Property Valuation For Properties With Natural Disaster Mitigation And Resilience Features – In many states, the laws do not require sellers to disclose that a property is in a flood or wildfire zone, leaving homeowners with unexpected damages and losses.
The house on Weber Hill Road is almost a year old, but it still haunts Emily Hayes. Thirteen years ago, when she and her husband, Steve, bought the Missouri property through foreclosure, Hayes vaguely knew it was on a 100-year-old piece of land. But the purchase put her children in public schools among the best in the state, and the Meramec River was two miles away. The stream that cut through the back of the house was too small to deserve a name. In Sunset Hills, flooding seemed a remote and rare threat.
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For nearly a decade, the risk was greater than Hayes had anticipated. By 2008, this backyard tributary was roaring enough that the family routinely piled sandbags next to their beige bungalow to divert the flood. Then, on New Year’s Eve 2015, a typhoon named Goliath helped Meramec rise to an all-time record height of 44 feet. Hayes heard a splash as water rushed through their door. Muddy water engulfed their basement. It covered the door frame where she had marked the growth of the four children in pencil.
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No law requires Missouri property owners to notify potential buyers of past floods — even though the state’s National Flood Insurance Program has paid more than $813 million in damage claims for 33 federal disasters over 40 years.
A city ordinance prohibits the Hayes from modifying their land with berms or ditches, and the government refuses to buy them. Last year, after another record flood, the city of Sunset Hills ordered the house to be torn down.
Hayes refuses to sell the floodplain to a private buyer. “We don’t want anyone building a house there and that happening again,” he said. “That wouldn’t be right.”
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Every US state has seen high water in the past five years; Flooding is the biggest and most common natural disaster in the country. But in 21 states, homeowners are guaranteed little information about flood risk, according to an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Columbia University’s Sabin Center on Climate Change.
“You can get a file on you from the FBI,” says Joel Scatta, an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “Why can’t you take ownership of the file?”
When it comes to a property owner’s risk from a natural disaster, such as a flood or fire, “there’s a moral responsibility to make sure everything known is known,” says Roy Wright, president of the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. former National leader. Flood Insurance Program.
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However, no one, public or private, has all of this information, even though losses from natural disasters have increased over the past 40 years.
In the Carolinas, where Hurricane Florence recently dumped nearly 3 feet of rain, both states only require sellers to inform buyers of their “actual knowledge” of the flood risk. South Carolina property owners must disclose if they have flood insurance at the time of sale. In North Carolina, even when prior federal assistance requires flood insurance, there is no guarantee that buyers will understand the property’s risks. If you were supposed to have flood insurance but didn’t, says Scatta, “the chances of getting federal help are very slim.” Many homes in both states outside of federally designated 100-year land are still dry; for them, disclosure requirements and consequences are unclear at best.
Efforts to notify disaster-vulnerable property owners remain uneven across the US and have major gaps. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it saw a record $300 billion in natural disaster losses in 2017, most of it caused by wildfires.
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The risk of wildfires is increasing, especially in the western United States, due to both climate change and local development laws that squeeze new homes between cities and wilderness areas. Since 1990, the size of these fields has increased by a third.
No federal system warns potential property owners where the next wildfire might occur, although some states, including California and Colorado, have mapped regional hazards. Retired attorney John McKay, 64, says he didn’t think about the risk when he moved to Nederland, a community in the foothills west of Boulder.
“It’s the beauty of nature, that’s why we moved here,” he says. “If I want to be completely safe, I’ll go to hospice.”
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Two years ago, he and his wife sold in Florida. With a friend, McKay prepared their new home in Colorado by painting it and moving clothes, documents and other belongings. A month later, as he watched from afar in Tampa, the Springs Fire destroyed eight homes, including his own.
“It was devastating,” he says. “We cried for a month. I didn’t come back right away because what are you going to do?
McKay’s first home in Colorado was a painful study in rural perils, but he calls it a near failure. When he later bought a second one, he was more aware of its vulnerability.
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Where fire danger is high, such as in Boulder County, local efforts to reduce it have sprung up. A volunteer fire mitigation program called Partners in Fire advised McKay to remove mulch from the walls of his home and remove spruce trees known to be flammable.
“As you can imagine, I’m on fire right now,” McKay says with a laugh. “I was a fool, no question. But it’s all over and we’re happier than ever.”
Market forces give homeowners like McKay a rough idea of the risk. House prices are a weak signal of disasters; despite the fires in Santa Rosa, California, for example, the average home price there continues to rise. But the cost of insurance to property owners about fire and flood, however imperfect.
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“Price is a cue,” says Amy Bach, executive director of the advocacy group United Policyholders. Bach says insurers have more experience adapting to coastal and hurricane risks. For homeowners affected by wildfires, Bach said the industry is “still adjusting.” (In California, these reforms have led to complaints about higher prices and loss of coverage.)
Last year’s disasters again raised questions about local notification requirements. In Houston, some people lived in a “flood basin,” an area used for emergency flooding but outside the boundaries of the flood plain itself. Now they say the government should have informed them of the danger. In August, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that would require insurers to provide homeowners with an estimate of the cost of paying for natural disaster losses.
But warning property owners about the risk of natural disasters does not reduce the risk itself, says Max Moritz, a scientist at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “Even perfect information is not a perfect solution. There should be some policies to help us where we don’t always make the right decision.
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Flood experts, consumer groups and environmentalists have called for federal disclosures to require a property’s flood history, but such federal disclosure mandates are rare. Federal law only requires disclosure of lead paint in any real estate sale. Legislation including flood disclosure guidelines passed the House of Representatives but remains in the Senate.
However, requiring federal flood risk notification may be the right thing to do for homeowners; 81% of voters polled by the Pew Foundation last year supported one.
While such a disclosure rule might hurt him, 77-year-old Nate Timm also supports the idea. Late last month, his home in Mazomanie, Wisconsin was severely flooded.
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Tim bought his land 47 years ago, never having seen a flood map; Over time, he became a leader in mitigating the risk of rising water in his village. After the town flooded three times in 10 years, Mazomanie cleared the flood plain, trucking in trees and debris year after year, mostly with volunteers.
Tim believes that risk reduction efforts have saved his village from the worst flood risk in 17 years. But he says all of that doesn’t account for climate change, which he blames for 15 inches of rain in 24 hours in August.
Tim didn’t need insurance when he got the mortgage; now that it is paid, the policy is very expensive. In hindsight, he says he might have planned better. “Given the impact of climate change, I could build higher. Maybe I won’t build there.
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He emphasizes that informing potential buyers about past floods makes sales fairer and regional planning more effective. “How can you be smart if the information is hidden?” – he asks.
But if the federal notice rule goes into effect, Tim suspects it will reduce property values that were paid for decades ago. For him, the elderly, pensioner, middle class, a piece of land is a nest, a guarantee of pension. He worries that disclosing them will expose them to vulnerable ownership.
“If you knew the place was in a floodplain – Well, you wouldn’t buy the place”
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