While many assume that residents will abandon their homes en masse and property values will plummet after a big natural disaster—as happened in some New Orleans neighborhoods after Hurricane Katrina in 2005—that’s not always the case. In fact, with Hurricanes Jose and Katia brewing offshore behind Irma, a look back at the two most destructive storms in recent U.S. history, Katrina and Sandy, show just how dramatically the levels of destruction and speed of recovery can vary.
It’s looking like a once-in-a-generation hurricane season for the southeastern United States. Harvey has left at least 70 people dead and battered nearly 200,000 homes along the southern border of Texas and Louisiana. Meanwhile, Irma has wrecked several Caribbean islands and is threatening Florida and other portions of the coast with the prospect of more lives and homes lost, and years of painful rebuilding.
Once lives no longer hang in the balance, the attention inevitably will turn to longer-term devastation: What happens to the real estate in those storm-ravaged towns and cities?
It might not be what you think.