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Making Climate-Induced Change a Factor In Real Estate Investment


Climate-induced change is something that can no longer be ignored.  For generations, this issue has been deflected to the next, but that is no longer an option.  In the wake of minimal domestic policy in the United States for climate-induced change and climate-migrants, individuals should prioritize environmental risks when making one of the largest purchases in life; their home.


Climate Risk Boomtowns

Historically when we think about boomtowns, we imagine places with abundant resources.  But current moving trends are showing boomtowns developing in environmentally fragile areas.  According to United States Census Bureau estimates, the top domestic areas Americans are moving to are in the South and West regions. [1]  Cape Coral, in Lee County, Florida, is one of the top towns (with the largest net domestic migration increases in 2019-2020, and 2020-2021).[2]  Lee County has a very high-risk index for negative impacts resulting from environmental hazards with 99.6% of U.S. counties and 97% of counties in Florida having a lower risk index.[3]  News that is not so sunny for the sunshine state.


Pitched as a paradise for all wallets, Cape Coral in Lee County, Florida has 400 miles of manmade canals (created through the destruction of coastal mangroves which acted as a storm barrier).[4]  Experiencing extensive damage after Hurricane Ian, Cape Coral listings dropped 59% and Florida home sales have dropped in less affected areas as well.[5]  It is safe to say that Hurricane Ian has caused financial burdens on individuals and the greater economy of the area.[6]


The trend of moving into high-risk areas for climate hazards is not unique to Cape Coral.  In fact, according to a survey by real estate brokerage firm Redfin, more people are looking to move into several U.S. cities that experience severe drought than out of them.[7]  Even though 100% of Las Vegas properties face drought, the appeal of lower taxes and cost of living is creating an influx of out-of-state interest.[8]  This is why, along with clear, centralized federal leadership, funding, and research on climate-induced displacement[9], we need individual Americans to think about how climate-induced change may threaten the value of their real estate investments.


A Mover’s Guide in Utilizing Climate-Induced Change Data

Learning about the experiences of climate migrants can improve federal policy and help individuals make more educated relocation choices.  We hear experiences of skies turning black with ash, families losing private insurance coverage when their real estate investment becomes too risky, and the mental and physical trauma faced by climate crises.  Some families leaving California have used climate data to help find their new homes.[10]  By using climate data from interactive maps created by FEMA[11], ProPublica[12], The New York Times[13], or finding listings on Redfin that include climate-risk predictions[14], prospective buyers can make better informed decisions based on their risk tolerance.  These tools can assess both current hazards and future risks narrowed down by county.  Predicting what a county may look like during the duration of a 30-year mortgage can provide important investment information for buyers.


In the United States, individuals need to think about climate-induced change when choosing their next home.  Even though 57% of people polled in a 2021 survey believed that climate-related issues in the next decade “would have a ‘moderate’ or greater influence on their decision to move,” there are impediments to utilizing climate data for relocation based on socioeconomic status, education level, and political affiliation.[15]  Having conversations about climate-induced change with family and friends can help increase awareness of one of today’s greatest issues.  By providing reliable projections of climate-induced change accessible to everyone, more people will be equipped to make well informed decisions and prioritize climate factors in their real estate investments.


By: Joy Drisdelle


J.D. Candidate expected May 2024, Western New England University School of Law.  B.A. Psychological Sciences, University of Vermont.



[1] Amel Toukabri, Crystal Delbé, Esther Miller & Basak Ozgenc, Net Domestic Migration Increased in Many U.S. Counties in 2021, U.S. Census Bureau (Mar. 24, 2022), https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2022/03/net-domestic-migration-increased-in-united-states-counties-2021.html.

 

[2] Id. 

 

[3] National Risk Index, FEMA, https://hazards.fema.gov/nri/map (last visited Oct. 26, 2022).

 

[4] Michael Grunwald, The Boomtown That Shouldn’t Exist, PoliticoMagazine,Nov./Dec. 2017, https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/10/20/fastest-growing-city-america-florida-cape-coral-215724/.

 

[5] Lily Katz, Pending Home Sales Plummet Over 50% in Three Florida Metros Hit by Hurricane Ian, Redfin: News (Oct. 20, 2022), https://www.redfin.com/news/florida-home-sales-fall-hurricane-ian/.

 

[6] Stassy Olmos, New Florida homeowner deals with financial nightmare after Hurricane Ian, ABC Action News: WFTS Tampa Bay, https://www.abcactionnews.com/weather/hurricane-ian/new-florida-homeowner-deals-with-financial-nightmare-after-hurricane-ian (Oct. 21, 2022, 6:12 PM).

 

[7] Lily Katz & Sebastian Sandoval-Olascoaga, More People Are Moving in Than Out of Places Experiencing Intense Drought, Redfin: News (Aug. 31, 2022), https://www.redfin.com/news/drought-migration-2022/.

 

[8] Id. 

 

[9] Climate Change: A Climate Migration Pilot Program Could Enhance the Nation’s Resilience and Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure, U.S. GAO (July 6, 2020), https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-20-488.

[10] Michael Casey, Climate Migration: California fire pushes family to Vermont, The Associated Press (Aug. 4, 2022, 4:51 PM), https://apnews.com/article/wildfires-science-california-vermont-climate-and-environment-c447df812838d6046e363fdf46a64c6c.

 

[11] National Risk Index, FEMA, https://hazards.fema.gov/nri/map (last visited Oct. 26, 2022).

 

[12] Al Shaw, Abraham Lustgarten , ProPlubica & Jeremy W. Goldsmith, New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States, ProPublica: Climate Migration (Sept. 15, 2020), https://projects.propublica.org/climate-migration/.

 

[13] Stuart A. Thompson & Yaryna Serkez, Every Place Has Its Own Climate Risk. What Is It Where You Live?, N.Y. Times (Sept. 18, 2020), https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/18/opinion/wildfire-hurricane-climate.html.

 

[14] Climate Data Methodology, Redfin, https://www.redfin.com/guides/climate-change-housing-impact/methodology (last visited Oct. 27, 2022).

 

[15] Byungdoo Kim, David L. Kay & Jonathon P. Schuldt, Will I have to move because of climate change? Perceived likelihood of weather- or climate-related relocation among the US public, 165 Climate Change 9 (Mar. 6, 2021), https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-021-03026-y; Salvador Rodriguez, Climate migration is already happening –for homeowners who can afford it, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/16/homeowners-relocating-because-of-climate-change-wildfires-flooding.html (Sept.16, 2021 8:59 AM).

 

 

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