Matthew Eby
Aug 8, 2018 · 4 min read

Here at First Street, we believe the best way coastal communities can protect themselves against the threat of sea level rise is with the full knowledge of their risk. This is why we created Flood iQ- to protect people when they are making one of the biggest financial decisions in their life: buying and selling homes. Our hope is that when we are done, no one in the U.S. will ever buy or sell a house again without having full knowledge of the impact that sea level rise has on their home.

Nevertheless, we’re aware of the potential negative impacts Flood iQ could have. Flood iQ shows very clearly and accurately how much home value has been lost to sea level rise since 2005, and how much more will be lost in the next 15 years if action is not taken.

This information has the potential to affect the sale price of a home. It could also accelerate the changes already taking place in the current valuation of the real estate market, as it adjusts to incorporate sea level rise risk. While we realize the potential of our tool to impact the real estate market, our goal is to help coastal communities and the people who live it.

It is a tough spot to be in, but we believe Flood iQ is the most effective and efficient way we can help protect our coasts and our real estate for the long run. Here’s why:

  • Most homebuyers do not realize how flooding will worsen with sea level rise. Higher ocean levels will cause more and more homes and roads to flood, which will have a direct impact on their value in the coming years. Incorporating sea level rise into our tool ensures that the issue is contextualized in the long-term.
  • Many cities and towns that have not been investing in solutions to reduce sea level rise and flooding have been unintentionally depressing their local real estate prices and, in effect, their tax base. With Flood iQ, these cities and towns now have an economic model to understand home value preservation through adaptation solutions.

The real risk sea level rise poses to the coastal real estate market isn’t the relatively-minor short-term correction in home values from flooding.

Rather, the risk is that property value estimates continue to exclude flood risks, causing the market to become overvalued, creating a bubble that will ultimately burst when the impact flooding has on homes becomes too severe to ignore. Towns and cities would then have reduced property taxes, causing downgraded credit ratings, which would limit their ability to finance the infrastructure needed to mitigate flooding, exacerbating the issue further.

It’s a bleak scenario, but we see Flood iQ as part of the solution to ensure this future event never happens.

Protecting people with homes on the market today by keeping information out of the hands of potential buyers is unethical. Institutional and sophisticated real estate investment groups already have access to this type of data, which can be cost-prohibitive to many homeowners and homebuyers.

Should everyday citizens not be privy to the same risk knowledge that groups with more resources have?

That’s why we’ve decided to make this information public, free, and easy to access via Flood iQ’s new property value feature.

That’s how we see Flood iQ: as part of the solution for a smarter, fairer, and more resilient approach to flooding in coastal communities.

Have ideas on how we can do it better? Send me your thoughts, your criticisms, and your flooding stories at eby@firststreet.org.

First Street Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) public charity that works to quantify and communicate the impacts of sea level rise and flooding
Flood iQ is an interactive online service of First Street Foundation designed to help homeowners, homebuyers and business owners understand their flood risk and how to protect their property, business and community.

FirstStreet

First Street Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to define America’s flood risk.