By Lena Moriarty
Local realtors are waiting for decisions on two major insurance programs which could affect housing prices in Wrightsville Beach and New Hanover County going forward.
Earlier this month, Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey declined the prospective increase put forth by the N.C. Rate Bureau planning to increase single-family homeowner insurance rates.
“We are not in agreement with the Rate Bureau’s proposed increases,” said Causey of the proposed 18.7 percent average increase.
This increase indicated that coastal homeowners will pay more for home insurance than they previously were while western North Carolina will receive deductions. For Wrightsville Beach homeowners, it is only a matter of time before the hikes come. The N.C. Rate Bureau estimates that they need an 80 percent increase for the New Hanover area, but they are only asking for 18 percent, Cape Fear Realtors said.
Causey, who was sworn in earlier this month, is seeking to configure a solution that would be in the best interest of the homeowners and the insurance companies.
“This is good news for the region, especially for homeowners,” said Cape Fear Realtors CEO Taylor Oldroyd.
There has been no increase since 2012 after a failed increase proposal in 2014.
The increase was supposed to go into effect July 1 but now there is a scheduled hearing July 23 in Raleigh. After the hearing, Causey will have 45 days to come to a conclusion.
Meanwhile the National Flood Insurance Program was set to expire on Jan. 19 with hopes of an extension because of its ties to the appropriations bill in Congress. This weekend NFIP officially lapsed as the government reopened without reaching a deal. This means that no new insurance policies can be purchased and no renewals can be processed.
According to FEMA, there were 4,855 NFIP policyholders in New Hanover County.
The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents said it is “extremely disappointed with the lapse,” and that “many consumers engaged in real estate transactions may experience disruptions because of this lapse with some home sales put on indefinite hold.”
For Wrightsville Beach, this could mean trouble. “Beyond having much higher rates than rest of state, we have to purchase separate wind and hail policies,” said Shane Johnson, Chief Operating Officer of Cape Fear Realtors.
Homeowners who already have insurance policies will not immediately feel the effects, but homeowners with federally-backed mortgages with flood-zone properties will be required to have insurance. With the potential homeowner’s insurance increase and the lapse of NFIP, it could affect the cost of living in Wrightsville Beach and other New Hanover County locations, Johnson said.