A video of a beach house being swallowed by the sea on North Carolina’s Outer Banks continues to go viral, drawing new attention to the impact that rising seas and storms are having on vulnerable properties and their insurance costs.
The home in Rodanthe, North Carolina, on Cape Hatteras, is the third property in that area to collapse into the waves this year, as beach erosion eats away at waterfront structures, according to local and national news reports. The 1,485-square foot house had been purchased only last summer, by a real estate agent, for an estimated $550,000.
An unoccupied house on stilts in Rodanthe, North Carolina, as it collapses into the ocean this afternoon.
Was worth $381,200 according to Zillow. pic.twitter.com/RxkgOkBIv0
— Tolly Taylor (@TollyTaylor) May 10, 2022
“I didn’t realize how vulnerable it was,” owner Ralph Patricelli told the Washington Post.
The May 9 collapse came after a nor-easter storm battered the Outer Banks, but experts have said it’s not the first and won’t be the last as climate change takes hold.
“These homes collapsing is not a surprise,” Dave Hallac, the Cape Hatteras National Seashore’s superintendent, told news outlets. “To some degree, we were surprised that these houses didn’t collapse before.”
Others said the worsening beach erosion and rising seas are strong indications that homes should not be built on beaches, and flood insurance should not insure them – at any cost.
North Carolina is one of about 26 states with no or inadequate flood disclosure laws, the National Resources Defense Council has said, according to Grist, a news publication. A Carolina real estate commission requires sellers to tell buyers if the seller has “actual knowledge” of the property being subject to flood risk or being located in a federally-designated flood area.
But the terminology isn’t specific enough to require a complete assessment of past flooding, critics said. The NRDC also noted that North Carolina does not require sellers to tell buyers whether or not a property must have flood insurance, under federal law. Other states have a “confusing bungle” of disclosure requirements that result in buyers getting an incomplete picture of how risky their prospective property is, Grist reported.
Smithsonian Magazine noted that as sea levels rise from melting glaciers and ice sheets, coastal communities face increased risk of damage as the water erodes the shoreline. Since the early 1980s, the sea level along some parts of North Carolina has risen by about three inches, according to NASA. U.S. coastal erosion causes roughly $500 million in property loss in the United States each year.
“Insurance won’t believe it’s not a rich person’s problem,” Robert Outten, Dare County manager and attorney, told the Virginian-Pilot newspaper.
The video, posted on Twitter, can be seen here.
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