22 January 2019

High Times on Miami Beach?

Modern Florida beachfront homes, by real estate broker Tobias Kaiser

On January 2, 2018, in an article entitled “Florida Could Be Close to a Real Estate Reckoning,” the Insurance Journal suggested that “one of the great mysteries of climate change isn’t scientific but psychological: When will the growing risks associated with rising seas and more severe storms begin to affect home values in otherwise desirable coastal markets?”

The article continued: “Nowhere is that question more pressing than South Florida, which has some of the country’s priciest properties—and some of the most vulnerable. A state built on real estate speculation, whose chief attribute was proximity to the water, now faces a whole new problem: There’s not enough land, high enough above the water, for its residents to pull back from the rising seas. By the end of the [21st] century, database company Zillow Group estimates, almost a half-million Miami homes could be—literally—underwater. That’s more than anywhere else in the country.”

Fast forward to December 21, when The Real Deal newsletter reported that home buyers and builders in Miami Beach have seized upon one immediate, if not visionary, solution to rising sea levels and the growing threat of flooding:

Higher stilts.

Elevated living quarters already a building requirement in the Florida Keys and on Key Biscayne, in July last year Miami Beach eased its restrictions on the height limit beneath single-family homes, which was set at seven feet (2.31 m). With approval from the city’s Design Review Board, owners and builders can now use pilings, or stilts, to raise the first floors of their homes up to 15 feet (4.95 m) – as architect Rene Gonzalez is proposing for his own house in the Venetian Islands.

“For now, Miami Beach’s elevated home designs mostly cater to luxury construction because of prohibitively high costs,” The Real Deal article states. “But in the future, industry experts said, those projects will become more common as designs are modified, prices drop and flood insurance rates rise.”

Patrick Dwyer, a wealth advisor with Merrill-Lynch, hired the renowned Miami firm Arquitectonica to design his two-story, $5 million house, which will sit high above Lucerne Avenue. Asked about the elevation he required, Dwyer said, “This seemed like a no-brainer. If you’re in Miami Beach and you’re not thinking about sea level rise, then you don’t really understand what’s to come.”

Difficult subject? Certainly. Can we – owners, buyers, Realtors, the public – close our eyes and make it go away? Most certainly not.

My question to Florida home owners and buyers: does this subject influence your purchase or ownership decisions, and if so how?

Looking forward to hear from you, here in the comment section or at tobias@modernsouthflorida.com.
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Photo: Modern beachfront/waterfront home by architect Toshiki Mori on North Casey Key, Florida, with 7,100+ sf, six bedrooms, nine bathrooms, den and bonus room on the interior, swimming pool and guest house. Off-market.

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