Commentary: Before our ‘location, location, location’ is under water

By Eric Rollings

Twenty-five years ago, I spent my first summer in Florida. It was emblematic of the weather back then: hot and humid during the work day, followed by a 1½-hour thunderstorm. Some days were worse than others. Bolts of lightning might fry out a neighbor’s television, and tourists visiting Orlando were in dismay while waiting it out at a theme park. Quickly after the thunderstorm, the rain would evaporate off the brick streets and the night would cool off. To a Floridian, it was “pleasant in the evening.” Years later, as a Realtor, this weather has come to personally affect my clients and me. Today we are experiencing much more severe weather patterns.

When I started selling real estate it was possibly the best time to be an agent in Florida. Growth was unbelievable. Construction cranes dotted the sky and swung as if highlighting the next best thing available. It was, we thought, an infinitely rich and unstoppable market. Then we suffered a big hit in 2004. It was not just an economic downturn but successive bad luck as four hurricanes in a row devastated the Sunshine State.

Severe weather in Florida affects the real estate market tremendously. In the past week alone I have had to cancel many appointments, because what was once a 1½-hour thunderstorm will now go on for 2½-hours at unpredictable times.

Severe weather caused many property insurance companies to leave the state. Prices in Florida are higher than anywhere else in the country and nearly twice the national average. When a tropical storm is headed in your direction, it is difficult, if not impossible to get insurance on a property. This can make it extremely tough to quickly close on a home.

Recent climate changes also impact property owners. Increasing thunderstorms cause more trees to fall and damage roofs, sometimes forming leaks. Mold can create a financial burden for property owners and health problems for residents. For homeowners and property managers, the cost of doing business on a month-to-month basis is rising.

The flooding and adverse weather patterns may deter potential new residents from investing in a home here. In many parts of Florida, sea levels are rising. The side effects are damaging. In my life, Florida has been about the beach. We’ve visited Florida in our youth, have some of the best memories on college breaks and decided to golf, scuba dive and retire here. When the sea levels rise, the beaches disappear, and once it is gone it is nearly impossible to reverse. Studies suggest we are all losing it at an ever increasing rate.

More and more properties on the coasts will be at risk from flooding as sea levels rise. One study found a sea-level rise of 2 feet could threaten up to $1 trillion in property. About half of the U.S. property at risk of sea levels rising is located in Florida. Many homes may soon be underwater, in one way or another.

Severe weather has always been a burden for Florida homeowners and climate change will only make it worse. Here’s the bottom line: If you own or rent property in Florida, you have something at stake. It’s time for us to all come together and start dealing with the climate that has changed.