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Neglected No More: Housing Markets, Mortgage Lending, and Sea Level Rise

Working paper #832
Benjamin J. Keys and Philip Mulder
NBER WORKING PAPER SERIES

ABSTRACT
In this paper, we explore dynamic changes in the capitalization of sea level rise (SLR) risk in housing and mortgage markets. Our results suggest a disconnect in coastal Florida real estate: From 2013-2018, home sales volumes in the most-SLR-exposed communities declined 16-20% relative to less-SLR-exposed areas, even as their sale prices grew in lockstep. Between
2018-2020, however, relative prices in these at-risk markets finally declined by roughly 5% from their peak. Lender behavior cannot reconcile these patterns, as we show that both all-cash and mortgage-financed purchases have similarly contracted, with little evidence of increases in loan
denial or securitization. We propose a demand-side explanation for our findings where prospective buyers have become more pessimistic about climate change risk than prospective sellers. The lead-lag relationship between transaction volumes and prices in SLR-exposed markets is consistent with dynamics at the peak of prior real estate bubbles.

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