How Harvey and Irma Have Ruined Texas and Florida Real Estate

Print Email

The combined damage of hurricanes Harvey and Irma has been pegged above $100 billion, which makes them among the most expensive disasters in American history. Most of the damage was in Texas and Florida. Some of it was in big cities. Real estate values in these areas will be pummeled and may not recover for years.

The most obvious effect on home values involves those that have been badly flooded or damaged by the wind. Many will be rebuilt, but the timing of that, neighborhood by neighborhood, will be uneven. People are not going to want to move into areas that are partially rebuilt and where construction could go on indefinitely. These areas also may have damaged infrastructure and schools.

The other sections of Texas and Florida that will have real estate value problems are those which may have been only slightly damaged, or not damaged at all, but sit in areas that the storms have shown are likely to flood or suffer from high winds in another big storm.

It is not hard to peg which areas of Florida and Texas will be most vulnerable. Galveston and Corpus Christi are more likely to be obliterated by large hurricanes than the balance of Texas because they sit directly in low-lying areas along the Gulf of Mexico. They had extensive damage again because of Harvey.

In Florida, large areas in Jacksonville were badly damaged by the storm surge from Irma. Homes on the St. John’s River took much of brunt of the storm. The river reached a level last recorded in 1864.

Homes that sit in low-lying areas on the Gulf of Mexico in Tampa, Naples and other cities were flooded. The residents have to be concerned whether hurricanes are likely to come more often as ocean temperatures rise. Some of these people will move, at least a few miles inland. This will leave the demand for homes in their neighborhoods at levels low enough to sharply erode prices.

Tampa and Miami are part of the 20 cities included in the S&P Corelogic Case Shiller real estate prices indexes. Both have made strong comebacks from the Florida real estate collapse that accompanied the Great Recession. The Case Shiller figures for these two cities almost certainly will fall in the next several months. Other areas battered by the two hurricanes will fall with them.