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Your beach house may soon be worth less

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SALISBURY: For sale: waterfront property with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. Waves erode beach regularly. Flooding gets worse every year. Saltwater damage to lawn. Asking price: anyone’s guess.

Some research suggests rising sea levels and flooding brought by global warming are harming coastal property values. But other climate scientists note shortcomings in the studies, and real estate experts say they simply haven’t seen any ebb in demand for coastal homes.

So how much homeowners and communities should worry — and how much they should invest in remedies — remains an open question.

Nancy Meehan is considering putting her coastal condo in Salisbury up for sale this year, but she worries buyers will be turned off by the winter storms that churn the seas beside the summer resort town.

“All my life savings is in my home,” Meehan said of the four-bedroom, two-bathroom condo she bought for $135,000. “I can’t lose that equity.”

Nearby, Denis Champagne can’t be sure that rising seas are hurting his waterfront home’s value. The three-story, four-bedroom home has views of a scenic marsh, has been renovated and is blocks from the ocean — yet was assessed at only around $420,000.

A drop in home values could shatter a community like Salisbury, which relies almost exclusively on beachfront real estate taxes to fund schools, police and basic services.

A study by the First Street Foundation suggests climate change concerns have caused nearly $16 billion in lost appreciation of property values along Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast since 2005.

The study singles out Salisbury as the hardest-hit in Massachusetts. Coastal homes there would be worth $200,000 to $300,000 more if not for frequent tidal flooding and powerful coastal storms.

In another recent study , researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder’s School of Business found coastal properties most exposed to sea level rise sold for 7% less than equivalent properties the same distance from shore but not as threatened by the sea.

But other researchers note the First Street Foundation study uses sea-level rise predictions from the Army Corps of Engineers that are more dire than figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which usually provides the goto numbers for such studies.

The decision to use Army Corps projections has “minimal impact” on the assessment of current property values since those figures are based on where flooding is already happening, but it does factor into the study’s future estimates, said Steven McAlpine, a data scientist.

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