Risks to Consider Before Buying a Home in a Coastal or Hurricane-Prone Area

“By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea!” These lyrics, written in 1914, remain as true now as they did then. People live “by the sea” to take pleasure in fresh air, calming breezes, the soothing sound of waves, and the positive lift provided by the vastness of the ocean.  

Even with the increasing expense of owning coastal properties and growing risks like rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes, the perceived benefits of seaside homes overshadow the detractions for many interested buyers. Nevertheless, significant due diligence is needed to understand a home’s resilience to hurricane and other windstorm-fueled property damage, which in turn can influence the cost of homeowners’ insurance.

A case in point is the roof. Wind-resistant roofs and hurricane tie-downs can help protect homeowners in coastal areas. In addition, supplies like rolling hurricane shutters for windows and accordion shutters for sliding doors also offer extra protection.   

Another key consideration in buying a coastal property or a home in a hurricane-prone area is if the house has impact-resistant windows and doors with glass openings designed to withstand windborne debris flying at high speeds. The windows and doors are manufactured with tempered glass with interlayers that is significantly stronger than traditional glass, decreasing the possibility of breakage.    

Not only can these features potentially minimize property damage, they may result in a homeowners insurance premium credit (depending on the insurer), so be sure to ask if this is the case. Insurers typically request rating information on the impact-rating of the windows and doors. 

To enjoy your new home by the sea, here are a few other tips to consider before (and after) buying your home. It is considered prudent to obtain information on the construction of the house, such as the date the structure was built and any successive enlargements or renovations. This information is generally available at the local county recorder’s office or website, which stores deeds, title documents, and other records related to the property. The construction criteria will be useful in understanding the property damage risks in a hurricane or other windstorm situation.

It is also important to discern if the home lies in a flood zone. To acquire this information, FEMA has identified flood hazard areas across the country, with a so-called Special Flood Hazard Area considered to be a particularly high-risk section, with a one percent chance of becoming inundated by a flood event in a given year.

Another piece of sage advice is to review the area’s building codes regulating the construction and use of the property, ensuring safe, healthy and accessible environments for habitation. A pre-sale home inspector will generally provide information on whether or not the structure conforms to local building codes.

The advantages of coastal living are improved when properly protected. Homeowners can then relax in their new home, knowing they are better prepared should the tides turn.

Ana Molinari is a Senior Risk Consultant with Chubb Personal Risk Services.


The opinions and positions expressed are the authors’ own and not those of Chubb. The information and/ or data provided herein is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Insurance coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued.