Florida buyers may not understand risks in coastal real estate purchases

Living along a Florida beach sounds like a dream, but it can bring nightmarish worries, including severe weather, erosion and regulations limiting how the land is used.

A new study by researchers with the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS, suggests that many buyers aren’t aware that living on the coast brings special challenges. In 2006, following two active hurricane seasons, state lawmakers strengthened real estate laws to ensure home and condominium buyers are told about the regulations and risks before their purchases are completed.

But the study findings suggest many who bought Florida coastal real estate in recent years either didn’t get the warning or didn’t absorb it amid the flurry of document-signing that accompanies closing a real estate deal.

“They’re either not being informed or they simply don’t remember – both of which are plausible,” said Tom Ankersen, director of the law school’s Conservation Clinic and Florida Sea Grant College’s legal specialist. Florida Sea Grant operates in partnership with UF/IFAS.

The UF Levin College of Law Conservation Clinic and Florida Sea Grant collaborated on the survey, sent to about 2,500 property owners in five coastal counties who bought property after the disclosure laws took effect. The study included follow-up interviews with some survey recipients and coastal real estate agents.

Their findings showed that nearly 86 percent of the 290 mail-survey respondents either did not receive the coastal hazards disclosure or did not recall receiving it. In fact, a majority of those who responded to the survey had no idea their property was partly or totally seaward of the coastal construction control line, also known as the CCCL.

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