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    Considering Rising Sea Levels As You Purchase Coastal Property

    Coastal Property
    Scenic towns like Virginia Beach may seem timeless, but there's no escaping a rising tide. Sea levels in the area have risen an estimated 9 inches in the last 50 years, and that number is only expected to rise. As a result, homes that once stayed high and dry may now be at serious risk for flooding. Before you commit to any coastal property, hire a surveyor to ensure you'll be able to enjoy that land for many decades to come. 

    Measuring a Property's Altitude

    The first and most obvious step to take when surveying a coastal property is to find its altitude at sea level. This measures the relative height of your land compared to the ocean. A property below sea level at high tide is at risk of periodic flooding. Additionally, storm surges pushed inland can easily swamp a land that is only a few feet above sea level. Worse, in some areas, the land has even been known to sink over time. A fresh survey will guarantee you are working with up-to-date information. 

    Low-lying property is not necessarily a deal-breaker. Potential flooding can be avoided by elevating buildings onto stilts or platforms. Taking precise measurements at the site will help you and your developers comply with FEMA recommendations. In most cases, this minimum elevation is based on the maximum flood levels expected in your area. Speak to your surveyor about local floodplain guidelines.

    Considering Storm Flooding

    Regular tides and flooding can be accounted for, but what about storms? Virginia's coastline gets hit by a tropical storm or hurricane every few years, and climate models point to storms of growing size and damage. Currently, storms that reach the shores of Virginia are rarely dangerous enough to cause serious property damage. They do, however, bring in increasingly far-reaching floods. 

    As you look at property along the coast, always take the possibility of storms into account. When bad weather sweeps through, you will want a home that is at least partially sheltered, but also high enough to avoid the floodwaters. Stilts are a popular option, and sandbags can shield a building from the worst of a surge tide. 

    Surveying Drainage and Soils

    Soil composition is an essential part of most land surveys, but it is especially important along coasts. The soils under a property decide what type of plumbing it can handle, how much weight it can hold, whether it can support a basement, and how it drains after flooding. Clay-based soils are notorious for retaining water, while sandy soils typically offer better drainage. 

    If a property's buildings are on high ground, you may still want to examine any low-lying areas for their flood readiness. A strong surge can quickly turn your yard into a salty pond for weeks or even months. Long exposure to saltwater is damaging to soil, further compounding the problem. 

    Checking a Property's Flood Certification

    FEMA tracks flood risk along coastal areas and issues elevation certificates for properties. These can be used to secure better flood insurance rates for your home. Developed land along the coast will likely already be evaluated; this information will be located in previous flood insurance documents. For raw land, however, you may need to have the parcel surveyed to confirm its flood certification. You will also need to comply with FEMA guidelines with any structures you build. 

    Rising sea levels are a hazard of the times, but they don't need to prevent you owning the beachfront home of your dreams. As a property buyer, you have the luxury of choosing your land with the future in mind. By understanding the risks and advantages of a piece of property before you buy it, you can rest assured that your future is secure. To get started finding land that will stand the test of time, contact our friendly professionals at John E. Sirine & Associates, LTD.