WTOC Investigates: Cold Coastal Housing Market

WTOC Investigates: Cold Coastal Housing Market

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Unlike many cities in the U.S., where homes are selling within days of being listed, the housing market along the coast seems to be just the opposite.

"I see houses everywhere for sale,” said Chatham County homeowner, Edwina Scarboro. Scarboro put their house on the market three years ago. "

“There were very few waterfront properties for sale and I thought, you know, we had a good shot but since Matthew, there’s a lot for sale.”

Getting the property back to normal after two hurricanes has been costly, but she says she’s not willing to spend more money on the house just to try to satisfy buyers.

"Somebody said that the house was too small,” Scarboro said.

She’s now accepting the reality that she is selling a lot that happens to have a home on it.

“There’s always room to improve and build and extend or redo,” Scarboro said.

That is exactly what Realtor Jinan Lamas Cole is trying to do with a home on Whitemarsh Island.

"There’s really no dollar value on the structure,” said Lamas Cole.

The home Lamas Cole is trying to sell for her client also survived two hurricanes - but it’s in a flood zone and water has gotten into the house twice. Even though the home is still livable, Cole says flood insurance alone would cost a new homeowner between $3-5,000 a year.

"The house is a brick ranch house that’s rather functionally obsolete, so raising the house doesn’t make any sense. Living in the house would take a lot of updating, more than just cosmetic work,” Cole said.

Dozens of homes on Tybee Island are in a similar situation, especially the homes on Lewis Avenue that flooded during Hurricane Matthew and again during Irma.

None of these homes are for sale, but Mayor Jason Buelterman says that’s likely because they are waiting on federal grant money that would allow residents to raise their homes.

"If I was them and I was considering putting my house on the market, I would probably hold off,” Mayor Buelterman said.

He says they’ve applied to get funding for 64 homes which would give each homeowner $100,000 to go towards raising their home, but it’s unclear how long they will have to wait for this money because the last couple of hurricane seasons has created a backlog with applications coming in across the U.S. Real Estate experts say 15-20 percent of the homes in Chatham County that have sold in the last two years were sold with plans to tear down and start over, and several more remain on the market.

"The islands are populated with houses that were built in the 50s, 60s and 70s, and that’s not really what homeowners want right now,” Cole said.

Whether homes are already scared by the last two hurricane seasons, more homes could potentially be headed down this path. According to data from sealevelrise.org, more than 2,300 homes are at-risk for repeated tidal flooding and they expect that number to increase by 2033, which means more homeowners could potentially be faced with the possibility of a depreciating home that can only be reversed by tearing it down and starting over.

Cole says this is the first time in her tenure as a realtor that she’s ever seen this type of situation unfold in a housing market. She’s having to adapt to the learning curve of trying to find the perfect buyer who is willing to buy a home, tear it down, and rebuild.

Meanwhile, homeowners like Edwina Scarboro, consider themselves lucky. They inherited this home and can afford to wait for as long as it takes to find that perfect buyer.

"Whoever gets it is getting a deal and they are going to make a profit on it in the end,” Scarboro said.

WTOC filed an open records request with Chatham County to find out how many demolition permits have been requested for residential homes. Those documents came in today and WTOC will keep you updated on the information we gather from those documents.

You should know, experts tell WTOC that Coastal Real Estate is not headed towards a housing crisis.

Even though there are a lot of homes for sale, the market remains pretty steady and the majority of home values continue to increase.

“Savannah is a much different than Atlanta, Charleston, or Jacksonville. There are higher demands in those areas,” said Realtor Kim Iocovozzi with Judge Realty. “We are finding that Savannah is steady and as a realtor, that’s the best world.”

WTOC Investigates: Cold Coastal Housing Market

Copyright 2018 WTOC. All rights reserved.