Homeowners can check a property’s flood, heat and wildfire risk for free with this powerful app

By Rachel Koning Beals

First Street Foundation opens its Risk Factor Pro tool for wider use – data and maps typically reserved for large investors and property developers

What if, before you put down thousands of dollars for a down payment or signed a 30-year mortgage in today’s uncertain real estate market, you had a clearer idea of ​​the risks of flooding, extreme heat or wildfire that could threaten your dream home or drive up insurance premiums to an uncomfortable level?

What if the property snapshot not only digitally drew and explained future floods, wildfires or heat that could damage the home, but also offered cost estimates to repair or replace your home, before you even buy it? ?

Read: ‘Only time will tell if September was the worst:’ Zillow reports sharp decline in home values ​​in these cities amid bleak outlook for U.S. real estate market

First Street Foundation, a mostly grant-funded research nonprofit whose maps and detailed interactive data, tracks the impacts of climate change on homes or development land. The group uses climate-adjusted data to understand the 30-year risk profile of more than 140 million homes and properties in the United States.

First Street’s tool was already growing on sites like Realtor.com, Redfin (RDFN) and other SEO services. Now, First Street is bringing its most robust online tool and app to a wider audience – and for free.

The information available through its Risk Factor Pro, as the unlocked tool is known, includes damage cost estimates and improved analysis of how floods, extreme heat and wildfires affect a building. It uses visual graphs and interactive maps to paint a useful picture and allows users to customize building characteristics – how far from the property a natural fuel like wood is or what roofing material is used, for example.

Additionally, the risk factor allows users to broaden the view to help future owners better summarize the future health and reliability of recreational features, transportation infrastructure, and other amenities that face the same uncertain future caused by climate change.

The Pro feature was previously reserved for large institutional investors or mortgage banks and aggregates data that can cost tens of thousands of dollars to access. Instead, the findings of data scientists using climate modeling will be clickable for anyone interested in a valuation of their own property or one they are considering buying, the organization announced this week.

“First Street democratizes this data for everyone and helps level the playing field between large mortgage institutions and the average American homeowner,” said Matthew Eby, Founder and CEO of First Street Foundation.

The risk factors, which can be searched by property, zip code or state, are intended to help homeowners, realtors and, potentially, insurers better understand the impact of climate change on home values ​​and the cost of ownership.

Flood insurance, for example, has traditionally been covered by a federal program, and research finds that most homeowners are underinsured in the event of a flood, even after FEMA updated its maps and more and more private carriers are getting into flood insurance.

Researchers at North Carolina State University said federal flood maps underestimate flood risk in Florida and other states. This may cause many homeowners to skip buying flood insurance – a decision many may regret as they attempt to clean up water-damaged homes after the latest devastating storm to hit the Gulf Coast. , Hurricane Ian.

Whether it’s heat, fires, floods, shoreline erosion or air quality, climate change considerations are slowly being factored into purchasing decision making. of a house, a change that is not lost on the real estate sector.

Compass, the largest residential real estate brokerage in the United States, said over the summer it would begin integrating climate risk analysis into the home buying and selling process for agents and customers.

Buyers and sellers, and especially their real estate professional, should all consider whether the price of a home reflects immediate risks, such as flooding, but also the likelihood of property damage, energy costs or limited ability to enjoy the outdoors. could emerge in the years to come. And given these growing risks, homeowners need to determine if the home is properly insured, including accurately reflecting the replacement value.

“For buyers who are preparing to invest what amounts to their savings in the purchase of a home, understanding the true flood risk of that particular home is much more sophisticated today than checking flood maps. from FEMA or ask a lender if flood insurance will be needed,” David said. Worters, Broker/Chief Agent and Founder at Compass in Raleigh, NC.

“Buyers today understand that hyper-local factors such as impervious surfaces, elevations, street slopes and so many other factors need to be considered,” he said.

On the same subject: A retirement sheltered from climate change? Ask the tough questions about real estate and property insurance

First Street rolled out floods first, then wildfires, data and more recently extreme heat hazards, which can be a learning curve for homeowners who might not consider themselves vulnerable to the weather. long-term impact of heat on property and the livability of the area where this property exists.

It is important to note that even areas that have only experienced a few hot days each year will see changes.

First Street mapping shows that in the United States, on average, the local seven hottest days are expected to become the hottest 18 days by 2053. By that year, 1,023 U.S. counties are expected to surpass 125 degrees Celsius, an area that is home to 107.6 million Americans. and covers a quarter of the land area of ​​the United States.

Read more: A quarter of the United States will fall inside an extreme heat belt. Here are the states in the red zone

-Rachel Koning Beals


(END) Dow Jones Newswire

08-11-22 2000 ET

Copyright (c) 2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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