Is sea rise wreck­ing coastal home val­ues?

The hon­est re­al­ity? Maybe.

Pawtucket Times - - FRONT PAGE - By PHILIP MARCELO

SAL­IS­BURY, Mass. — For sale: water­front prop­erty with sweep­ing views of the At­lantic Ocean. Waves erode beach reg­u­larly. Flooding gets worse ev­ery year. Salt­wa­ter dam­age to lawn. Ask­ing price: any­one’s guess.

Some re­search sug­gests ris­ing sea lev­els and flooding brought by global warm­ing are harm­ing coastal prop­erty val­ues. But other cli­mate sci­en­tists note short­com­ings in the stud­ies, and real es­tate ex­perts say they sim­ply haven’t seen any ebb in de­mand for coastal homes.

So how much home­own­ers and com­mu­ni­ties should worry – and how much they should invest in reme­dies – re­mains an open ques­tion.

Nancy Mee­han, 71, is con­sid­er­ing putting her coastal condo in Sal­is­bury up for sale this year, but

she wor­ries buy­ers will be turned off by the win­ter storms that churn the seas be­side the sum­mer re­sort town. Her home has been largely spared in the nearly 20 years she’s lived there, she said, but the flooding ap­pears to be wors­en­ing along roads and lower prop­er­ties.

“All my life sav­ings is in my home,” Mee­han said of the four-bed­room, two-bath­room condo, which she bought for $135,000. “I can’t lose that eq­uity.”

Nearby, De­nis Cham­pagne can’t be sure that ris­ing seas are hurt­ing his water­front home’s value. The three-story, four-bed­room home has views of a scenic marsh, has been ren­o­vated and is blocks from the ocean – yet was as­sessed at only around $420,000.

“Do I feel that it should be worth more than that?” Cham­pagne said re­cently in his sun-soaked liv­ing room. “I mean, I’m bi­ased, but where can you find this for that price – any­where?”

A drop in home val­ues could shat­ter a com­mu­nity like Sal­is­bury, which re­lies al­most ex­clu­sively on beach­front real es­tate taxes to fund schools, po­lice and other ba­sic ser­vices, re­searchers warn. And, they say, fam­i­lies could face fi­nan­cial ruin if they’ve been bank­ing on their home’s value to help foot the bill for pricey col­lege tu­itions or even re­tire­ment.

“Peo­ple are look­ing at los­ing tens of thou­sands of dol­lars of rel­a­tive value on their homes,” said Jeremy Porter, a data sci­en­tist for the First Street Foun­da­tion, which de­scribes it­self as a “not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion of dig­i­tally-driven ad­vo­cates for sea level rise so­lu­tions” on its Face­book page. “Not ev­ery­one can sus­tain that.”

Still, home prices in coastal cities have been ris­ing faster than those of their land­locked coun­ter­parts since 2010, ac­cord­ing to data pro­vided by the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Re­al­tors.

And water­front homes are still gen­er­ally more ex­pen­sive than their peers just one block in­land, said Lawrence Yun, the as­so­ci­a­tion’s chief econ­o­mist.

“The price dif­fer­en­tial is still there,” he said. “Con­sumers are clearly mindful that these cli­mate change im­pacts could be within the win­dow of a 30year mortgage, but their cur­rent be­hav­ior still im­plies that to have a view of the ocean is more de­sir­able.”

A na­tion­wide study by the First Street Foun­da­tion sug­gests cli­mate change con­cerns have caused nearly $16 bil­lion in lost ap­pre­ci­a­tion of prop­erty val­ues along the Eastern Se­aboard and Gulf Coast since 2005.

The study sin­gles out Sal­is­bury as the hardest-hit com­mu­nity in Mas­sachusetts. Coastal homes there would be worth $200,000 to $300,000 more if not for fre­quent tidal flooding and pow­er­ful coastal storms, the study sug­gests. Cham­pagne’s prop­erty, for ex­am­ple, would be worth about $123,000 more, ac­cord­ing to Flood iQ, a prop­erty data­base the group has de­vel­oped.

In an­other re­cent study, re­searchers at the Univer­sity of Colorado Boulder’s School of Busi­ness found coastal prop­er­ties most ex­posed to sea level rise sold, on av­er­age, for 7 per­cent less than equiv­a­lent prop­er­ties the same dis­tance from shore but not as threat­ened by the sea.

Bloomberg photo by Vic­tor J. Blue.

A 2012 photo shows the front steps of a home oblit­er­ated by Hur­ri­cane Sandy in Union Beach, N.J.

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