Watching the devastation along the Texas and Florida coast and across Puerto Rico has many homeowners wondering about how safe their cities are from natural disasters.
A recent study by ATTOM Data Solutions mapped the risk each county in the United States faces from a range of natural disasters, then compared the county’s risk factors to home prices.
Unsurprisingly, the study found that home prices seemed to indicate that people overlook risk of natural disasters in otherwise desirable counties. Orange County, Pierce County and Dade County are some of the most unsafe counties to live in for natural disasters, while simultaneously having some of the highest home prices.
While highly desirable counties with good jobs, beautiful scenery and high risk for natural disasters have higher home prices than safer counties in their own states and across the country, this study found that natural hazards do impact the value of a home.
“There is some evidence in the data that real estate consumers in certain areas are beginning to more heavily factor natural hazard risk into their decisions, particularly when it comes to flood risk,” Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions, said in a news release about the study. “Counter to the national trend, home price appreciation is slower in Florida and Louisiana cities with the highest flood risk than in cities with the lowest flood risk.”
Buying a new home is one of the most expensive purchases of a lifetime, so protecting a home from natural disasters is crucial for protecting a major investment. While homeowners cannot protect their homes from all types of natural disasters, there are ways to minimize damage.
How to Protect Your Home from Earthquakes
Because of earthquakes, California has some of the most hazardous cities and counties, but millions of people feel drawn to The Golden State. Home shoppers looking to buy new homes in California, or other earthquake-prone areas in the United States, can take steps to limit the damage done by earthquakes.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers guidelines on how to prepare your home for an earthquake. Before building a home in an area where earthquakes happen, assess the lot and remove any old or leaning trees. FEMA suggests making sure your builder reinforces cripple walls, chimneys and the roof. Make sure that the walls of the home have steel frames and the foundation has sill plates anchored to it to stabilize the home during an earthquake. If possible, see if your builder can install windows with rounded corners to reduce cracking and chipping.
After you move into your home, anchor large furniture pieces and appliances to limit the possibility of them falling over. For smaller things like computer and TV monitors and hanging pictures, try to attach them more securely so they do not fall and break.
How to Protect Your Home from Floods
Flooding is the most common natural disaster. Just one inch of water in a home can cost homeowners thousands of dollars in repairs. Fortunately, there are ways to build homes protected from flooding.
Before selecting a lot to build your new home, make sure you are not building in a flood plain. By purchasing a lot not in a flood plain, you can protect your home from routine flooding, lower your monthly insurance cost and help your home appreciate faster. Look for lots with higher elevation than the local flood level and avoid lots that sit in a depression or back up to drainage ditches or retention ponds.
After selecting the right lot, make sure that the lot gets properly graded to allow the water to drain away from your home and plant plenty of trees and plants to prevent soil erosion. If you live in a coastal area, look for a builder that either builds up the foundation or puts the home on stilts. Check out FEMA’s Flood Protection Elevation guidelines to understand how a home can endure a major storm.
During bad storms, you can take steps to prevent flooding. Keep your gutters and drains free from debris and make sure that the drainage paths on your property remain clear. Check any drainage ditches close to your home and make sure that they remain unclogged. If you think water will get in your home, remove or place expensive items at a higher elevation.
How to Protect Your Home from Hail and Ice
The largest hailstone ever recorded weighed almost two pounds! Unfortunately, hailstone much smaller can cause significant property damage. Every year, hail causes about $1 billion in damage, but you can limit the damage done to your home.
To limit the damage that hailstones can cause, have your builder install a hail-resistant roof on your home. The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety suggest asphalt shingles, metal, slate or tiles roofs. These roofs tend to pay for themselves overtime by limiting damage and extending the life of your roof. In addition to protecting your home from hail, these materials can protect your home from the effects of other forms of extreme weather such as high wind.
To protect your windows from hail damage, install storm shutters. There are many types of storm shutters available, so talk with your builder about which ones work best for your expected weather and your home.
How to Protect Your Home from Hurricane Damage
Hurricanes like Harvey, Irma and Maria cause a range of damage from the high winds, heavy rains and storm surge. The force from high winds and storm surges can tear homes apart and can batter homes with collected debris. The heavy rains and water from the storm surge can cause serious flooding. You should always evacuate if a hurricane is expected to make landfall around your home, even if you take steps to make your home safe from hurricanes.
You can also protect your home from damage caused by strong winds and flying debris with storm shutter. If you install high-impact glass windows, you can have a light-filled home that stays safe during storms.
How to Protect Your Home from Tornados
Tornados cause some of the most devastating damage to homes. You cannot realistically make a home tornado proof, unless it’s a concrete box with no windows and a steel door, but you can build a home that can weather a tornado more safely.
If you must build a home in a county that has high tornado risks, make sure every aspect of your home can withstand high winds. Brace all doors, including the garage, and install impact-resistant windows. Securely anchor your roof to your home’s foundation to prevent them flying off during high winds.
Because practically no home can withstand a tornado, you must build a safe room in your home. Talk with local builders and contractors about the best practices for building these rooms and make sure you have an anchored safe in this room for important documents.
How to Protect Your Home from Wildfires
Like tornados, there is no way to protect your home completely from a wildfire, but you can avoid building in areas prone to wildfires and take precautions to limit your risk of damage from fire.
If you live in a fire-prone area, you can limit risk factors on your lot. Look for lots that do not have thick vegetation and undergrowth. Make sure that you keep flammable debris, like dead leaves, off your lot. Installing a sprinkler system also helps keep your lawn and lot moist, reducing the chance for sparks to catch.
Choose tile and steel roofing options and cement or stucco siding to limit the amount of flammable materials used on the exterior.
Before you buy a new home, make sure you understand how safe your house is from natural disasters. You can limit the risk you face from Mother Nature by buying lots in safer cities and can limit the damage from disasters by building a safer home.
After graduating in 2016 from The University of Texas with a degree in English, Sanda Brown became a content writer for the BDX with a focus on website copy and content marketing.
At the BDX, Sanda helps write and edit articles on NewHomeSource.com, writes website copy for builders, and manages a team of freelancers that work on additional content needs.