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Concerns About Sea-Level Rise May Already Be Hurting Miami Home Sales

Sure, fewer people will want to live in Miami once this whole place floods from an onslaught of sea-level rise, but most assume it'll happen decades from now. But a new study suggests that fears of Miami Beach turning into a modern Venice are already hurting home sales.

Last week, the website RealtyTrac released a map looking at how fears of natural disasters are affecting home sales in every U.S. county. And — surprise! — the 305 is not doing great, and things are poised to get worse over time.

According to the study, Miami-Dade County is competing with a few areas smack in the middle of the Midwest's Tornado Alley in terms of "natural hazard housing risk." This is a bad sign. Though the study doesn't rank every county from first to last, nearby Monroe County, which contains Key West, was named one of the five most disaster-prone places in America, given the fact that the Florida Keys typically get dunked underwater whenever a hurricane hits. It's basically a matter of when, not if, some of the islands get swallowed by the rising seas. 

The study didn't give Miami-Dade great marks either. RealityTrac said Miami-Dade has a "very high" risk of hurricane storm surges and also a "very high" risk of general flooding. And homebuyers really don't like flooding, RealtyTrac's data suggest.

According to the study, flood risk appears to be the number one natural hazard scaring people away from buying homes in a given area. Over the next five years, flood-prone areas are poised to grow about 25 percent slower than counties that don't flood.

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Nationally, home sales are projected to increase about 2.6 percent in the next year, according to an average calculated from the study's dataset. But in Miami-Dade, sales are projected to drop 9 percent in just 12 months, which should concern developers putting the finishing touches on the thousand-and-a-half condo buildings under construction in Brickell and midtown.

But the scary thing here is that concern over sea-level rise could just keep getting worse. RealtyTrac's data suggests flooding is already scaring away some potential homebuyers in Miami-Dade, and flooding mostly serves as a nuisance in Miami right now. If the website's calculations are accurate, the city's housing market might begin to look particularly bleak after seas rise for another decade or two.

But, hey, at least we don't get those giant Midwestern tornadoes!

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