How California's Wildfires Affect Home Sales and Values

Redfin data show slower home price growth in areas recently affected by wildfires, while developers rush in to rebuild.

October 13, 2021, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Fuel Break Wildfire

Pacific Southwest Region USFWS / Flickr

A Redfin analysis of home prices in areas affected by California wildfires found that home values grew more slowly there than in the state as a whole, report Lily Katz and Sebastian Sandoval-Olascoaga. "In the three years after the fires, home prices climbed by 21% on average, compared with 33% growth in areas just outside the reach of the fires."

Sales also slow after a fire due to reduced inventory and fear of future fires. "Home purchases inside the fire perimeters suffered the most during the first year after the fires, plummeting 43%. By year three, that decline had shrunk to 29%, as more homes were rebuilt and memories of the fires grew increasingly distant."

"There are $628 billion worth of homes in California that face high fire risk, more than any other Western state analyzed by Redfin in June." And while average homeowners pull back in the immediate aftermath of a fire, investors swoop in with all-cash offers. "In the areas Redfin analyzed that were directly impacted by fires, there was a 595% average increase in the number of homes built during the three years after the fires." Local leaders, under pressure to recover lost tax revenue, are incentivized to rebuild quickly and encourage new development after a wildfire.

"As climate change continues to fuel life-threatening wildfires, local and federal leaders should develop plans to mitigate the risks of natural disasters and keep their communities safe." Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather gives several recommendations for mitigating wildfire risk: limiting building in high-risk areas, eliminating single-family zoning to encourage higher density in already developed areas, and raising public awareness about fire risk.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021 in Redfin

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