Flood insurance uncertainty could cripple SWFL real estate market

CREATED Feb 7, 2014

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SANIBEL, Fla. -- Uncertainty over looming flood insurance rate hikes could hinder Florida's recovering real estate market, industry experts believe. 

It's uncertain whether Congress will pass a bill to delay the rate hikes, which leaves realtors with few answers for buyers.

"You don't know when the flood maps are going to be redrawn, what the premiums will go up to," said Jeff Burns, realtor with Royal Shell Real Estate on Sanibel.  

The realtor has had a handful of buyers back out of purchases because of the uncertainty over what their flood insurance premium will be.   Others are opting not to build, which costs jobs for the contractor and other workers he had originally hired for the project. 

"It's not just the people on the coast, it's the people who depend on those people for jobs," Burns said.

A bill that already passed the Senate but currently awaits passage in the House would delay the premium increases. 

"We need the house to pass this delay bill to allow the proper time for the proper research to find the best solutions to this problem, not the quick fix," said Chris Heidrick, owner of Heidrick and Company Insurance on Sanibel.

Heidrick will be joining Chairman of Lee County Board of Commissioners Larry Kiker, along with the mayors of Fort Myers Beach, Bonita Springs, Sanibel and Cape Coral, on a trip to Washington D.C. next week to discuss the local impacts of the Biggert Waters Act.

"I just can't seem to strive enough to people just how important this is... this is pass or fail in terms of our future," Kiker said.