Purchasing Coastal Real Estate - pg. 2
Will I automatically be informed about erosion and erosion rates?
Not necessarily. Although the original developers of oceanfront property are informed of erosion hazards when they apply for a building permit,
If you are working with a licensed real estate agent, the agent has a duty to disclose material facts that the agent knows or reasonably should know. Although real estate agents may not always know the erosion rates for particular oceanfront properties, they should advise you of the possibility of erosion and direct you to available sources of information. If the agent knows the erosion rate of a particular property, the agent must disclose it to you.
The Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) authorizes the Division of Coastal Management to establish oceanfront setback lines for all development. The setback is measured landward from the line of stable natural vegetation nearest the sea, usually near the base of the frontal dune system. All single-family homes and buildings of 5000 square feet or less, and their septic systems, must be located 30 times the historical, long-term erosion rate from this line, with a minimum setback of 60 feet. For example, if the long-term erosion rate is 3 feet per year for the shoreline of a particular lot, then the setback would be 90 feet (3 x 30) from the first line of vegetation. For large buildings (over 5,000 square feet), the setback is 60 times the long-term erosion rate or 30 times the erosion rate plus 105 feet, whichever is closer to the ocean. For such structures, the minimum setback is 120 feet. Other requirements may also apply. Local building officials are familiar with these and can locate the minimum setbacks on your lot.
Please note that the required setback does not guarantee a safe location. In fact, it implies that if erosion occurs as expected, a building could be destroyed in 30 years-or about the time the structure is paid for under a traditional 30-year mortgage. If possible, it is generally wise to build well landward of the state's minimum setback requirements.
Several features can prevent or substantially reduce the likelihood of damage from severe storms or erosion. Pilings can raise the first floor above expected flood elevations and waves. In many areas, embedding the tip of pilings deeper than five feet below sea level can help a building stand during severe erosion. Any walls constructed between pilings should be designed to break away when hit by waves to prevent damage to the elevated portion of the building.
Elevating a building to protect it from storm surge and flood increases its exposure to storm winds. The key to reducing storm wind damage lies in the quality of the building's design and construction. For new homes on the beach, consider employing a professional engineer to help ensure adequate structural design. If buying an existing home, an engineer can help assess the structure's strengths and weaknesses, and suggest modifications to make the house more damage-resistant.
Modifications may include: addition of hurricane clips to improve the roof's ability to withstand uplift forces of high winds; installation of storm shutters to protect window and door openings from wind-driven rain and debris; improved attachment of roof shingles; reinforcement of gable end roofs; reinforcement of the attachment of plywood roof decking to roof rafters with additional nails, screws or adhesives; and reinforcement of the attachments of porches and decks.
Sand dunes also provide significant protection during the most severe storms. You can protect and enhance frontal dunes by keeping vehicles and people off these areas, and planting additional dune grasses. Keep in mind that sand dunes protect against short-term erosion caused by very severe but infrequent storms and offer little protection from long-term erosion.
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