September 4, 2011

Is waterfront property really more valuable?

Hurricane Irene rolled off the ocean this past week, devastating portions of our nation's coastline and leaving a swath of destruction and flood damage all over the East Coast, even far inland.

While Americans dry out and wait for the power to come back on, the aftermath once again made me question a long-held nugget of popular wisdom.

Why is it exactly that waterfront property is considered more valuable than its non-flood-ravaged kin?

Personally, I think this is the greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the American people, a decades-long conspiracy by evil real-estate agents. Remember, these are the same people who charged buyers extra for homes built on scenic mudslide ledges in California.

I understand that waterfront property — next to an ocean, lake or river — provides a lovely view and convenient access to boating, fishing and recreational swimming. It can be great on a summer night, catching a breeze and watching the sunset. Ahhhhhh. Relaxing.

Why, who wouldn't want to pay a huge extra premium for a home like that?

The real-estate agents, however, never show you their coastal gems when the winds are whipping, the surf is surging and 8 feet of water is pouring into the basement. They're not around when the new homeowner finds himself pounding plywood over the windows every time a storm threatens.

The minuses of the waterfront home far outweigh the pluses.

Erosion and global Warming are constantly working to bring the water closer to the land, or the land back into the water. A home in, say, the desert, has a zero-percent chance of sliding into the ocean.

Storms always strike the waterfront property first, and most fiercely. No matter how high above the surface a house stands, a strong enough storm is capable of bringing in the water and causing untold damage.

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