While this article makes it clear that older homes were 50 times more likely to be destroyed by Category 4 Hurricane Charley, it missed an important point. Hurricane Andrew caused tremendous destruction to buildings near Miami in August of 1992.
While the Florida Building Code is revised periodically, it tooks years of study of the damage, testing and analysis that created the 2001 Florida Building Code (FBC 2001). This is the benchmark code that created a significant difference in how to construct houses in Florida. Further, this code went into effect with building permits applied for starting March 1, 2002. This is a crucial reference date. (My guess is if they looked at homes built to FBC 2001, over 10 years after Hurricane Andrew, they probably would have ZERO new code homes destroyed versus "the 20" that were most likely built in the 10 years prior to FBC 2001, that is, from 1992 to 2002).
Hurricane Charley provided a "field test" of houses built to the FBC 2001 literally next door to houses built to prior codes. While all the engineering test in some remote test center across the country is important, Hurricane Charley provided a real world test, particularly in the Deep Creek subdivision in Charlotte County. In this neighborhood of about 5,000 houses, the damage to houses built to prior codes experienced a range from $80,000 to $120,000 of insurance covered damages. Of the dozen homes Results Builders built to FBC 2001, our damage ranged from $400 on most houses to $3,500 on one house that was in the right-front quandrant of Hurricane Charley, damaging two pairs of double French Doors, and thus the carpet/pad in the adjoining bedrooms. (Hurricane Charley taught us that double doors need the newly designed 3-point locking mechanism and storm shutters, which is now standard on all our homes we build with double doors).
Mathematically, if you decide to purchase a home built prior to FBC 2001, you should negotiate a lower price of around $100,000 less than the same size new home built to FBC 2001 or newer codes. This amount of cash will take into account the amount of funds needed to repair an older home after it is damaged by a category 4 hurricane. It is possible that an insurance company will pay these damages, but the experience of thousands of "insured" homeowners from the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons may indicate less than satisfactory settlement.
Is this a bit strongly worded whether to buy new or used? Maybe, but it's based on the real world experience of Hurricane Charley and not theory. Maybe this conversation is a bit of "tough love" talk -- however, this firsthand experience emphasized the importance and the value of a well-constructed home when the storms head your way.
What about the Cost Difference on Insurance Rates?
Insurance Rates New vs Older Houses
The insurance rate for older houses costs around $1,000 to $1,500 more than a house built to the new building codes. This additional $1,000 or more must be paid each and every year. Over 10 years, this adds up to around $10,000 to $15,000 wasted. That could buy many really nice vacations, a plasma TV, new furniture, etc.
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