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Real Estate

Weather, disaster protection costing homeowners

Homeowners insurance doesn't cover all of the costs

Homeowners are spending money to battle the effects of weather and climate change on their properties, a new Redfin survey showed, with some allocating more than $5,000 to protect against events like extreme temperatures and flooding.

Approximately 60% of 1,200 surveyed homeowners said they have invested in making their homes more resilient to at least one weather-related risk, with more than 36% spending $5,000 or more.

Nearly 20% of respondents indicated they have fortified their properties against flooding, followed by protecting against earthquakes (16%), tornadoes (15%), hurricanes or other major tropical storms (13%), and severe snowstorms (10%).

These costs are in addition to what used to be considered the regular maintenance costs of owning a home, like replacing a roof or water heater.

“They’re protecting their home equity,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin‘s chief economist. “Some homeowners are finding that in order to preserve the value of their properties, they need to invest in making their homes more resilient to climate change and weather.”

Fairweather said among those surveyed, the most common amount spent was $5,000 to $9,999.

There have been a number of natural disasters in the last year, from flooding in the southeast to wildfires in the West: Redfin reported that more than 5 million acres burned across California, Washington, and Oregon in 2020. In February, winter storms in Texas left millions without power, leading to burst pipes and resulting water damage across the state. All of these incidents have hit homeowners in the wallet.

About two-thirds, or 65%, of the surveyed homeowners have a home insurance policy covering some type of natural disaster. Of those homeowners, approximately 45% said their premiums increased in the last year.

Flooding is the most common threat for which homeowners possess insurance, with 33% of respondents indicating they have policies to protect against floods specifically. Next come tornadoes (29%), earthquakes (22%), hurricanes or other major tropical storms (19%), and wildfires (15%).

Redfin’s Christopher Anderson, a California-based real estate agent, said earlier this month that some insurance plans don’t cover enough of the home’s damage, leaving victims strapped for cash after making weather repairs on their own.

“After wildfires destroyed much of Napa in 2017, the community rallied together and rebuilt, but when fires ravaged the area again in 2020, some folks just decided they were done,” Anderson said. “I had one client in St. Helena [California] whose home burned down in the last fire and only half of it was covered by the insurance company. She relocated to New York.”

Similarly, Redfin agent Ashley Vasquez — based in Houston — said flooding and the aftereffects of the winter storm are delaying some home sales.

“Homeowners are still getting their pipes repaired from the freeze, and some are still without water,” Vasquez said. “I had one home that was supposed to close a month ago, but the process has been delayed because of the storm. We now have to get the home reinspected and reappraised to assess whether the freeze impacted the value.”

CoreLogic’s Catastrophe Report said nearly a third of all U.S. homes are at high risk for natural disaster damage. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there were at least 14 natural disasters that resulted in losses exceeding $1 billion in the U.S. in 2019.

Improvements homeowners can take to protect against natural disaster or other weather-related damage to their homes include storm shutters, impact-resistant windows, safe rooms and stronger garage doors.

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