Tag Archive for: climate migration

Flood-Risk Perception Altering Migration of Retirees

An article in the New York Times asserts that flood-risk perception is altering migration patterns among retirees. by by Susan B. Garland titled “Do you really want to rebuild at 80? Rethinking Where To Retire?” describes changes in where many older people choose to retire. The lead say, “It’s a small yet noticeable shift, experts say — but climate change is causing retirees to start reconsidering moves to disaster-prone dream locales.”

Basic Premise

Safety concerns are causing retirees to rethink whether they really want beach-front views. The author interviewed real estate brokers, retirees, and demographers.

One broker told her, ““At first, they will say they want big views and deep water, but then they ask whether a hurricane or a nor’easter will wipe out the dock. They want to be on the water but more protected.”

Anecdotal Evidence Backed by Wharton Study of 1.4 Million Sales

University of Pennsylvania study of 1.4 million home sales along Florida coasts confirmed the anecdotal account. Researchers found that the sales volume on land less than six feet above sea level dropped by up to 20 percent between 2013 and 2018. “Prices on homes in riskier areas declined between 2018 and 2020,” says Garland. Meanwhile, sales rose on higher, less-vulnerable coastal land farther inland.

The biggest declines came from areas in the northeast that had been hit by Superstorm Sandy. The study’s lead author, Prof. Benjamin Keyes in the finance department at Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, said, “On one hand, you have a strong demographic pull of baby boomers who are looking for warmer climate, and on the other hand, there is a newfound appreciation of climate risks.”

Frailty Makes Evac More Difficult

The caution of retirees may result from physical impairment. It’s also more difficult to rebuild when you’re 80 than when you’re 40.

Two thirds of those who died when Hurricane Ian struck Florida in September were older than 60, says Garland. She added, “Frailty and cognitive impairments make it difficult for older people to evacuate and prepare their homes for disasters.”

I would agree with that. The single largest cluster of fatalities in the Lake Houston Area resulting from Hurricane Harvey happened at a retirement community where 12 people died. They ranged in age up to 95.

Residents trying to escape as Harvey's floodwaters rose
Residents trying to escape as Harvey’s floodwaters rose

Garland’s well-written and researched article then goes into ways to assess climate risks and plan financially for them.

The perception that climate risk is increasing seems to be driving the concerns of retirees. And as the old saying in marketing goes, “perception is reality.” It’s something sellers must deal with.

Trends Crashing Head On

In the case of Florida real estate, two trends are meeting head on, says a professor of sociology at Florida State University in Tallahassee. “Two trends we know are happening — the impact of climate change at the same time the world is aging,” Dr. Hauer said. “Those two trends, I’m afraid, will crash head-on, and we will see more catastrophic impacts than if either one had happened.”

It’s unclear whether the same trends are affecting the Houston market. We don’t get as many hurricanes as Florida. And people move here mainly for jobs. Then they may stay here to retire. If you have personal or professional knowledge of this trend in Houston, please contact me.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/25/22 based on a New York Times article by Susan Garland

1914 Days since Hurricane Harvey