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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

Climate Migration & Michigan

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

In December, I sat down at my desk to brainstorm ideas for new articles in 2023 and “climate migration” made the list. I do like to keep you guessing about what’s coming next. 😏

After I had COVID in May 2022, I struggled with a debilitating brain fog. I could function day-to-day, but sitting down to critically think and plan was difficult. I described it to a friend as feeling as if “I only have peripheral vision, but in my brain.” Attempting to focus was like trying to hold water in my hands.

This unwelcome aftermath to COVID started to ease up in September and has continued to improve. This brainstorming session was the first time I truly felt like my pre-COVID self and I WAS PUMPED. I digress, but I wanted to share so if anyone else is suffering from long COVID symptoms – you are not alone!

The Mathematician Sparks My Interest

Anyways, during this brainstorming session, I jotted down “climate migration.” The Mathematician (a voracious reader of many news publications) had mentioned reading an article about climate migration in passing. The comment stuck in my brain, and thus, this topic was added to my list.

You should have seen this one coming!

When I picked up the topic this year, I was a little overwhelmed skimming through the search results. There is a lot of information, predictions and outright “doom and gloom”. I’m going to steer this article more towards light information, with a specific focus on the U.S. and Michigan.

Some Stats

I’m not going to get on any type of soap box here. I think most people recognize that the world’s climate is changing. The reasons are for more educated minds than mine to debate.

In the first nine months of 2022, the U.S. suffered 15 weather/climate disasters with losses in excess of $1 billion each. For context, the annual average per year between 1980-2021, is 7.7 events. The annual average for 2017-2021 is 17.8 events. These events include drought, flooding, storm events, hurricanes and wildfires.

Core Logic’s 2021 Climate Change Catastrophe Report estimates that 14.5 million homes were impacted by “natural hazards” in 2021. This statistic breaks down to about 1 out of every 10 homes. One in ten!!! I am beginning to see how climate migration is spurred.

The Lure of Michigan

MLive recently interviewed 16 academics and scientists, all of whom deemed Michigan a “climate haven”. A “climate haven” here is defined as a region expected to avoid the worst outcomes of climate change and has the potential to support growing populations. Cities named in the article include Ann Arbor, Buffalo, Duluth, Milwaukee, Rochester (NY) and Toledo.

Michigan is not immune to the changes – more rain, more snow, changes in our local ecosystems – those are happening. But these issues, are perhaps lesser than other states/regions. The most obvious draw is our proximity to fresh water sources. (Hello, Great Lakes) We also have clean air (i.e. no wildfires) and space to add population.

Michigan in the summer.

The fascinating piece of this puzzle is that many of these areas are experiencing depopulation. Michigan lost a seat in Congress after the 2020 census for Pete’s sake! So did Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Shifting Climate + Shifting Costs = Shifting People

As see levels continue to rise, populations will be forced to shift. (Unless we figure out how to live in an underwater bubble. 🤔) Others will shift because of flooding, fires, etc.

And not just because of the physical danger. It’s the affordability of living in these areas. Florida is going through a bit of this reckoning now. In December, the Florida legislature passed a bill requiring residents purchase flood insurance if they use Citizens Property, the state-run property insurance carrier of last resort. It is the first state in the nation to take this drastic step. Only 18% of Florida homeowners carry flood insurance. On top of this pain, the Insurance Information Institute indicates that the 2022 average home insurance policy in Florida was almost triple the national average – $4,231 vs. $1,544. (To be fair, Florida also has a home insurance fraud problem that has driven up rates as well.)

I would say this accurately depicts FL’s current home insurance situation.

People will be forced to continually make the assessment “Can I still afford to live here?” At what point do you decide it’s not worth the pain and cost to stay in the eternal sunshine?

Calculation on Climate Migration

Several of the articles I read spoke with individuals for whom climate change was the primary factor in selecting where they would like to relocate. For others, it didn’t drive the geographic region, but did impact the areas where these individuals looked for a specific property.

In the present moment I don’t think many buyers are actively considering climate change when they purchase a home, but more people will likely do so in the future.

People tend to focus on items that hit their pocketbooks. In the future, climate change will impact property values. If hazard (home) insurance is prohibitively high, buyers will shy away from some properties. If your home burned down or flooded out due to natural disaster, buyers will be concerned about future hazards to the property.

At least a van can be moved to a new place . . .

It bears noting that even if someone wants to relocate, they don’t necessarily have the economic means to do so. Uprooting and moving to a new location can be quite expensive. It’s estimated that 64% of Americans were living paycheck to paycheck in November 2022. With rising inflation, Americans are cash-strapped. These households are unlikely to be able to uproot to a new location, find new jobs and pay for moving expenses.

Michigan Disclosure Rules

At time of sale, Michigan currently requires most residential property owners to fill out a Seller’s Disclosure. This document informs a potential buyer about certain aspects of the home and it’s history. Here are the two questions that caught my eye as it relates to climate change:

  • Are you aware of any settling, flooding, drainage, structural or grading problems?
  • Are you aware of any major damage to the property from fire, wind, floods or landslides?

Michigan has made it public policy for sellers to provide this information to buyers. Many other states have similar disclosure requirements. If a buyer sees the “yes” box checked on either of these forms, it is going to give the buyer pause.

Wrap Up

I hope I kept that light enough for you this week. I like to touch on important topics while making the information light enough to digest. If you are in the market for a new home this year, consider the potential hazards of the area so you can be aware of any impact to your property value. A little extra due diligence can take you a long way.

As always, I’m here to help with all your home ownership questions. Reach out if I can be of assistance.

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