About 10.6 million homes, or 8 percent of the 131 million homes in the U.S., have a “very high risk” of being struck by natural disasters, according to RealtyTrac’s Natural Disaster Housing Risk Report for 2014. The report assigns a natural disaster risk score to more than 3,000 counties across the country, with 373 — mostly in the South, Midwest, and Eastern seaboard — identified as very high risk. RealtyTrac measures the risk for three natural disasters: hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes.
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Meanwhile, 3.9 million housing units — or 3 percent of total housing stock in the country — fell in the “very low risk” category. The largest percentage of housing units — 47 percent (or 61 million units) — fell in the “high risk category,” according to RealtyTrac’s report.
“The potential risk of a natural disaster may not be the first item on most home buyers’ checklists for a dream home, but prudent buyers will certainly take this into consideration along with myriad other factors that could affect home value,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac. “In the past, natural disaster data was technically available but difficult for buyers and home owners to dig up; however, now the data is readily available online for virtually any U.S. property, and buyers should take advantage of this.”
But home owners and buyers don’t seem to be letting the risk of natural disasters deter them from living in certain locations. The median home price in the counties with low risk or very low risk for natural disasters averaged $161,000 in April. On the other hand, the counties located in areas deemed “high risk” averaged $377,483.
“The higher median home prices in many counties with a high risk for natural disaster indicates that other location-based factors, such as weather and access to jobs, override concerns about home damage as a result of earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes,” Blomquist says.
RealtyTrac has an interactive heat map that displays the county-by-county natural-disaster risk levels. RealtyTrac also operates www.homefacts.com, which lists the natural-hazard risk for 110 million property addresses nationwide.
The county with the lowest risk of being struck by a natural disaster was Hennepin County, Minn., located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. Other low-risk areas included Dallas and Tarrant County in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area; Oakland County, Mich. (Detroit metro area); Bexar County, Texas (San Antonio metro area); Allegheny County, Pa. (Pittsburgh metro area); Sacramento County, Calif.; and Franklin County, Ohio (Columbus metro area).