RealtyTrac has released its first-ever Natural Disaster Housing Risk Report, which assigns a natural disaster risk score to more than 3,000 county housing markets nationwide. Scores assigned to each county’s housing market were based on risk data for three natural disaster events — hurricanes, tornados and earthquakes — and each county was assigned to one of five risk categories based on their score: Very High Risk, High Risk, Medium Risk, Low Risk, and Very Low Risk (see more detailed methodology below).
Of the 3,138 U.S. counties analyzed in the report, 373 were classified as Very High Risk, representing 12 percent of all counties. The total number of housing units in those counties was 10.6 million, eight percent of total U.S. housing units.
Meanwhile, 271 counties fell into the Very Low Risk category, representing 3.9 million housing units — three percent of total U.S. housing units.
The biggest percentage of counties and housing units fell into the High Risk Category: 1,118 counties with a combined housing unit total of 61 million — representing 47 percent of total U.S. housing units.
There were 511 counties in the Medium Risk category, representing 29.9 million housing units (23 percent of U.S. total), and 865 counties in the Low Risk category, representing 25.5 million housing units (19 percent of U.S. total).
“The potential risk of a natural disaster may not be the first item on most homebuyer checklists for a dream home, but prudent buyers will certainly take this into consideration along with myriad other factors that could affect home value,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “In the past natural disaster data was technically available, but difficult for buyers and homeowners to dig up; however, now the data is readily available online for virtually any U.S. property, and buyers should take advantage of this.”
Blomquist noted that users can view natural hazard risk data for 110 million property addresses nationwide by simply by visiting their site.
Home Prices Higher, Five Year Appreciation Higher in High-Risk Counties
Among the 34 counties nationwide with at least 500,000 housing units, none were in the Very High Risk category, and only one was in the Very Low Risk category: Hennepin County, Minn., in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.
Following Hennepin County with the lowest total risk scores were Dallas and Tarrant County in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area; Oakland County, Mich., in the Detroit metro area; Bexar County, Texas in the San Antonio metro area; Allegheny County, Pa., in the Pittsburgh metro area; Sacramento County, Calif.; and Franklin County, Ohio in the Columbus metro area.
Most of the counties with at least 500,000 housing units were in the Medium Risk category (13) or High Risk category (13). Counties with the highest total risk score of 45 in the High Risk category were San Diego and Riverside in Southern California; Kings (Brooklyn), New York (Manhattan), Queens, Bronx and Suffolk in the New York City area; Wayne County, Mich., in the Detroit metro area; Philadelphia County, Pa.; and Middlesex County, Mass., in the Boston metro area.
“While other parts of the country experience blizzards, hurricanes and tornadoes, Southern California residents really only have to worry about the occasional earthquake, most of which cause just minor damage to affected areas,” said Chris Pollinger, senior vice president of sales at First Team Real Estate, covering the Southern California market. “The market’s positive attributes, such as ideal climate and lack of bugs, balance out the potential risk of the occasional earthquake.”
Among the 34 counties with more than 500,000 housing units, the average median sales price in April 2014 was $268,470, 56 percent higher than the national median price of $172,000 in April. The average annual home price appreciation in these counties was 12 percent, slightly higher than the 11 percent year-over-year increase in the national median home price in April.
Median home prices in the eight counties with Low Risk or Very Low Risk for natural disasters averaged $161,000 in April, while median home prices in the 12 counties in the High Risk category averaged $377,483. Annual home price appreciation in the 12 counties in the High Risk category averaged 10 percent compared to April 2013, while annual home price appreciation in the eight counties in the Low Risk and Very Low Risk categories averaged 12 percent compared to April 2013.
Median home prices in April were up 34 percent on average compared to five years ago in the counties with a High Risk for natural disasters, while median home prices were up 23 percent on average compared to five years ago in the counties with a Very Low Risk or Low Risk for natural disasters.
“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, tornados and hurricanes,” Blomquist added.
51 Counties with Very High Risk
There were 51 counties with a population of 100,000 or more with a total natural disaster risk score that classified as Very High Risk. This included counties in 14 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Among these counties the median home price in April 2014 was an average of $120,972, 30 percent below the national median home price of $172,000 in April. Home prices in these counties on average increased nine percent from a year ago in April, compared to an 11 percent annual increase nationwide.
Counties in the Very High Risk category with the largest populations were Fulton and Dekalb counties in the Atlanta area; Shelby County in the Memphis, Tenn., area; Worcester County, Mass.; and Oklahoma County in the Oklahoma City area.
“While it is always important to take into account all benefits and risks of buying a home, housing markets are constantly fluctuating and can quickly bounce back after a natural disaster,” said Sheldon Detrick, CEO of Prudential Detrick/Alliance Realty, covering the Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla., markets. “Just one year after the most recent tornado devastated the southern part of Oklahoma City, we are starting to exceed pre-recession levels in all categories of the market.”
20 Counties with Very Low Risk
There were 20 counties with a population of 100,000 or more with a total natural disaster risk score that classified as Very Low Risk. This included counties in six states: Colorado, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Among these counties the median home price in April 2014 was an average of $162,579, 5 percent below the national median home price of $172,000 for the month. Home prices in these counties on average increased eight percent from a year ago in April, compared to an 11 percent annual increase nationwide.
Counties in the Very Low Risk category with the largest populations were Hennepin, Ramsey, Dakota and Anoka, all in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area; Adams and Weld counties on the Colorado Front Range; Brown County, Wis., in the Green Bay area, and Outagamie County in Appleton Wisconsin.