Waterfront Living Is Not Always Worth the Risks!

A number of times, I’ve heard a few people I know talk about how great it would be to live by the water.  This generally meant living by the beach,waterfront but in a few other conversations referred to living right next to a lake.  In any case, there is true appeal for some people to living next to a body of water, whether it’s for the scenic views, sunsets, sound of waves, or simply tranquility.  To the point that they’re willing to pay a premium for the privilege.

I guess I do see the appeal to some degree, but it’s not a big deal to me.  Having views would be kind of neat, but I don’t get any excitement out of living right next to water.  Certainly not to the point where I’d even consider paying any more to live there.  Actually, in some cases, I think it’s riskier to live right on the water, and that properties right there should be worth less money that those a bit further away.

In other words, perhaps some waterfront property should be discounted as inferior to property a little further inland.

The reason?  Natural disasters!

Really, think about how destructive water can be.  Some recent flooding around here has gotten me thinking about how flooding and water damage can really wreak havoc for homeowners.  The thing is, it shouldn’t be a surprise in many cases.  We know that weather happens, so to speak, so in many situations it’s a matter of time before there is an impact on our lives.

I think of this river that’s nearby here, which it seems like every decade causes flooding – with people feverishly working to sandbag and protect property.  I wonder why on earth they ever bought property by the river in the first place?  They had to know that there is flooding periodically, so why build or buy there?

Sometimes, tragically, we see a lot of destruction in hurricane-prone areas.  I don’t see the appeal to building a home or buying a home right on the ocean, in areas that historically are put at risk by hurricanes or tropical storms passing by.   The same concept could actually apply to tsunamis.  Driving down the coast of Oregon some years ago, I was taken aback by seeing a tsunami evacuation route sign.  I had never heard of major tsunamis hitting the U.S. mainland.  Well, then we saw the tragic tsunami in Japan occur, and out come a few stories about how one could hit our west coast at some point.

It seems like another example of emotions and home-buying being linked sometimes.  Logically, we know that we could be put at risk financially – or even personally – by living in certain areas.  But, the emotional appeal of living certain places sometimes overrides logic.  Sometimes it’s a matter of thinking through the science of risk, as one would in other financial situations.

Ultimately, is the risk worth the reward?  For some it is, but I’ve always had a different view on it.  Put me in a place that’s devoid of those types of rewards, and I’ll be totally fine!

My Questions for You

Why do you think it is that waterfront living is so popular?

Is it appealing to you, or are you basically indifferent to it like me?

Do you think many folks think through such risks?


  1. says

    Our home isn’t waterfront, but we’re about a 5-minute walk from the water and have a water view. But we’re about 60 meters above sea level, so I think we’re safe, even from the monster tsunami that will one day hit our area.

    I think taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to subsidize a choice to live in a zone historically subject to regular flooding. If someone wants to live there and can get private flood insurance, great. If not, they take on the risk alone.

    • Squirrelers says

      Kurt – well said. If someone buys something that is at high risk for floods, I sure don’t want to be subsidizing their silly decisions.

    • says

      We are in a similar location and I love it. I think human is drawn to water because we need it to live. A nice view of the ocean, lake, or river is very soothing. I love having a view.

      • Squirrelers says

        Joe – yeah, the views can be nice, I agree. Just make sure they’re from higher ground…that’s not at risk of a mudslide either :)

  2. says

    I always wanted to live at the beach. Homes at te beach (California) start at a million or more. My brother in law lived on the shore on Long Island. He sent me a video when Sandy destroyed his former home. I think I will just visit the beach as before occasionally and enjoy it from afar.

    • Squirrelers says

      krantcents – yet again, your wisdom shows. Great way to put it, enjoy the beach from afar.

  3. says

    It is calming to live by the water in most cases. It also give you many activities to do right out your back door (fishing, swimming, boating, etc). It does come with risks, but those can be mitigated. Someday we may have a place on the water. I can dream, right?

    • Squirrelers says

      FMM – maybe some risks can be mitigated, but not all. What to do about a house wrecked by raging floodwaters or crashing waves? I don’t know…seems like a dream that could become a nightmare!

  4. says

    Tsunami warnings after an earthquake is really scary when you live near the seashore. Areas that used to be typhoon proof are already becoming typhoon prone also nowadays. Flood safety and specific location’s history in surpassing natural calamities is really a must.

    • Squirrelers says

      I’m surprised more people don’t get worried about things like this…or at least have it in the back of their minds. Particularly in storm-prone areas.

  5. says

    I know exactly what you’re talking about since I live in the same metro area as you! It’s cruel humor, but every time we get major storms, my guy makes jokes about the hapless homeowners along the Des Plaines river not seeming to get a clue that they live along a river that floods on a regular basis. It’s not even a 10-year event anymore, it’s an every two- or three-years event now.

    Here in Chicago, we are urged to “disconnect your downspouts” in order to minimize the amount of storm water that comes in and inevitably floods the sewer system, leading to back ups. However, it’s not always possible to do this due to the configuration of city lots. (Disconnect it to point where? Into the concrete alley? Isn’t that just going into the sewer, too? Or do we point it to the concrete sidewalk?)

    There is much more to be done to minimize flooding in major metro areas. We’ve paved over so much land with impermeable surface that channels the water to limited outlets. That’s the real issue.

    I’d never want to live on the banks of a river, lake or in a hurricane zone. I would like living not too far from the Pacific coast, though. Up high where the tsunamis wouldn’t get me. 😉

    • Squirrelers says

      Linda – I know what you mean about the Pacific coast! I’ve had the same thought about eventually (a long time from now) being there – as long as I’m at a high enough elevation! Coastal California and even some parts of Oregon are pretty cool.

  6. says

    I moved to the beach when I was 19 and it was like moving to heaven. There is no doubt in my mind that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

    I grew up in the Inland Empire area of California and it was hot, smoggy, violent and tagged with graffiti. The beach area was calmer, cooler, breezy and friendlier. My first apartment was very close to the beach, on the top of a small cliff. My house is 3 blocks away, but I have a view of the ocean from my sundeck. We walk the dogs along the beach a couple of times a week. I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am living in this beautiful city.

    Here are the quantifiable things. It was excruciatingly difficult to buy a house in this very expensive area. I have no idea how my kids will be able to afford houses here, but I doubt they will be happy any place else. We use very little energy because the temperature is always between 45-85 degrees, year round. We don’t have or need air-conditioning and only use the heater for a couple of months. We spend very little on coats or boots and cars last a long time. Most of my favorite recreation activities (surfing, hiking and mountain biking) are free, once you have the equipment.

    Living by the water isn’t for everyone. But for me, it’s the only way to live.

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