Sep 12, 2023 - Climate

Californians' climate concern mounts during home buying process

Illustration of a real estate for sale sign with a fire emoji on it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Potential climate disasters are a major worry for people buying homes in California and across the West Coast, according to new research from Zillow.

Why it matters: Recent extreme weather events — from wildfires to heat waves and hurricanes — are pushing more homebuyers to consider the effects of climate change when they house hunt, Manny Garcia, senior population scientist with Zillow, told Axios.

Driving the news: Of roughly 4,600 prospective homebuyers surveyed nationwide between April and July, more than 80% said they consider at least one climate risk when purchasing a home.

  • In Pacific states — Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska and Hawai'i — it's an even bigger consideration, factoring into the process for 92% of buyers, Zillow found.

What's happening: In San Diego, strong and unpredictable wildfires present the biggest safety concern for buyers, and made it more difficult to get home owners insurance, according to Frank Powell, president of the Greater San Diego Association of Realtors.

  • The problem is much of San Diego County is in a fire hazard zone, and susceptible to earthquakes, tsunamis and flooding, he said.
  • Realtors provide disclosure reports about natural hazards, which tell homebuyers the environmental risks at that address whether they're near a canyon or the coast. That information can lead some buyers to back out of a deal, Powell said.

Zoom in: State Farm stopped offering new home insurance policies to Californians this year, in part because of "rapidly growing catastrophe exposure."

Plus: Rising sea levels put waterfront properties at risk, but that risk extends throughout low-lying communities, like Imperial Beach.

Yes, but: High home prices in West Coast markets may be forcing many people who are worried about climate risks to compromise and accept those risks anyway.

  • While Pacific state homebuyers were conscious when choosing a home, they also were more likely than people elsewhere to say they plan to buy in an area with one or more disaster risks.

What they're saying: "At the end of the day, most folks don't have the money to get everything they want, including a climate-proof home," Zillow's Garcia said.

Be smart: Residents can use this natural hazards mapping tool to get information on wildfire, earthquake, flood and tsunami risks around San Diego County.


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