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Florida faces housing crisis as insurance costs force seniors out

By Jake Beardslee · February 1, 2024

In brief…

  • Premium hikes force homeowners, especially seniors, to face unaffordable insurance or losing coverage entirely.
  • 15% of Florida homeowners lack insurance versus 7% nationally, turning to risky alternatives.
  • Monthly condo fees double as associations absorb huge insurance increases.
  • Buyers look to cheaper homes or rentals, while some sellers can't renew policies.
Escalating homeowners insurance costs in hurricane-prone Florida, especially for seniors on fixed incomes, are creating an affordability crisis that threatens longtime residents' ability to keep their homes.  Arian Fdez/Wikimedia

Seniors living on fixed incomes in Florida are increasingly worried that escalating homeowners insurance premiums may force them out of their homes, according to real estate agents and mortgage lenders in the state.

With hurricane risks growing, insurers “either stop writing in Florida or they greatly spike up their prices,” said Ryan Thaler, vice president at Tampa mortgage lender, in an interview with The New York Post.

Many homeowners now pay $2,000 to $3,000 annually for coverage, compared to the national average of $1,700. And some can no longer afford it.

“I get up and think, ‘Well, do I start packing?’” said Ellen Fincher, 72, of Vero Beach, to WP-TV. Her $13,000 premium has jumped so much that as a senior on Social Security, “I can’t, not when you’re on a fixed income.”

As a result, “People are using cash and foregoing insurance on single-family homes,” said Michael Martirena, a realtor in Miami, according to The Post. An estimated 15% of Florida homeowners now lack coverage, versus 7% nationally.

With underwriters restricting mortgages, “People are rethinking” buying homes in Florida, instead looking at rentals or condos with insurance bundled into maintenance fees, Martirena said.

For condo owners, association fees have spiked 50-100% in one year to cover pricier insurance, agents said. A Miami condo dweller saw her monthly fee double to $1,800.

Lawmakers hope to curb costs by limiting lawsuits against insurers and requiring discounts for storm-proofing homes. But for now, rising insurance premiums has homebuyers scaling back plans or fleeing the market, agents report.