Local

Climate change could leave 2,900 Whatcom homes under water - literally

Houses line the shoreline along Birch Bay on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016. A new study by Zillow, the online real estate company, estimates nearly 2,000 homes in Birch Bay would be underwater if sea levels rise as some scientists predict.
Houses line the shoreline along Birch Bay on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016. A new study by Zillow, the online real estate company, estimates nearly 2,000 homes in Birch Bay would be underwater if sea levels rise as some scientists predict. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Birch Bay and Blaine will be among the Washington communities most impacted if climate change continues unchecked, according to a new Zillow study.

The online real estate company focuses on the negative equity of homes when it does studies about being “underwater.” This time, it turned its attention to how many U.S. homes would be lost to water if ocean levels rise six feet by 2100, as estimated by scientists in a recently published study in the journal Nature.

Zillow estimates the Blaine/Birch Bay area will lose 1,825 homes if ocean levels rise six feet, ranking it third-highest in the state, trailing only Aberdeen (4,548 estimated homes lost) and Hoquiam (3,050). That would mean a loss of 16.2 percent of Blaine/Birch Bay’s current home inventory, costing an estimated $368 million.

31,235 Number of homes in Washington state that would be lost if sea levels rise six feet, as predicted by some scientists

Ferndale is lower on the list, with an estimated 779 homes lost, costing $310.5 million. Bellingham would lose 298 homes valued at $111.1 million, according to the study.

Across Washington state, an estimated 31,235 homes would be lost if the ocean level rises six feet, ranking it 13th highest in the U.S. Florida tops the list by a wide margin, with an estimated home loss of 934,411, or about one in eight homes. The cost of those lost Florida homes is an estimated $413 billion, Zillow said.

Across the U.S., the report estimates 1.9 million homes worth a cumulative $882 billion literally would be underwater due to rising sea levels. That’s about 2 percent of the current U.S. stock.

Zillow noted in the study that steps could be taken to mitigate the risks and reduce the loss, but also said its estimates could be low, given the popularity of living near the sea.

“These estimates could turn out to be very conservative,” according to the report summary.

Darin Stenvers, manager of the John L. Scott office in Bellingham, said he doesn’t field many questions about ocean levels from potential home buyers – but he does get a lot of questions related to climate change. Land erosion is a more common topic, with home buyers asking more questions not only about the stability of homes on hills or bluffs, but about the surrounding areas. Concerns about whether something can be replaced after a natural disaster, such as a dock, also come up regularly, he said.

When they do come up, Stenvers and his agents tend to refer buyers to local geological testing companies.

“I think it is a ripple effect from the television news,” Stenvers said, noting that people regularly see news footage of homes falling down hills because of erosion or bad weather.

Stenvers said rising temperature also impacts the local real estate market. More often, he said, people from out of the area cite a cooler climate as a reason for moving to Whatcom County. He expects more people to move out of the hotter climates to places like Whatcom County if temperatures continue to rise.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

  Comments