Monday, August 01, 2016

Can prospective homeowners buy smart and reduce wildfire and flood risks?; video of Ellicott City, MD flood

Can prospective owners evaluate the risk of a potential wildfire before purchasing a home?
The general rule is that wildfire risk doesn’t have a big impact on the cost of a mortgage, but it will increase a homeowner’s premium, and usually several monthly payments of premiums must be placed in escrow at closing.
The areas of greatest risk in western states are usually near wild-land, urban interfaces.  Mortgage calculator has an article here which points to a USDA study PDF which isn’t directly linkable here but which will download the PDF to your harddrive when you navigate.  The document does appear to have a lot of detailed suggestions of what to look for in a property. 

Flood risk is different because normal homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover it.  You have to buy flood insurance separately.  I think as a rule of thumb, in mountainous or hilly terrain, you want to be at least 40 feet above the water if possible.. The government evaluates “floodplains” – so a 100 year floodplain has a 25% chance of flooding in 25 years.  Burglary in most homes is 1% a year (it can normally be reduced with better security practices and alarms) and residential fire is 1 in 2500 (see discussion above).  Flood Safety is described here

The Ellicott City Maryland flooding report is available in pictures from WJLA .  This was said to be a 1 in 1000 year event, because of the short time in which the 6 inches of rain fell.  At this point, it is not reported how many feet about the river at the underpass the water rose.  The downtown area is open only to residents and business owners until further notice.

The video above was taken by guests at  restaurant, from the 2nd floor, and shows the suddenness of the rising waters over a 5 minute period.

Update: Aug, 4

Here's a picture article on the Las Vegas housing market in the New York Times by Jack Healy, "Underwater in Las Vegas", more about the hardships after 2008 -- but there is still a question about building on urban-wild interfaces.  I've driven Red Rock Canyon;  is it vulnerable?

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