Survey: Disaster-prone areas a key factor for homebuyers and sellers looking to relocate

by | Oct 7, 2022

 

  • The share is even higher among younger generations, high-earners, Democrats and people living in the Northeast
  • 2 in 5 buyers and sellers say climate risk was a factor in decision to relocate
  • Two-thirds of buyers and sellers say climate change impacted their home search

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of U.S. residents who plan to buy or sell a home in the next year are hesitant to move to an area at risk of natural disasters, extreme temperatures and/or rising sea levels, according to a new report from Redfin.

The technology-powered real estate brokerage shared on Friday that nearly three-quarters (71%) of Gen Z respondents said they would be hesitant to move somewhere at risk of natural disasters, extreme temperatures and/or rising sea levels. That compares with just over half (52%) of Baby Boomers. When it comes to political preference, 69% of respondents who identified as Democrat said they would be hesitant, compared with 58% of Republican respondents. Respondents in the Northeast were most likely to express hesitance, at 68%. That compares with 59% of respondents in the South.

While respondents largely expressed skepticism about moving to risky areas, Redfin noted that these areas have seen more people move in than out in recent years because they often offer relatively affordable homes and/or access to warm weather and the outdoors. Cape Coral, North Port and Tampa—three Florida metros impacted by Hurricane Ian—consistently rank on Redfin’s list of top migration destinations, which is based on how many more Redfin users are looking to move in than leave.

“One of the main questions I get from buyers is, ‘Where can I move that’s close to the beach but not in a flood zone?’ The answer is nowhere. If you’re not in a flood zone this year, you may be in a couple of years from now,” said Isabel Arias-Squires, a Redfin real estate agent in Fort Myers, which was among the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Ian. “This is Florida—hurricanes and flooding come with the territory. Homebuyers should always purchase flood insurance and invest in impact windows if they can.”

Arias-Squires is working with one out-of-state buyer who was under contract to purchase a second home sight-unseen in Cape Coral when Hurricane Ian made landfall in the area late last month. While the home only sustained minor damage, the buyer decided to back out—but then changed their mind because they didn’t want to lose their escrow deposit and realized they could make good money as a landlord.

“Demand for rentals is surging because so many people were displaced by the storm and need a place to live. There’s one home in Cape Coral that’s asking $7,500 a month, which is almost unheard of,” Arias-Squires added. “My out-of-state buyer plans to rent their new home out for six months and then make it their second home. They’ve still never seen it in person.”

While the places most endangered by natural disasters are still popular with many homebuyers, Redfin said that could shift as young people who grew up learning about climate change become a larger force in the housing market.

“The harsh reality is that most areas face at least some climate risk,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather. “House hunters should do their research to get a sense of where their families and finances will be safest. That might mean avoiding cities that in a decade could be underwater or have no water at all.”

Additionally, the report found that two in five (40%) respondents who plan to buy or sell a home in the next year said that risk of natural disasters, extreme temperatures and/or rising sea levels played a role in their decision to move. The share was again higher among younger generations, high-earners, Democrats and people living in the Northeast.

More than half of buyers and sellers making at least $100,000 a year said that risk of natural disasters, extreme temperatures and/or rising sea levels played a role in their decision to relocate in the next year. That compares with less than 40% of those making under $100,000.

“Affluent Americans have the means to move away from areas endangered by climate change, while lower-income Americans often can’t afford to make that a priority,” Fairweather said. “The recent surge in housing prices has exacerbated the problem; more house hunters are being forced to prioritize affordability over safety. The good news is people are becoming more educated about climate risks and what they can do to make their existing homes more resilient if relocating isn’t an option. Of course, that comes with costs as well.”

Another two-thirds (66%) of respondents who plan to buy or sell a home in the next year said climate change has impacted their home search in at least one way. The most common explanations were that climate change caused respondents to limit their search to homes that include certain features (17%) and that it impacted their homebuying budget (17%). Meanwhile, 15% of buyers and sellers said climate change caused them to search in a different part of their area. The same share said it changed their search timeline.

Redfin commissioned the survey in August to nearly 1,000 respondents who said they intend to buy or sell a home in the following 12 months.

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