Home Buyers Do Not Care About Wildfires

You'd think living in the path of known natural disasters would deter a person from buying a house there. When it comes to wildfires, however, our memories are hilariously short. The fallout is no laughing matter, though.

Economists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, have announced a forthcoming study examining home prices in areas devastated by wildfires. Immediately after a fire disaster, asking prices do drop for homes and property in and near the affected area. Within about two years, however, they begin to return to normal. In short: Buyers stop caring about whether a property is prone to wildfires when it's been a little while since a fire happened.

This is a big issue on many fronts. Obviously the risk of another wildfire threatening homes is worth considering in your house hunt. But research also shows that buyers tend to put a premium on the kinds of landscapes most often affected by wildfires — remote, with heavy vegetation and great mountaintop views. Increased building and development in those very regions exacerbate conditions that promote wildfires, egged along by climate change.

We're already placing a premium on houses, especially first homes, given that nationwide, there simply aren't enough of them. While you're looking for a new place to live, including long-term, don't forget to evaluate the environment around the property. Look into local history, especially if the area is disaster-prone. Finally, if you're not concerned about the likelihood of wildfires (or flooding, or any other big problem), your insurer might be. Check into hazard or homeowners' insurance rates for that area. That could be more of a deciding factor than you think.