Insurance Costs Threaten Florida Real-Estate Boom

April 25, 2021, By Leslie Scism and Arian Campo-Flores | Photographs by Alfonso Duran, Wall Street Journal

MIAMI – Florida’s property-insurance market is in trouble, as mounting carrier losses and rising premiums threaten the state’s booming real-estate market, according to insurance executives and industry analysts.

Longtime homeowners are getting socked with double-digit rate increases or notices that their policies won’t be renewed. Out-of-state home buyers who have flocked to Florida during the pandemic are experiencing sticker shock. Insurers that are swimming in red ink are cutting back coverage in certain geographic areas to shore up their finances.

Various factors are at play, insurance executives and analysts say. Two hurricanes that slammed the state—Irma in 2017 and Michael in 2018—generated claims with an estimated cost of about $30 billion. The cost of reinsurance, which insurers take out to cover some of the risk in the policies they sell, is swelling. Of particular concern, executives say, are excessive litigation over insurance claims and a proliferation of what insurers see as sham roof-related claims.

A large group of Florida homeowner insurers tracked by Marsh McLennan’s Guy Carpenter business had $1.58 billion in underwriting losses in 2020, more than double the $664 million loss in 2019.

“The industry is in a panic because it is losing so much,” said Barry Gilway, chief executive of Citizens Property Insurance Corp., a state-backed insurer of last resort that is growing rapidly as private-sector insurers retrench. Barring changes, he said, “rates will continue to skyrocket and it absolutely will have an impact on the real-estate market.”

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(Original story location: Appeared in the April 26, 2021, print edition as ‘Insurance Sticker Shock Hits Florida Homeowners.’

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