September is National Preparedness Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of preparing for disasters and emergencies that increasingly seem to happen all year round. The somber 10th anniversary of the deadly and destructive Superstorm Sandy is this year. We asked top real estate agents in Nassau and western Suffolk counties what advice they give homebuyers who have concerns about the threats that storms pose to Long Island. Many steer clear of low-lying properties when searching for a home, but there is only so far you can get from water on an island. What items can sellers add to coastal homes that would make great selling points? On the flip side, what are some red flags buyers should keep an eye out for?
Abigail Mago, Fire Island Sales & Rentals
“Given that we’re a barrier beach here on Fire Island, hurricane preparedness is something that’s always on our radar. Many buyers express a preference for elevated homes for greater peace of mind. The building code requires all new construction to be elevated in order to meet FEMA flood height requirements, but many of the older homes on the island still sit low to the ground. We are seeing many homeowners elect to raise their homes, both to avoid potential flooding in the future and to lower their flood insurance premiums. For a property that’s low to the ground, flood insurance can get very expensive and premiums can creep up over the years. We advise sellers to make sure they have an elevation certificate. I’ve seen sellers save themselves over $10,000/ year just by getting an elevation certificate and having their policy re-rated.”
Michael Furino, Douglas Elliman
“Being proactive and forward-thinking is always best when putting a property up for sale. In instances where the home is close to the water, there are a few steps sellers can take prior to listing in order to attract more buyers and show they’ve taken preventative measures. 1) Raising the whole house in order to keep the main living space well above any possible flooding. This is costly, but by doing so, they may be eligible for a reduction in flood insurance premium or not required to have a policy at all, which would save the new owner tens of thousands of dollars over the course of time and help raise the value and demand of the home. 2) Adding flood vents to the foundation walls. This will provide a way for water to automatically enter and exit, which protects the foundation and reduces flood risk. It can also help lower flood insurance premiums. 3) Installing a tankless heating/water boiler on the wall and raising air conditioning units by securing them with brackets attached to the side of the home. Heating and air conditioning units are two of the costliest items to replace and this will ensure both will be clear if a flood occurs. When looking to purchase a home near the water, look for corrosion – for instance, at the bottoms of support poles and hot water tanks — or dirt or leaves inside of closets on ground level. Oftentimes, if an owner is looking to cover up previous flood damage, they will forget to clean out/repair inside the closets in low-lying areas. Hiring a home inspector is always best to determine if some of these items have another reason for occurring besides flooding. If a few of the above items are observed, it’s safe to assume that water has been present, and could be a recurring issue.”
Rachel King, SERHANT.
“If you are considering selling a home in a coastal location such as Nassau or Suffolk County on Long Island, there are some selling points and upgrades that make these areas more desirable for buyers who may be concerned about flooding. When expanding your home, consider expanding up if it is a possibility rather than adding width. Raising living quarters offers more protection from flooding. A home which has been raised can be more desirable to buyers in a coastal location. When finishing a basement, use a water-resistant flooring instead of hardwood or carpeting, and consider adding a sump pump. There are certainly red flags to be on the lookout for. When purchasing a waterfront property, beware of high-water levels and view the home two times before purchasing: once during high tide, and again during low tide. Be on the lookout for past signs of water damage like water stains and mold on walls and ceilings. Check the zoning and flood maps before purchasing to find out if the property requires flood insurance and to fully understand all of your costs and risks. Also, check the history of insurance claims on the property. Buried oil tanks are a red flag, especially if still in use. If saltwater is high, it could corrode the tank. High water tables during storms could lift up oil, which is less dense than water and pollutes the soil and surrounding water. Get an oil tank inspection for a coastal property and request the certificate of abandonment if no longer in use, from the seller.”
This article appeared in the September issue of Behind The Hedges inside the Long Island Press. Click here to read the digital version of Hedges. To read more of Behind The Hedges coverage of western Suffolk County and Nassau County, click here.