Rising sea levels threaten $19 billion in real estate across Maryland, study says

Rising sea levels threaten $19 billion in real estate across Maryland, study says
This file photos shows flooding at the historic African-American cemetery in Broadneck, in Anne Arundel County. A recent study by Zillow says rising sea levels threaten to damage 61,548 homes in the state by 2100. (courtesy / Capital Gazette)

Rising sea levels this century threaten to sink 61,548 homes across Maryland — valued at $19 billion — by the year 2100, according to the real estate data firm Zillow.

In light of the property damage caused by recent hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and the Caribbean U.S. territories, Zillow looked at threats posed by the slower moving but potentially more destructive phenomenon of climate change.


Zillow considered the types of homes that would become submerged should sea levels rise six feet. That’s toward the high end of a range developed by scientists at 13 federal agencies in a recent government report. The scientists developed a range from one foot (the “low” scenario) to eight feet (the “extreme” scenario).

Not all affected homes — Zillow defined “submerged” as the flooding of the ground floor — would be pricey waterfront real estate. Fifty-nine percent of the Maryland homes would be in the middle and bottom two tiers of home values.The median value of the homes would be $246,266.

Salisbury would be the community hit hardest in the state, and among the 10 hit hardest in the nation. The Eastern Shore city would lose nearly a quarter of its homes to rising sea levels. Two thirds of those homes would be in the middle and bottom tiers of home values, Zillow found.

The Baltimore area would lose 12,122 homes, or a total of $5 billion in real estate value, Zillow reported. More than three quarters of those homes would be in the middle and top two tiers of home values. The Baltimore-area communities that would have the most submerged homes include:

  • 1,389 homes in Middle River
  • 1,031 homes in Dundalk
  • 938 homes in Baltimore
  • 844 homes in Grasonville
  • 783 homes in Edgemere
  • 778 homes in Annapolis

Zillow estimated that 1.9 million homes nationwide, or $916 billion worth of real estate, would be lost. About 40 percent of the homes come from the most valuable real estate tier.

Although sea level rise will not occur uniformly, as in a bathtub, Zillow chose an average rise for the country rather than apply predictions for different coastal areas.

Researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say that if global waters do rise 6 feet by 2100, waters in the Baltimore region will likely rise by 9 feet due to changes in land elevation, gravity, the Earth’s rotation and ocean circulation.

Much depends on the melting of the Antarctic ice sheets and future emissions, scientists say. State scientists currently predict the mid-range sea level rise in Maryland at 3.7 feet by 2100, according to Gregg Bortz, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The Zillow analysis did not account for protective measures, such as lock systems, that could mitigate the sea-level rise.