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Homebuyers are paying a premium in fire, flood-prone areas

Brokerage says homebuyers are flocking to some of the riskiest areas in the country

More people have moved into high fire risk and high flood risk areas in recent years than out of them, according to research from Redfin.

The brokerage found that between 2016 to 2020, the 50 counties with the largest percentage of homes facing high fire and flood risk saw their populations grow an average of 3% and 1.9%, respectively. In addition, over the past two years, as interest and demand for second homes has grown, purchases of secondary homes with high flood, storm and/or heat risk have risen nearly 40%.

Despite flocking to these areas, a Redfin survey found that 63% of people who moved during the pandemic believe climate change is or will be an issue in the place they now live.

“From devastating floods in Kentucky and Missouri to deadly fires in California and brutal heat waves across the U.S., it’s clear that natural disasters are intensifying. Still, people are moving into risky areas,” Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist, said in a statement.

Previously, in many areas, homebuyers who were looking to get a bit more for their money would expand their home search into high fire or flood risk areas, as home prices there tended to be a bit cheaper.

In Paradise, California, which was destroyed by the Camp Fire in November of 2018, many agents say the home prices there are a draw.

“I think that [the threat of fire] is the biggest hurdle in getting people to go back or getting new people to the area,” Shane Collins, a RE/MAX agent in the neighboring city of Chico told HousingWire in December. “The people who do end up buying here, it is slightly more affordable and that kind of pushes them into deciding to buy here.”

However, this recent surge of demand has caused home prices in many of these high climate risk areas to rapidly rise and buyers are often paying a premium to live in these locations.

According to Redfin, the median sales price of a home with high fire risk was $550,500 in April 2022, compared with $431,300 for homes with low fire risk, a 27.6% difference. In high flood risk areas, the median sales price during the first quarter of 2021 was $402,010, compared to $353,783 for homes in low flood risk areas, a 13.6% difference.

“When people decide where to live, they consider a whole host of things ahead of climate change, which has potential implications on their safety, home stability, and finances,” Fairweather said.