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Climate House Hunting: Waterfront Edition

The week’s hottest real estate listings, ranked by climate risk.

A flooded for sale sign.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Glued to real estate posts on The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Dwell, Spaces, The Modern House, or Architectural Digest and wondering how those gorgeous homes will hold up in the next decades? I have you covered.

Heatmap has partnered with my new climate risk platform, Habitable. Every Friday, we add a climate risk score to the real estate listings featured in the news this week and ask: Could you live here as the climate changes?

Using a model developed by a team of Berkeley data scientists at Climate Check, Habitable scores each property for heat, flood, drought, and fire risk on a scale of 1-10. One represents the lowest risk and 10 is the highest. Our rating for each hazard is based on climate change projections through 2050. (You can check your own home’s climate risk here.)

For today’s edition, I apply the Habitable Index to waterfront homes featured in the news this week. Is it possible to live on the water without going under. Will Bill Koch unload his Cape Cod ‘peninsula’ (and if you buy that, he’s got more swampland in Florida to sell)? And will Malibu surfers have to wave goodbye to The Wave house ?

1. Very well in Wellfleet

Wellfleet home designed by architect Serge ChermayeffPhoto: William Raveis

This modernist home designed by architect Serge Chermayeff is for sale on 2.32 acres in the pines of Wellfleet, home to an exclusive community of cottages where the elites of modern architecture summered together in the 1950s and ‘60s. Marcel Breuer, Serge Chermayeff, Walter Gropius, Constantino Nivola, the Saarinen family, Florence and Hans Knoll, their friends and clients all had homes or rented summer cottages here.

Only a short walk to the most swimmable ponds and to Newcombe Hollow Beach, this house is fantastically sheltered and absolutely habitable with barely a climate risk. Featured @thecreativesagent and listed for $2,895,000.

2. You won’t be too sleepless worrying about climate risk on this Seattle houseboat.

Hummingbird House on Seattle's Lake UnionPhoto: Zillow

Hummingbird House on Seattle’s Lake Union is for sale. This waterfront houseboat is conveniently located directly across the lake from the houseboat where Tom Hanks lived in Sleepless in Seattle. The three-bedroom home is named after the hummingbirds who nest each spring on one of the several outdoor decks. The birds don’t need to worry about being uprooted because the climate risk here is minimal — no fire, low heat and drought risk. The flood risk is 7/10, which would normally be worrying, except this house sits on a floating dock and will rise and fall with the seiches. Seems okay. Sugar water all round!

Featured inSFGate and listed for $1,995,000.

3. Woods Hole: No ferry required.

Beachfront home on Vineyard SoundPhoto: Sothebys

An unexpected and very habitable beachfront home on Vineyard Sound in Woods Hole is for sale. Interiors have custom cabinetry throughout and large, light open rooms with sweeping views to the beach and across to Marthas Vineyard. Perfect for a four-season beach getaway, the house has its own private beach and jetty with surprisingly moderate flood risk — 5/10 — considering the great location.

Featured in Dwell and listed for $5,999,000.

4. Who’s there? It’s Bill Koch, land shark.

Bill Koch, the 83-year-old billionaire, has put 11 vacant acres of his Osterville estate on the market for a combined $16 million. Koch told the Wall Street Journal that he has decided to sell the vacant lots ‘because real-estate values have appreciated, and he doesn’t need the property.’ Buyer beware: Of the two batches of land on the available 11 acres, the parcels at the SeaPuit address have 7/10 flood risk. The Indian Trail parcels have no flood risk.

As seen in WSJ and listed for a combined $16 million.

5. Frank Lloyd Wright House with water, water everywhere.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural masterpiece on 14 acres of protected land in New Canaan, Connecticut, is for sale. He lived here when he was building the Guggenheim museum

Yes, it would be a dream to live here. This is a house that requires you to live up to its architectural magnificence — a 15-room horseshoe-shaped house cantilevered over a pond and waterfall with a greenhouse, guesthouse, and bridge to a nearby river. And yet, it is also a house that would crush your soul when it inevitably floods, which, sadly, it is likely to do. Just writing that is crushing.

Featured in Mansion Global and listed for $8 million.

6. Every news headline said the same thing, but it’s still funny: Billy Joel definitely needs to be “Movin’ out.”


What’s more unbelievable — that Middlesea, Billy Joel’s just-listed waterfront estate on 26 acres on Oyster Bay Harbor has a bowling alley, helicopter pad, two pools, an extra beach mansion with floating dock, boat ramp, and a beauty salon (but only 5 bedrooms?). Or that the place is unhabitable for almost $50 million? Extreme flood risk is guaranteed on the 2,000 feet of waterfront. Just say no.

Featured in WSJ and listed for $49,000,000.

7. Tied for the least habitable beachfront home for sale this week: As Temporary as a Sandcastle.

Sandcastle by surfer and architect Harry GesnerChris Cortazzo

Surfer and architect Harry Gesner’s family home is on the market for the first time. The visionary designer, best known for the house he built next door — The Wave House — lived in his dream home, called Sandcastle, from when he built it in 1974 until last year when he died at age 97. With 122 feet of beachfront on Gesner’s favorite surf break, Sandcastle was built with love and a lot of salvaged lumber and old telephone poles. There are some insane details including a tree house, spiral driftwood stairs, an enormous arched hearth, and … portholes? Where am I? Soon, (sadly) under the sea or burnt to the ground.

Featured in @takesunset and listed for $27,500,000.

7. Tied for the least habitable beachfront home for sale this week: Say goodbye to The Wave House.

Wave House by Harry GesnerCarolwood Estates

It must be the week for offloading surfer-architect Henry Gesner houses. The Wave House is the house Gesner was most famous for, right next door to Gensler’s own home.

But the homes are polar opposites. The Wave House is light and airy inside. It has no dark wood, only wide open white spaces with undulating rooflines — more Jetson than Sandcastle’s Swiss Family Robinson.

Legendary record executive Mo Ostin, bought the house in 1987 and lived here until he died last year at age 95. But imagine the parties? His artists included Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, and Prince. The Wave House’s best days may also be behind it, considering the extreme drought, flood, and fire risk. Truly, it is the end of an era.

Featured on the Dirt and listed for $50 million.


Ann Marie Gardner

Ann Marie Gardner is an award-winning editor and entrepreneur. She writes about design and climate and just launched Habitable, a newsletter and tool to assess your home's risk from climate change. You can read it here: Read More

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