Looking For A New Home? What Are Its Climate Risks?

Upwards of 80 percent of prospective home buyers in the U.S. consider climate risks when shopping for a new home. Credit: Pexels.com

Dear EarthTalk: Are people typically taking into account climate risks when they shop for a new home?

—Mary S., Old Forge, PA

It’s true that climate risks are increasingly a factor for Americans when purchasing their next residence. A September 2023 study by Zillow found that upwards of 80 percent of prospective home buyers in the U.S. consider climate risks—floods, wildfires, extreme temperatures, hurricanes, drought—when shopping for a new home.

“Climate risks impact where most prospective buyers shop for a home,” reports Zillow senior population scientist Manny Garcia. “While all generations juggle trade-offs like budget, floor plans and commute times, younger home shoppers are more likely to face another consideration: They want to know if their home will be safe from rising waters, extreme temperatures and wildfires.”

It’s no wonder that climate concerns are a bigger issue now more than ever for real estate given the uptick in extreme weather events and the fact that those born after 1980 (Gen Z and Millennials) comprise 54 percent of all home buyers in the U.S. Younger home buyers are much more likely to consider climate risks than older ones, and first-time buyers make up half of all home buyers.

Meanwhile, Redfin, a leading U.S. brokerage with an industry standard real estate listings website, recently began publishing air quality data in its home listings alongside information about schools, walkability and pricing history. The air quality data is one of the categories under the “climate” tab on all Redfin listings.  The data behind this feature comes from Risk Factor, a tool that pings multiple environmental monitors to predict specific environmental/climate risks. Homes.com and Realtor.com are among the other companies also offering this info from Risk Factor in their real estate listings.

“Seeing all the data helps people quantify the risk when deciding if they’re going to live in one county or another county,” Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin, tells The Washington Post. “What’s probably going to happen over time is that [poor air quality] is just another type of weather that people either can adapt to, or they say it’s not worth it.”

And you don’t have to be shopping for a new home to consider climate risks. There is much you can do to mitigate climate risks at your current address. According to ClimateCheck, which offers a free online property report on climate risks for any U.S. address, every homeowner today should consider updating building structures and materials to improve durability and resistance to extreme weather. Landscaping appropriately for the type of climate risks in your area can also be considered. Also, homeowners should create an action plan for disaster scenarios, purchase appropriate insurance and actively participate in community-wide efforts to mitigate climate damage. By taking proactive measures before a disaster occurs, you can safeguard your home from significant destruction. Additionally, this foresight can substantially reduce the financial burden and time required for post-severe weather event recovery efforts.

Whether you’re buying a new home or staying put in your current one, you’re going to need to factor climate risks into your decision making moving forward as the world warms.


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