You could make the case that being drawn to the ocean is just human nature. Every year, thousands of vacationers seek out the comfort and fun of the sand and waves.
Many of those beach-lovers have also been tempted to buy a beachfront property of their own to return to year after year. A beach house can seem like a smart investment, because you can rent it out as an additional source of income. If your property is by the beach, you should be able to enjoy a reliably high demand from people who want to stay there.
However, there are also risks to investing in oceanside property, the biggest of which is hurricane damage.
Of course, hurricanes present serious safety hazards if you’re living there when they hit (and that’s a concern in and of itself). However, even if your property is safely vacant when a storm hits, there can be a lot of damage to deal with afterward that can seriously affect your ability to make money on the property.
With the right plan in place, you can minimize both potential damage and lost time. This kind of planning is only becoming more important as climate change affects the strength of future hurricanes. Plus, according to forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected.
Here’s a primer on what property owners need to know about hurricane preparedness.
Review Insurance Coverage
Hurricane season begins on June 1 every year and lasts through the end of November. Well in advance of each hurricane season, you should review your property’s insurance policies. Are they up-to-date? Are they sufficient? If you’re not an expert, find someone who can make sure you understand things like limits, exclusions, and deductibles and make sure they’re appropriate for your property.
You should also make sure to gather evidence/proof of both your assets and the efforts you took to secure them before a hurricane hits. That way, if your assets do sustain damage, you’ll be more likely to get paid out by the insurance company. Make sure your photos or videos are time-stamped, and prioritize photos of your most valuable assets or the parts of your property that would cost the most to replace.
Some property owners even hire professional engineers to analyze their properties and create a report that can be helpful during any potential insurance claims later on.
Get Your Unit Storm-Ready
As soon as a storm is forecasted, it’s time to start physically preparing your property for the storm in order to limit damage. Precautionary efforts may include the following tasks, depending on your property and the imminent risk of the impending hurricane:
- Emptying dumpsters and removing outdoor trash cans
- Trimming back trees
- Removing or securing large rocks or landscaping features
- Preparing the pool/spa area by adding chlorine, wrapping electric components, pool pump, time clock, light transformers and electric heaters with waterproof plastic or disconnecting them and storing them somewhere safe and dry
- Removing or securing all contents from balconies and outside areas (including things like grills and patio furniture)
- Securing other outside fixtures and removing window AC units
- Installing hurricane shutters
- Clearing gutters and storm drains to ensure they work properly
- Backing up and securing property data and other digital assets stored on-site (don’t forget to back up the photos you took of the property for insurance purposes)
- Making sure important physical paper records are kept in a fireproof and waterproof box.
The high winds are just the first threat that hurricanes pose to safety and property. The other significant threat is that of the following storm surge and subsequent flooding. Here are a few things you can do to minimize the potential damage from flooding, according to iProperty Management’s Emergency Preparedness Guide for Landlords:
- Identify the areas of your home where water may enter (i.e. doors, air vents, pipe gaps, etc.) and build sandbag defenses.
- Move all furniture, appliances, and personal property, to the outside or highest level of the home.
- Shut off all power sources (water, gas, electricity) and unplug all technology before the home is flooded.
- Plug basement floor drains to prevent sewage backup.
- Remove all porous materials and prepare your flooring.
Update Important Contact Information (and Keep it on Hand)
You don’t want to find yourself scrambling during an emergency — during which power and communication infrastructure may be limited or unavailable — to try to figure out how to get a hold of the people who may need your help or who can help you.
Both during and after a hurricane emergency, you’ll need to know how to get a hold of tenants, any employees (if you’re running a larger, multi-family property, for example), contractors who will be responsible for repairs, and your banks (make sure to have your bank account info and identification info on hand, too).
Try to have more than one method of contact on hand in case the first method isn’t available or doesn’t work. You may also want to collect emergency contact information from tenants or employees.
Make a Shutdown Plan
You also need a detailed plan for exactly how long you (or your tenants and employees) can safely stay on-site before evacuating, and at what point essential equipment must be shut down.
If you run a larger property, you (or your property manager) might need to stay on-site to assist some of your tenants with evacuation.
Then, according to this article from Multifamily Executive, once sustained winds reach 45 MPH, it’s time to shut down things like elevators, water pumps, and HVAC systems, according to the steps outlined in the equipment service agreements for each, and head for shelter.
Of course, if you just run one small beach home and don’t live there full-time, hopefully, you will have done these things far in advance so that you can be far away from the coast (20-50 miles inland, according to FEMA) by the time the hurricane hits.
Create an Emergency Kit
If you hope to ride out the storm in person, you’ll need to be prepared for the possibility of water, utilities, and electricity being unavailable for up to three days after the hurricane hits. You or your tenants should create an emergency kit with essential supplies including food, water, flashlights, and cell phone chargers. You can learn more about what to include in your kit at Ready.gov.
You should also be prepared to follow the National Hurricane Center’s emergency preparedness guidelines.
Multifamily Executive also suggests keeping two signed checks on hand in case contractors require payment immediately after a storm to perform emergency repairs. (The insurance claims process takes time that you may not have.)
Beachfront Property Alternatives
If this list of requirements has you reconsidering your plans to invest in oceanfront property, you may want to consider alternative locations that will get you within easy access of the ocean without exposing your property to quite as much risk from high winds and flooding.Consider investing in properties within an easy drive of the ocean but with less direct threat of high winds and floods. Click To Tweet
For example, a riverfront property in the beautiful, historic city of Savannah, Georgia is within an hour’s drive of premium beachfront destinations, but has plenty of rental value in and of itself. Savannah is already a popular tourist destination and located in an exciting city full of arts, culture, and entertainment opportunities for you and your guests.