You may have heard that investors are flocking to those parts of Florida wrecked by Hurricane Ian, hoping to grab real estate at fire-sale prices. Of course, they’re going to have trouble unloading what they buy. Smart people know that there will be more hurricanes just as bad–and worse. https://www.foxbusiness.com/real-estate/homebuyers-flock-florida-cities-devastated-hurricane-ian The devastated areas could be put much better use than housing–wind farms, for instance.
This wasn’t a difficult situation to predict, but when I wrote a story that did just that, editors seemed to think it too unlikely. In the interest of timeliness, I now present you with:
My nephew called me an idiot. I was sitting on the porch with a glass of bourbon and rocks, looking out over the housing developments down the hill and the town beyond. The Atlantic Ocean was visible in the distance.
“It’s not fake news!” Jeff said. “It’s not a plot to line scientists’ pockets! Or the Chinese trying to kill the US economy!”
“Then why aren’t the Chinese trying to cut emissions, huh? Answer me that, wiseass.”
“Bullshit! Look at the news! They’re burning more coal than ever.”
“Damned good thing you’re on high ground here!”
Neither one of us was going to win that argument. But I know a good deal when I see one. That last hurricane had a record storm surge. After the water receded, a lot of property went up for sale. And prices were down by half. Sometimes more. I figure one more storm…
My wife called me an idiot too.
“You want to do what with our savings? Your IRA? You don’t touch mine! We’ll go bankrupt! We’ll be poor!”
“Omelets and eggs, dear,” I said. “It’s a sure thing. All this climate change guff is going to go away. It’s just a liberal plot to sell advertising on the news sites.”
“Like the covid virus? Oh, spare me.”
“It’ll go away. And beachfront prices will go up like a rocket. We’ll be rich!”
“You should listen to Jeffy.”
“Him? He guzzles that liberal Kool-Aid. He called me an idiot yesterday, you know?”
Humph. She’s not going to stop me watching the weather. And look! Another hurricane on the way. Just a Cat 2. But three tropical storms are growing out there in the mid-Atlantic.
Jeffy says I don’t know how to look at data. Of course I do! Storm tracks, for instance. These have nice projections. Maybe…
I know! I’ll write an op-ed for the paper. All about what rising seas and more hurricanes will do to coastal real estate prices. And insurance premiums! People should get out while they can. If they can.
My nephew called me an idiot again.
“Are you trying to scare people? Telling them their land is going to wash away?”
“What’s the matter, Jeff? Isn’t that what you keep saying is going to happen?”
“Well, yeah. But you don’t. You just want to drive prices down so you can make a killing. You think!”
“Hah! You’ll see who’s the idiot. I haven’t bought anything yet, but I have moved everything I can into checking.”
The second storm almost did the trick. Turned into a Cat 5 and flattened a couple of shoreline hotels, as well as a few houses. People came back after the evacuations and just threw their hands up in the air.
Of course, a lot didn’t. They called their insurance companies, replaced roofs and windows, cleaned up the mess.
The fake liberal news was all about climate change. We have to DO something! Or we’re doomed!
Baloney. You can prove anything with statistics. Correlation is not causation. It’s just a bad year for storms. So go ahead, folks. Get scared. Run away. Let’s have a real estate fire sale.
Three more promising cyclones have lined up out in the ocean.
A couple of insurance companies just declared bankruptcy.
Prices are already dropping.
Aaanndd another Cat 5. That did the trick. Prices were bouncing off the floor. I snapped up about two miles of prime ocean-front property, and I didn’t have to touch the IRA.
“IDIOT!” said my wife.
“Damned fool,” said Jeff.
I just grinned at them and shuffled the deeds in my hands. All this climate change hoohah was going to go away. We’d be back to normal in no time. And then…
I managed to chisel the towns down on the property taxes, so I still didn’t have to touch the IRA.
The hurricanes scrubbed even the ruins off the shore.
“It ain’t going away, Uncle,” said Jeff. “We really do have to kick the fossil fuels habit.”
“Idiot,” said my wife. “I should see a lawyer.”
Jeez, I hoped she wouldn’t. But I had to stick to my guns. I couldn’t possibly unload those deeds. Not now.
And the year after…
It wasn’t any better. It even looked worse.
And the next…
I was beginning to wonder. Maybe there was something to that Kool-Aid stuff after all.
Jeff sighed at me. “Uncle, I love you like family. Hell, you are family. But you know those Internet memes about how every family has a crazy uncle?”
“Who, me?” I sighed back at him. “And you’re the smart nephew? Or the smart-ass one?”
The bastard laughed at me. “You know, I’ve got enough to bail you out. If you make nice.”
“Screw you too.”
Yeah, I had to take a loss. Prices had gone down some after I grabbed all those deeds, and he insisted on market. But the accounts were close to where they had been, and my wife stopped talking about seeing a lawyer.
The worst thing was watching Nephew Dear cut a deal with a wind farm outfit. All that empty shoreland was ideal, and when the sea came in, the towers wouldn’t mind a bit. After all, they were putting wind farms out to sea. This would just make them easier to build.
Then my wife said, “You were right all along, weren’t you?”
I sighed at her. “Not smart enough. Not as smart as Jeffy.”
I’d seen opportunities of the old sort. Things were going to get back to normal, right?
He’d seen opportunities of the new sort.
I wondered what else I was missing.