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With extreme weather on the minds of buyers, where are the climate havens? 

As natural disasters become more costly and more frequent, climate risk is likely to have an increasing impact on homebuying decisions.

Updated November 2, 2022
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Surveys are finding that more people are reluctant to move to (or stay in) areas prone to natural disasters and extreme temperatures.
  • Among the cities expected to be least impacted by climate change, there are a few surprises.
  • The Southeast will continue to bear the brunt of climate-related disasters.

As the U.S. continues to get hit with very expensive and devastating weather-related events like Hurricane Ian and wildfires in the West, more homebuyers are factoring in climate change when deciding where to live.

Several recent surveys indicate that climate change is very much on the minds of homebuyers: 

  • A Redfin survey found that 62% of those planning to buy or sell a home in the next year are reluctant to relocate to areas prone to natural disasters and extreme temperatures.

  • Policygenius, an online insurance marketplace, found in its survey that a whopping 77% of homeowners aged 18 to 34 with young children expect to move due to extreme weather caused by climate change in the next 30 years.

  • A Zillow analysis found an uptick in mortgage application denials and withdrawals in areas that are at a higher risk of flooding. 

"The higher rates of mortgage application denials and withdrawals in high-flood-risk areas are an encouraging signal that buyers and lenders are more often including flood risk in their decision-making," said Zillow senior economist Nicole Bachaud in a news release.

The search for climate havens

For buyers wanting to avoid such risks, where are the climate havens? Policygenius looked at a variety of factors to come up with its list of the best cities, including heat/humidity, flooding/sea level rise, air quality and community resilience. 

The two cities topping the list — San Francisco and Seattle — might seem surprising, given that both could be impacted by rising sea levels in the coming decades. However, they have relatively few properties in flood plain areas, according to the study, and have fewer extreme heat days, relatively good air quality and lower risks of wildfire.

Other surveys indicate that temperate, northern states like Minnesota, Vermont and Wisconsin will get much of the climate-related inbound migration in the coming decades.

The hard-hit southeast

Policygenius also looked at the U.S. cities expected to be most impacted by climate change. Topping the list was Houston, followed by Florida's four biggest cities, New Orleans and Los Angeles.

The southern half of the U.S. dominates the list because climate-related disasters are already happening: According to NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information, the southeast has been hit the hardest. Texas, for example, had an estimated 150 natural disasters with damages of $1 billion or more over the past 42 years — with 90 of those disasters occurring after 2010.

The frequency of costly disasters is increasing, according to Between 2017-2021, there were just 18 days on average between billion-dollar disasters, compared to 82 days in the 1980s.

"It's ultimately a personal choice on what kind of risk you're willing to take and your tolerance for these types of disasters," said Kara McGinley, licensed property and casualty insurance expert at Policygenius.

Blunting the damage

For some areas likely to experience more climate effects, steps are being taken to try and lessen the damage.

In states that are dealing with more extreme wildfires, like California, homeowners may receive discounts off home insurance premiums if they take proactive measures such as installing fire-proof shingles on their roof.

"Similarly, states that are at high risk for severe wind damage — like coastal states and those located in Tornado Alley — are offering home insurance discounts, tax credits, and grants if homeowners upgrade their homes with wind-resistant features," McGinley said.

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