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Safeguarding Your Oceanfront Home Purchase

Coastal erosion is taking center stage in San Diego headlines: After nearly a decade, Solana Beach approves seawall fee for homeowners who built bluff-retaining walls to protect their homes. An Encinitas bluff collapses killing three family members. Plans are underway to stabilize Del Mar bluffs and protect train tracks. Our crumbling coastline is not a new story in San Diego, but it is recurring more often than ever before.  

According to a recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), coastal cliffs from San Diego to Santa Barbara could crumble at more than twice the historical rate by the year 2100 as sea levels rise. Scenarios ranging from 1.5 feet to 6.6 feet in sea level rise by 2100 project that bluff tops along nearly 300 miles of Southern California coasts could lose an average of 62 to 135 feet. 

You might think that 81 years is a long time from now and you don’t need to worry about it. But those forecasts don’t happen all at once. What if that bluff top home you are considering could lose 35 feet of its 40-foot setback in 40 years? Ask some of the old-timers who bought oceanfront homes in Del Mar in 1979 how much has changed since then and they will probably tell you the truth without a filter. Fear not. Purchasing an oceanfront or bluff top home is buying the American dream and there are steps you can take to safeguard your dream investment. 

Hire an Engineer:

If you are going to invest in an oceanfront home, whether 10 feet above sea level or 100 feet, then do your homework. Hire an engineer, land surveyor, or geological inspector to evaluate potential dangers. A licensed professional will be able to assess cliff stability by researching historical shore erosion, storm surges, runoff, drainage, high tide marks, and other factors that could impact your new home in the immediate future and gauge long-term possibilities. 

Home Inspection and Previous Insurance Claims:

Early on in your due diligence, conduct a thorough home inspection and have your Realtor check for previous insurance claims. Beyond the most catastrophic scenarios of bluff collapse and landslides, oceanfront homes are susceptible to strong storms including wind damage and flooding. A home inspector should be able to detect if there has been substantial repairs to a house. But in certain cases, the only evidence left from previous damage could be an insurance claim. Did a previous owner file a claim to replace roof tiles lost in heavy winds, did soil erosion from excessive rain cause a tree to collapse on top of the solar panels, or were those gorgeous hardwood floors replaced due to water runoff from your neighbor’s buckled drainage system? Ah yes, the neighbors. 

Ask the Neighbors:

Do you really want to live in this neighborhood? Ask your potential neighbors how they fared during the last storm or if they have observed noticeable changes in high tides, cliff stability, or erosion on their property. You might get lucky and find that old-timer who is more than willing to share tales of yesteryear over a beer. “I bought this house in 1979 for $100,000 and the high tides would only come up to over yonder. But last year, the lawyer fella down the street lost two thirty-foot palm trees during the king tide. Just came crashing down.” If the neighbors refuse to provide any information or rebuke your inquiries with aloofness or rudeness, then that could be a red flag and maybe you wouldn’t want to live next door to them in the first place.

Bluff top erosion, cliff collapse, and toppled palm trees. Buying an oceanfront home doesn’t have to be perilous. It should be the first step in living the dream. Before you take that first step, call Jennifer Anderson to guide you on the path of safeguarding your dream.

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  • Jennifer B. Anderson
    CA DRE # 01885540
  • Nancy Anderson
    CA DRE # 01963802
  • Compass 
    CA DRE # 01527365