High tides and storms risky for waterfront property

Jan 1, 2013

Stormy weather and high tides may add drama to a waterfront view but they can also lead to major property damage, especially  if your home sits close to the shore.

Last month, Seattle clocked its highest tides ever recorded, beating the previous record set in January 1983. If this keeps up, along with strong winds and heavy rain, does it make sense to buy waterfront property? That's the question KPLU's John Maynard put to Seattle area appraiser Richard Hagar.

Hagar says people can buy any land or house they want that's close to salt water, but that doesn't mean it's a safe place to live or that they'll be able to protect it. 

"It's not always possible to legally build a bulkhead or a rockery along the shore because of the Shoreline Management Act and the regulations that are in place to protect the environment, including fish. "

Hagar urges buyers to do their due diligence and ask the same of their real estate agents.  But, he warns, even  after you do your homework on a piece of waterfront property - feeling good about its suitability for building - that doesn't mean the government will grant you building permits.

Maynard wants to know why anyone would take the risk and buy property close to salt water, given all the storms and tides and rain.

"People do it all the time. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn't," says Hagar. "We just did an appraisal on a property in the south end (Burien) that was acquired and within days of purchase the whole thing slid into the Sound."

So, risky is the word. But the lure of the sea is strong. And if you can stay dry and sip tea while looking out at a great view, maybe it's worth the risk...or maybe not.