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RealtyTrac: Natural Disaster Risk ‘Very High’ for 10.6M Housing Units

RealtyTrac released its first-ever Natural Disaster Housing Risk Report [1] Thursday, which assigns a risk score for a natural disaster to more than 3,000 county housing markets nationwide. Scores were based on risk data for three natural disasters—hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes—and each county was assigned to one of five categories based on their score: Very High Risk, High Risk, Medium Risk, Low Risk, and Very Low Risk.

The company analyzed 3,138 U.S. counties, and found that 373 were classified as Very High Risk, representing roughly 12 percent of all counties. Housing units in the Very High Risk counties totaled 10.6 million—8 percent of total U.S. housing units.

The Very Low Risk category had 271 counties, representing 3.9 million housing units—a mere 3 percent of total U.S. housing units.

The company found, "The biggest percentage of counties and housing units fell into the High Risk Category: 1,118 counties with a combined housing unit total of 61 million—representing 47 percent of total U.S. housing units."

"The potential risk of a natural disaster may not be the first item on most homebuyer checklists for a dream home, but prudent buyers will certainly take this into consideration along with myriad other factors that could affect home value," said Daren Blomquist, VP at RealtyTrac. "In the past natural disaster data was technically available, but difficult for buyers and homeowners to dig up; however, now the data is readily available online for virtually any U.S. property, and buyers should take advantage of this.

There were 511 counties in the Medium Risk category, representing 29.9 million housing units (23 percent of U.S. total), and 865 counties in the Low Risk category, representing 25.5 million housing units (19 percent of U.S. total), according to RealtyTrac's data.

Counties with the lowest risk scores include Hennepin County, Minnesota, in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.

Following Hennepin County with the lowest total risk scores were Dallas and Tarrant County in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area; Oakland County, Michigan in the Detroit metro area; Bexar County, Texas in the San Antonio metro area; Allegheny County, Pennsylvania in the Pittsburgh metro area; Sacramento County, California; and Franklin County, Ohio in the Columbus metro area.

RealtyTrac noted that there were 51 counties with a population of 100,000 or more in the Very High Risk Category in 14 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Counties in the Very High Risk category with the largest populations were Fulton and Dekalb counties in the Atlanta area; Shelby County in the Memphis, Tennessee area; Worcester County, Massachusetts; and Oklahoma County in the Oklahoma City area.