It’s one thing to watch flooded homes, parking lots and streets, knocked out storm windows, stranded people on rooftops and in elevators and to see parks filled with mangled yachts instead of swing sets on television. It’s quite another to actually live and be isolated among those flooded homes and streets, smashed windows and washed up cars.

Just as watching and living the impacts of more severe and more frequent natural disasters are two different things, so are the scientific, economic and psychological impacts of these recurrent, acutely harsh natural disasters.

Real estate agents and brokers, residents and potential resident, builders, developers, engineers, elected officials, etc. along many coastal areas in the country are thinking about the impact of these natural disasters in new ways. And they’re asking questions…questions such as…

– Is there a buyer for this property?
– Should I disclose this property’s flooding history to potential buyers?
– Should I sell this property now?
– Can I build a super-structure with glass and metal supports that will be strong enough to withstand a Category 5 storm?
– Is there any state or federal home buy-out program that would enable me to move to a safer place?

Right now, the Social Science Research Network, an online repository of academic research, indicates that homes exposed to sea-level rise sell at a -7% discount when lined up against comparable homes that are not exposed to sea-level rise.

Areas such as Slidell, Louisiana east of New Orleans underline another impact of natural disasters on real estate for born and raised residents who wanted to “stay put” to build their homes and grow their families. These residents are instead raising their homes on 12’ wooden stilts and still not escaping flooding. They are “fed up” with the worsening flooding and want to move to a safer place.

In Florida, a state built upon real estate speculation and proximity to water, home values and sales numbers are deteriorating. Jim Carson, former mayor of Coral Gables, Florida, said, “Rising property taxes driven by infrastructure costs and higher flood insurance premiums make it much more expensive for people to live along the water. People are paying attention.”

Del Mar, CA recently dropped a proposal to tear down homes in a “managed retreat” from sea level rise after residents worried that their own properties values would be hurt by such an option.

From Louisiana to Alaska to New York to Texas to Florida to California, the money, strategies and resources required to buy-out high risk properties, prepare for disasters, recreate barrier islands and plant new marshes are simply not there.

Congressional Representative Garret Graves, R-LA, concedes that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, does buy out homes but “FEMA only buys homes after a disaster and…I don’t think the federal government’s doing enough. We’re going to spend (the money) now or we’re going to spend it later. It’s going to end up being much more expensive if we do the latter.”

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