Discussion in today’s Hartford Courant on whether two storms in two years will drive down the price of waterfront homes. Time will tell. The waterfront craze is a relatively recent phenomenon; I know of summer houses in Maine, my own great-aunt’s house being just one of them, that back in the late 1800’s were deliberately built a half-mile or more back from the ocean precisely because nature was still respected, if not feared. And I’ve read – don’t know whether it’s true – that Greenwich waterfront sold at a discount to more protected locations as recently as the early 1960’s.
There will always be some people with the desire to live directly on the water and the money to pay the price. One homeowner I know acknowledged to Greenwich Time last week that Sandy had done about $500,000 damage but, he said, “that’s the cost of living here”. This same man told me some years ago that he used to live around the corner and the owners of the waterfront house were forced out for six months after a storm surge swept through. Knowing that, when several years later they told him they were selling (for unrelated reasons) he went ahead and bought it anyway.
Which is fine – in fact, if I had this man’s money I’d be tempted to do the same thing because he lives in one of the most beautiful waterfront houses in town and the views are spectacular. Full knowledge of what to expect and the wherewithal to pay up when the expected happens, I say go for it. People who stretch to their limit to buy on the water and who don’t understand the inevitable flooding and destruction to come will probably regret it. That may have been driven home to buyers these past few weeks and if so, we might see demand, and thus prices drop for the more modest properties.
At least for a few years until memories fade. I doubt there’s been a sea change in buyers’ tastes, yet, but perhaps there will be if a wave of these Irene/Sandy storms hit in succession. Stay tuned, and keep your powder dry.