Will a Rise in Sea Levels Affect Property Values in Charleston?

I recently read an article on the Axios website that discussed sea level rise and its impact on home values in the Southeast. Charleston was one of the places mentioned specifically. In the article, it reports on a study was recently conducted jointly by First Street and Columbia University that provides evidence that a potential rise in sea levels is already having an impact on home values in the Southeast, to the tune of $7.4 billion.

Initially the headline causes some feelings of panic in many of us that own homes close to the coast. But should we all sell our houses and move to Ridgeville or should we ignore the findings because, hey, we love living here and there will always be a strong housing market in Mount Pleasant and the islands? Maybe there's some middle ground that we could explore further.

Let's assume that the findings of the First Street report, and a similar one mentioned in this Post and Courier article, are quite accurate with little margin for error. What's the takeaway? My advice as a Realtor is this: If you do not have flood insurance, get it. It doesn't matter where you live in Charleston, you live near the coast and should seriously consider the coverage even if it isn't mandatory in your area.

People living along the corridor from McClellanville to Kiawah Island don't need to pack up and start moving to a mountaintop just yet. Climate change is something that takes time to happen, and it is notoriously hard to predict. If you have lived in Charleston for some time, you have surely noticed that as development continues and infrastructure falls behind, drainage challenges have begun to surface in some neighborhoods since paved and wooded areas absorb water differently. As a community, we need to come up with a plan to mitigate these challenges by upgrading our storm drain infrastructure to meet the needs of our new reality. Another factor in both studies is that home value changes over time are based on data provided by Zillow. This introduces additional uncertainty to the results, simply because there are many factors that affect a home's value, and whether or not you are using transaction data or Zestimates, it would be extremely difficult to accurately extrapolate the impact of sea level rise using these inputs.

The First Street group has provided a website called Flood IQ that gives homeowners a chance to view their risks associated with sea level rise and changes in value. I ran a report on my own home in Mount Pleasant, and it states that we could see an increase in sea level of about 6.25" over the next 15 years, which would reduce the elevation on our parcel to around 8.5 ft. above sea level. While the maps indicate that we should be worried about tidal flooding and hurricanes right now, we have not seen any issues in our neighborhood since we moved here. The report indicates that my home's value has decreased by $7,983 as a result of sea level rises since it was constructed in 2004. Over the same period of time, our home's market value has gone up $97,800. There are many factors that go into valuation, and while sea level rise could potentially be one of them, I don't believe it is a leading factor of change in our local market. This is something we should stay informed about in the long run rather than something we should react to immediately.

The bottom line is that as with any potential risk involving real estate, talk to your Realtor about your concerns. If you own a house in Charleston and would like regular updates about activity and trends in your neighborhood, reach out to me and I'll be happy to send you a quarterly real estate review, no strings attached. If you are thinking of buying a home and want to talk about your needs and concerns, give me a call anytime.

Please comment below if you've seen changing impacts of tidal flooding or sea level rise in your neighborhood, or if you've sold a home recently and had questions from a potential buyer about impacts of sea levels in your area.

For additional reading, please see the following resources:
Study by Union of Concerned Scientists
Flood IQ Website