An increase in natural disasters is especially concerning to young minorities in the South and Northeast.
A majority of homebuyers and sellers are concerned about climate change, according to a new survey conducted by Redfin.
Almost three-quarters of respondents (73%) said that an increase in the frequency or intensity of natural disasters at least somewhat factors into their decision about where and whether to buy or sell a home. Only 10% said it doesn’t impact their decision-making process at all.
Climate Change Concerns by Location
Of the 29 U.S. and Canadian destinations we surveyed for this report, Houston’s residents were the most likely to be concerned about climate change. Almost 60% of the area’s respondents—more than any other city—said that an increase in the frequency or intensity of natural disasters “very much” factors into their decision to buy or sell a home. In second place was New York City (47%), followed by Miami (46%).
Houston has experienced catastrophic flooding in recent years. With Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Tropical Storm Imelda this past September, Houston’s Harris County has now faced one 500-year rainfall event and two 100-year events since 2016.
Instead of completely demolishing homes in flood-prone areas, some Houston developers have been renovating them and lifting them several feet off the ground so they’re more resilient, said local Redfin agent Ashley Vasquez.
“When I meet buyers, one of the first things they tell me is that they don’t want to be in a location that floods,” she said. “Still, I haven’t seen climate change decrease home values. Houston is actually becoming a more expensive city to live in as people migrate here for job opportunities and relative affordability.”
While homebuyers and sellers are clearly aware of the risks posed by global warming, it hasn’t yet translated into major changes in buying habits or prices, according to Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather.
“Climate change is important to house hunters, but when it actually comes time to decide where to buy a home, it’s outweighed by other factors that feel more immediate, like affordability and access to jobs,” Fairweather said. “Environmental changes may be factoring into their thought processes, but not yet into their actions.”
The results also differed by region. Only 23% of respondents in the Midwest said that natural disasters seriously impact their real estate decisions, the lowest share of any geographic area. That compares with about 35% of people in both the Northeast and the South.
Climate Change Concerns by Race
Concerns about climate change were most pronounced among minority homebuyers and sellers, with nearly half of Black respondents—the largest share of any group—saying natural disasters “very much” factor into their real estate decisions. That compares with only 32% of white respondents.
Research has shown that minority groups are disproportionately exposed to the adverse impacts of climate change. One 2018 report found that census tracts that were primarily Black, Hispanic or Native American were 50% more vulnerable to wildfires compared to other areas. Black Americans are also disproportionately exposed to toxic oil and gas emissions, according to the NAACP. Neighborhoods with a high concentration of minorities also tend to be located at lower elevations, thus may face more risk from flooding, another study found.
Climate Change Concerns by Income
Concerns about climate change were most prominent among more affluent respondents. Participants making more than $200,000 per year were the most likely to be very concerned (42%) about climate change when buying or selling a home, while those making less than $100,000 were the most likely to be not at all concerned (9%).
“Natural disasters impact different demographics and income groups in different ways,” Fairweather said. “On the one hand, you have more affordable homes in areas that have been continuously hit by natural disasters, and then you have more expensive areas, such as beachfront properties, that also have to grapple with climate change.”
Climate Change Concerns by Age
Residents in the under 25 age group were most likely to be very concerned (42%) with natural disasters, while those 65 and older were the most likely to be not at all concerned (16%).
“Younger people are more likely to still own their homes when the impacts of climate change become more severe,” Fairweather said. “With each generation of homebuyers, it’s going to become an increasingly important issue.”
Redfin commissioned a study in December 2019 of more than 3,000 U.S. and Canadian residents who bought or sold a primary residence in the last year, or plan to in the next 12 months. All survey respondents were asked about how an increase in the frequency of natural disasters factors into their decision to buy or sell a home.
For more information about the survey and its findings, contact [email protected].