SEATTLE, Feb. 5, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — (NASDAQ: RDFN) — Wildfires threaten $1.5 trillion worth of homes in the United States, representing a disproportionately large portion–7.7 percent–of U.S. housing value, according to Redfin, (www.redfin.com), the next-generation real estate brokerage. The counties at the greatest risk–California’sLos Angeles, Orange and Santa Clara–are among the country’s most expensive housing markets and are already plagued by ongoing inventory shortages. But local real estate agents say the wildfire risk is not deterring homebuyers from continuing to put down roots in these communities.
“People who are still in shock from losing their homes and possessions from the October fires are greeting one another at open houses while comparing notes on the hotels or rentals where they are temporarily living,” said Redfin Santa Rosa agent Starling Scholz. “People view wildfire risk as a price of living in California that’s well worth the rewards: beautiful weather, nature and well-paying jobs.”
Below are the top 10 counties for risk of wildfire destruction, ranked according to the estimated total value of homes at risk. To be considered, there had to have been at least five major fires recorded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the county since 1960. Los Angeles, Orange and Santa Clara counties top the list, which is dominated by California counties. The only non-California counties to make the list were Harris and Dallas counties in Texas and Clark county in Nevada. California is so predominant in the ranking not only because of the state’s high frequency of wildfires, but also because of its desirable, expensive housing markets. If demand for homes in these places doesn’t subside, inventory shortages and affordability crises in these places will likely continue as wildfires inevitably destroy more homes each year.
Top 10 U.S. Counties for Fire Risk
Major Fires in County since 1960 (FEMA)
Estimated Median Home Value in County (Census data)
Estimated Total Value of Homes in County (Census data, in billions)
# of Homes at Risk in County (Census data)
Change in Homes for Sale (December 2016-December 2017)
Los Angeles County, CA
Orange County, CA
Santa Clara County, CA
San Diego County, CA
Harris County, TX
Riverside County, CA
San Bernardino County, CA
Dallas County, TX
Ventura County, CA
Clark County, NV
“Restrictive zoning and underbuilding make wildfires even more damaging for homeowners and renters in affected areas. Despite strong demand and severe inventory shortages, California has built the fewest number of homes per new resident of any state, with just one unit for every four new residents, compared to one new unit for every 1.8 new residents nationally,” said Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson. “When people whose homes just burned down are jumping back into bidding wars to buy new homes in the same area, you know wildfires alone won’t cool these competitive markets. However, California’s chronic lack of homes and eroding affordability make recovering from a natural disaster much more challenging than in states like Texas with more adequate housing supply.”
Redfin Santa Barbara agent John Venti has noticed that while wildfires certainly pose a risk to homes, California’s overall affordability is a bigger concern for homebuyers.
“I was touring with clients last month, and in the 15 minutes it took to see the home, our cars were completely covered in ash from nearby wildfires,” said Venti. “The homebuyers were not fazed. If anything, people are more often deterred from buying homes in this area by high gas prices and high taxes than wildfires.”
For the people who are still interested in buying homes in wildfire zones, Venti has some advice.
“It’s important to get a fire insurance quote before falling in love with a home,” he said. “We’ve had people and properties receive exorbitantly high quotes for fire insurance. Others were flat-out denied coverage because the home was too risky or the buyer had a large outstanding claim from a previous fire. California FAIR Plan property insurance may be able to provide insurance for homes that have been denied coverage.”
About Redfin Redfin (www.redfin.com) is the next-generation real estate brokerage, combining its own full-service agents with modern technology to redefine real estate in the consumer’s favor. Founded by software engineers, Redfin has the country’s #1 brokerage website and offers a host of online tools to consumers, including the Redfin Estimate, the automated home-value estimate with the industry’s lowest published error rate for listed homes. Homebuyers and sellers enjoy a full-service, technology-powered experience from Redfin real estate agents, while saving thousands in commissions. Redfin serves more than 80 major metro areas across the U.S. The company has closed more than $50 billion in home sales.
For more information or to contact a local Redfin real estate agent, visit www.redfin.com. To learn about housing market trends and download data, visit the Redfin Data Center. To be added to Redfin’s press release distribution list, subscribe here. To view Redfin’s press center, click here.