Climate Change Affects Homebuyer, Seller Decisions

Concerns vary by region, income level, age and race
Sand bags set up to stop flood waters reaching homes

Not only has climate change sparked concerns about extreme temperatures, rising sea levels and natural disasters, but it’s causing many homebuyers and sellers to rethink their real estate choices, a new survey suggests.

When natural disasters strike, homeowners can experience property damage and disruptions to their everyday lives. Real estate brokerage Redfin sought to find out how concerned homeowners and homebuyers are about climate change’s potential impact on a region when selling or buying a house. To gather its data, Redfin surveyed more than 3,000 adults from the U.S. and Canada who either bought or sold a primary residence in the last year, or plan to buy or sell one in the next 12 months.

Most homebuyers and sellers have some level of concern about the possibility of being affected by a natural disaster, the survey found. In fact, 73% said an increase in the frequency or intensity of natural disasters factors into their decision about whether or where to buy or sell a home, either somewhat (40%) or very much (33%).

Climate change concern varies by region

Residents of Houston — which saw more than 50 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey in 2017 — were most concerned about climate change among the U.S. and Canadian areas surveyed. A majority (58%) of respondents from Houston said an increase in the frequency or intensity of natural disasters factors into their homebuying or selling decisions “very much.”

The following felt the same way:

  • 47% of New York residents
  • 46% of Miami residents
  • 44% of Austin, Texas, residents
  • 43% of Los Angeles residents
  • 41% of San Francisco residents
  • 40% of South Carolina residents
  • 40% of Sacramento, Calif., residents
  • 39% of Charlotte, N.C., residents
  • 37% of Tampa, Fla., residents
  • 35% of Washington, D.C., residents

Those who were least concerned about the effects of climate change on the homebuying or selling process tended to reside in the Midwest. Only 23% of Midwesterners said natural disasters were a major factor in their real estate decisions, compared with 35% of residents in the Northeast and 36% in the South.

Survey respondents with a household income of more than $200,000 were most likely to say natural disasters factored into their real estate decisions “very much” — with 42% feeling that way — compared with:

  • 32% of those who have a household income of $100,000 to $200,000
  • 34% of those who have a household income below $100,000

Age and race may also play a role in one’s level of concern about natural disasters. Among residents younger than 25, 42% said natural disasters factored into their real estate decisions “very much,” followed by:

  • 36% of those ages 35 to 44
  • 35% of those ages 25 to 34
  • 26% of those ages 45 to 54
  • 33% of those ages 55 to 64
  • 22% of those 65 and older

Black or African American respondents (45%) were most likely to say natural disasters factored very much into their homebuying and selling decisions, followed by Hispanics (43%), Asians (34%) and white respondents (32%).

Whether you buy a house in a disaster-prone region or not, make sure you have sufficient homeowners insurance to cover possible damage. If you do live in an area that has a high risk of disasters, there are special options such as Fair Access to Insurance Requirements (FAIR) programs to explore.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.