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Real Estate

Realtor.com now discloses flood risks – Here’s why its competitors won’t

Competitors Zillow and Redfin wary of publishing data that hurts homeowners

The Zillow listing for 3913 Pirates Beach Circle in Galveston, Texas highlights the “incredible water views of Marina Boulevard Lake,” and praises the home’s recently remodeled kitchen and original hardwood floors. For just $244,000, the waterfront home is “a must see,” according to the listing broker.

But the same listing displayed on Realtor.com could make it harder for the homeowners to find a buyer. An icon toward the top of the page alerts prospective buyers to the fact that the home scored a nine out of 10 on its flood risk score, even though the main structure is on stilts.

Starting this week, Realtor.com will display flood scores from nonprofit data provider First Street Foundation across its 110 million listings. It will also publish FEMA flood maps.

“Historically, determining a property’s flood risk was an onerous process — in some cases, potential buyers would have no idea a property was in a flood zone until it was flagged by the mortgage company prior to closing, or in some cases not at all,” said Leslie Jordan, senior vice president of product at Realtor.com. “By surfacing this information upfront, consumers can avoid surprises and have all the information they need to make informed decisions and feel confident about the home-buying process.”

According to Jordan, disclosure of flood risk for homes that are outside the official floodplain is critical: about one-third of federal disaster money paid out to flood survivors is distributed to people who live outside the zones.

But Zillow and Redfin aren’t following Realtor.com’s lead. Both listings portals told NPR that they have discussed publishing flood risks on listings, but aren’t ready yet.

Jeff Tucker, an economist at Zillow, told NPR that there are “a number of challenges with publishing flood risk data. “It’s something that I think, sooner or later, would be a great feature to include,” he said.

“We need to be very careful about how we provide information,” Taylor Marr, the lead economist at Redfin, told NPR. “Could this actually reduce the value of this existing homeowner and essentially take away a lot of their net worth?”



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