general perceptions of climate change and sea level rise.” Ultimately, however, they said, “the majority of homeowners denied that there was a risk to their property values, regardless of political affiliation.”

In the end, Palm and Bolsen recommended that governments and organizations trying to educate the public about the threat of sea level rise flooding not only use easy to understand facts but a “nuanced approach” to change the way the information is perceived. Or, as they said, “As advertisers well know, it takes more than facts to sell any product.” To get people to stop and pay attention, the information also needs “an emotional hook.”

This study may explain why buyers continue to purchase property and owners continue to hold real estate that scientists have clearly identified as at-risk of sea level rise flooding within the next couple of decades. Unfortunately, turning a blind eye to this factual information won’t save them as the seas continue to rise at an ever-quickening pace.