5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home in Wildfire Territory

Whether you are a First time home buyers or a seasoned homeowner looking for a new home, you may be familiar with inspecting a home for potential problems. Doing your due diligence in advance can avoid future surprises, and nowadays it is important to be aware of the potential Climate risks in the area where you want to shop.

With bouts of dry weather in cities like San Jose, California, and Aurora, CO, Forest fires and the risks associated with them can be of concern to home buyers. Fortunately, with the right questions, there are ways to determine your risk of forest fire before closing the deal on your dream home. Here are the top five questions to ask yourself before buying a home in a forest fire area:

Questions to ask yourself when buying a home in a forest fire area

1) Has this house ever burned in wildfire?

Forest fires can hit an area that has already burned, and even if a house appears far from a forest fire prone area, a fire can quickly spread from building to building. If the house you are looking to buy is in an area that has already been exposed to forest fires, especially if you have a house in one of the The 10 Most Vulnerable Cities For Fire Damage, you should do your research to determine the extent of the risk of forest fire to which you may be exposed in the future.

Start by examining the area for past and active fires. The National Interagency Fire Center mapped all of the fires from 2007 to 2021 Forest fire risk map shows all active wildfires and how many hectares are burning with each fire. And if you're a homebuyer in California, a new law requires sellers in designated areas with high fire risk to disclose conditions that make the home susceptible to wildfires if the home was built before 2010. Inquire with your local building authority whether a building permit has been applied for for the property. Building modification permits can also help determine if the home has been remodeled at any time, but be aware that structural changes can occur from factors outside of wildfire.

2) What is the risk of this neighborhood being burned in wildfire?

When buying a home, it is important to know what fire zone your home is in. The areas with the highest risk of forest fires are places where vegetation and houses meet. Older buildings, wooden buildings, or proximity to combustible vegetation are factors to consider when determining a neighborhood's risk of forest fire.

The key to buying a home in a forest fire area is to be as prepared as possible. First, take the time to make sure the community is fire safe. Check with your city to see if they have prevention and containment procedures in place to prepare homes for the threat of forest fires. Talk to your local fire department, agency, or community group and ask about your community's fire history, evacuation plans for forest fires, drought conditions, and even heat risks. You can also look at your city's forest fire risk assessment to see the impact on your neighborhood and surroundings. Find this information on Red fins for every city, neighborhood, district and zip code when searching for offers in the area of ​​insights into the housing market. Like this example from San Jose, California's housing market.

Climate risk example on redfin.com

3) What could make this house vulnerable to forest fires?

Weather conditions like drought, extreme heat, high winds, and the surrounding vegetation in the area can all affect how quickly wildfire spreads. Check to see if the home has defensible zones to reduce the number of sources of fuel for wildfire. Don't forget that building materials like wooden roofs or single pane windows can also make a house more prone to a fire breaking out.

Protecting your home starts with small, manageable steps, and luckily, there are many inexpensive improvements you can make Protect your home from forest fires. You should start with the roof, as it is the most vulnerable part of your home, and work your way down. Clean your gutters and remove any flammable materials, such as dead leaves, to prevent debris from igniting and causing wildfire.

4) Is this house built from fire retardant materials?

When buying a house in a forest fire area, check to see if the house has been worked on to reduce the risk of forest fire. Since the roof is the most vulnerable part of your home, check to see if the seller has indicated whether they have used any fire retardant building materials such as concrete and clay tiles, metal, slate, or composite shingles. If not, you can also negotiate repairs like replacing the old roof with fire retardant materials as this will give the entire structure a better chance of surviving a fire. Talk to a professional to find out which materials are best for the roofs in your area. Multi-pane or toughened glass windows also offer additional protection in the event of wildfire and reduce the risk of breakage from extreme heat.

5) Does your home insurance cover damage caused by forest fires?

Usually yours Homeowner insurance The insurance policy covers damage caused by fire, including forest fires. For example, if a wildfire damages your home, the policy includes coverage to help repair or rebuild the home and other buildings, pay for temporary housing, and replace belongings. The cost and extent of coverage may vary depending on the forest fire risk in your geographic area.

Review your policy to understand your deductible and specific coverage details for forest fire damage to your home, personal property, other structures and landscaping such as trees or shrubs. Some insurance companies may increase deductibles, charge higher premiums, cap payouts, or even refuse to issue policies for homes in higher risk areas. If your insurance company refuses to cover fire damage, you will need to take out separate forest fire insurance.

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