Survey: 64% of Home Buyers Don't Factor in Climate Change
The world's climate is changing and we are facing an increasing onslaught of dramatic weather occurrences year after year.
This year alone brought a new set of record-breaking forest fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, deep freezes, blizzards, and heat waves. Sudden torrential downpours are also happening at an alarming rate around the country and may sound innocuous but are actually responsible for a tremendous amount of damage and even loss of life.
The latest Emissions Gap Report by the United Nations shows global temperature will rise by 2.7°C by the end of the century, if we don’t take more drastic action to avoid even more catastrophic climate changes to our living environment.
With an eventful year of weather and climate alarm bells ringing, PropertyNest wanted to find out how many home buyers were taking note and consider climate change in their buying decisions.
PropertyNest asked: "If you bought a home or plan on buying a home in 2021 in the U.S. how important was or is climate change as a factor in helping you decide where or what to buy?"
- A total of 64.2% did not factor in climate change at all when purchasing a home. The top reason at 33.2% from respondents is that it simply did not occur to them. 18.9% didn't see how it was related to buying a home and 12.2% don't believe in climate change.
- The second-largest group of respondents after those who did not consider it, were home buyers who considered it one of the most important factors in their decision making at a total of 16.5%. 10.7% said it was one of their top priorities, while 5.8% responded saying it was the most important factor.
- 14.6% of respondents age 65 or older listed climate change as one of their top priorities when purchasing a home, making them the single largest age group to prioritize it. The second-largest age group to place climate change as one of their top priorities were respondents aged 25-34 at 12.4%.
- Respondents ag 35-44 were by far least likely to consider climate change as an important factor to consider when buying a home at only 5.3% listing it as one of their top priorities and 4.1% of them placing it as the most important factor. These were the lowest percentage for both answers among all age groups and were more likely to say that climate change was a low or medium priority for them. However, they were also the least likely to say that climate change isn't real.
- The youngest homebuyers were least likely to understand the connection to how climate change can have an effect on your home or its location. 21.6% of respondents 18-24 didn't see how the two could be linked.
- Men were more likely to take climate change seriously when it came to buying a home than women at 54.4% compared to 45.6% of women. Interestingly, men were also more likely to deny climate change than women at 53.9% compared to just 46.1% of women.
The disconnect to how climate change may affect homeownership may also be linked to would-be homeowners simply not understanding that climate change is what is fuelling the frequency of certain natural disasters and destructive weather events.
The pandemic lockdown created a buying frenzy from many Americans who even overbid for homes in a panic had little time to ponder the future cost of owning a home.
The scarcity of inventory is also skewing home prices even in areas that are considered high risk by insurance companies.
Reasons Climate Change May Be or Not Be Prioritized
The PropertyNest study shows the importance that climate change and understanding its direct effects on homeownership greatly lies in where you are in life.
For instance, older respondents, some from the age group of 55-64 but predominantly from the 65 and older demographic were more likely to be concerned about the effects of climate change and natural disasters.
This may largely stem from previous experiences as homeowners and facing real-life occurrences of damage to their homes or properties or possibly even losing a property to natural disasters.
The other group that was more likely to consider climate change was much younger--ages 25-34. It makes sense that these younger Millennials would take it more seriously as we are told by media and experts that Millennials and Gen Z Americans tend to consider climate change a major issue of their generations.
However, respondents aged 35-44 were less concerned about climate change when it came to buying a home. This could be due to the fact that more of them might be raising school-aged children with more financial constraints so things like school districting, space, or price can all be factors that trump climate change as a priority when buying a home.
The most interesting trend with the study is that the youngest homebuyers were less likely to understand how climate change could affect homeownership. While Gen Z, it’s said, is the most environmentally-conscious generation, age and inexperience might play a hand in the disconnect. It’s hard to see unless you’ve experienced the devastating effects that even a severe rainstorm can have on a home.
Climate Change Has Zero Impact On Home Price In Certain Markets But Insurance May Be Cost-Prohibitive
Depending on where buyers were looking, climate change seems to have had no impact on home prices. Khari Washington of, founder and broker of 1st United Realty and Mortgage in California states that she doesn’t see “property values declining”. Instead, “they are increasing because of how hot the real estate market is. There is so little inventory there are still enough buyers to purchase homes at risk of damage from climate change.”
Properties may eventually see a decline in price due to climate change but ‘‘properties in natural disaster-prone areas tend to be more attractive so that may offset the cost,” according to Omer Reiner, a licensed Realtor & president of FL Cash Home Buyers, LLC in Florida.
Even if home prices remain high in California and Florida, these homes in high-risk areas are becoming increasingly harder to insure.
Peter G. Conte of Honig Conte Porrino Insurance Agency, Inc. says that homes in those two states are becoming increasingly uninsurable. “Both state governments needed to get involved because both states have too high a risk factor for normal carriers to want to insure homes in them.” According to Conte, the state of California had to take measures to prevent insurance carriers from walking away and many homeowners seeking insurance in Florida need to go to the state-run insurance company, which is the “insurer of last resort”, in order to get any kind of coverage.
Meanwhile, in the states of Texas and Idaho, real estate professionals are seeing a decreased demand in high-prone disaster areas.
Dawn Templeton, broker and founder of Templeton Real Estate Group in Boise has seen more homebuyers concerned about natural disasters. “As a result, the price of houses residing in safer areas has already gone quite high. On the other hand, prices of properties in the higher risk areas are experiencing a decline,” remarks Templeton.
Trisha Menchu, a top agent with Coldwell Banker, Apex in the Waco area of Texas affirms this trend in her area. “Most buyers will shy away from properties in flood zones even if they have never flooded, and those homes usually sit on the market longer and sell for less per square foot than comparable properties that are not in those areas.”
How Homebuyers and Homeowners Can Shield Themselves
Most homeowners don't think beyond putting together a basic emergency kit for natural disasters and might hence, otherwise feel prepared.
Luckily, there are things that homebuyers can look for in order to reduce their risk of being subjected to the destructive effects of a storm.
In addition to looking at a FEMA flood map, Jennifer Naughton, a Risk Consulting Officer at Chubb Insurance notes, “Most homeowners think of flood as a risk when living along the coast or rivers but flooding is increasingly a risk for inland homes as well, especially when areas are experiencing a significant amount of water in a short amount of time.”
Ken Gregg of CEO Orion180, a regional insurance company, advises, “If the homes around you are at a higher elevation than your home or the home you want to purchase, you might consider when it rains the water will most probably run off of those properties and down to yours which could cause flooding even though you are not in a flood zone.”
Mark Snyder, Claims SME at Hi Marley, an insurance communication platform, offers invaluable advice for homebuyers.
“Prior to purchasing a home a buyer should be provided with the standard disclosures required by law, and a detailed history of the property including (to the degree possible) verification of any and all homeowners insurance claims.”
He also adds that it would be wise to ask neighbors about any water-related risks with the property in question.
When it comes to homeowners securing their property he warns, “the property could still be susceptible to damage from heavy rain events if proper steps have not been taken around the house to mitigate water damage,” even if the property is not in a FEMA flood zone.
Specifically, Snyder refers to those mitigation measures: “If applicable, install a sump pump, a backup sump pump, and make sure both also have battery back up in the event of a power loss. Make sure any susceptible foundation areas (cracks/gaps etc.) are properly protected by applying high quality, long-lasting sealants to any potential risk areas.”
Naughton adds an important piece of advice--to get a backup generator for when there are power outages. It can prevent major disasters from occurring in your home, especially in devastating or heat or cold.
Comprehensive Insurance Coverage is Key
Based on survey results almost 65% of American homebuyers are failing to consider the effects of climate change when purchasing a home when it could have life-changing repercussions.
Even more concerning is that about the same number of American homeowners don't have enough insurance coverage, according to CoreLogic's Residential Cost Handbook.
“A gap in preparedness and insurance coverage can make the difference between rebuilding or not being able to rebuild after a disaster. Additionally, when residents have not purchased enough insurance, they often have to turn to their savings, retirement funds, credit cards, or personal loans to finance their recovery. As a rule of thumb, it’s six times more expensive to be unprepared. A study from the National Institute of Building Sciences in 2020 found that for every $1 spent proactively on mitigation, $13 is saved in recovery costs,” offers Jeffrey Brewer of the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA)
Insurance industry experts agree that comprehensive homeowners coverage is the way to go if you want to make sure your tracks are covered.
However, if you live in a flood-prone area you should purchase separate flood insurance as most homeowners insurance won’t cover it. In addition, for those living near a fault line, you may need to purchase a separate earthquake policy. While homeowners insurance does normally cover fires, if you are living in an area at risk of wildfires, there may be some restrictions.
Whatever the case, if you’re concerned about any additional risks, you should speak with an insurance agent about the needs of your home as well as the natural disaster history of the area in which you live.
PropertyNest conducted an online survey among homebuyers in 2021 on if climate change was considered as a factor in their home purchasing process. 1,483 respondents ages 18 and older participated with a margin of error of +/- 2.7%.