Wildfires don’t hurt hot real estate markets

Our love for nature causes more homes to be built in the path of destructive wildfires and leads to more blazes.

 

More people than ever want to live on the wild edges of Western cities, despite the risk wildfires pose to their homes. A recent study by researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, found that wildfires drive down real estate prices only in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Home prices in burned areas typically rebound to pre-fire levels within one to two years.

High risk zones are defined as having high probability of a wildfire based on the physical attributes of the terrain surrounding each property. Homes in these zones see a drop in price following a fire, but quickly rebound and spike less than three years after the incident.
Shawn J. McCoy and Randall P. Walsh

The finding illuminates a troubling trend: Some of the West’s most fire-prone areas — densely forested, scenic, mountain landscapes that are conveniently close to cities — are also some of its most desirable. When more people move into these areas, the cost of fighting fires rises because there is more to defend — more lives and property at stake. On top of that, because people unintentionally spark many wildfires, the overall risk increases when the woods become more populated, as does the potential destruction these fires can cause in terms of property damage and loss of life.

Yet developers will continue to build in high-risk areas as long as there’s a demand. Residential growth in forested areas across the United States has exploded in recent years, from an estimated 12.5 million housing units in 2000 to 44 million by 2010. “We should be worried about that,” said University of Nevada, Las Vegas, research economist Shawn McCoy, who led the study. “The societal costs of wildfire will increase, because people continue to develop there. They know that those homes will sell regardless of the risk.” 

Many homes are in or border zones with the threat of wildfire. As the price of homes in wildfire zones only drops for a short period of time after a fire, there is still high demand for homes in such areas.
Shawn J. McCoy and Randall P. Walsh

McCoy and his team analyzed real estate data from nearly 360,000 properties across eight Colorado Front Range counties, which experienced 18 severe wildfires between 2000 and 2012. They compared the prices of similar houses located in high- and low-risk burn zones before and after wildfires. And they considered the relative risk of homes within those zones, their proximity to recent wildfires, and residents’ views of the burns and their aftermath.

The researchers found that the value of homes within sight of burn scars did dip after a fire and were slower to rebound. But even there, homebuyers’ awareness of fire risk didn’t impact their willingness to invest in those properties. Overall, housing values in the high-risk zones dropped in the year following a wildfire, but rebounded to pre-fire prices in one to two years.

The study area — part of the so-called “wildland-urban interface” — is one of the West’s fastest-growing urban areas. In Colorado alone, nearly 7 million acres fall within it. As more people pack into these areas, the federal dollars needed to fight fires will continue to increase. Already, wildfire suppression accounts for 52 percent of the Forest Service’s budget; by 2021, it’s projected to increase to 67 percent. “We have so many homeowners living in fire-prone areas that we have to come to terms with that,” McCoy said. “How do we protect those people?”

The Waldo Canyon fire burned its way to the backdoors of homes in the Colorado Springs area in 2012.

Paige Blankenbuehler is an assistant editor for NewTowncarShare News. Email her at [email protected].  

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • in Southwest Colorado. $60K plus costs.
  • with six+ years of experience, broad knowledge of home and facilities maintenance. 207-805-4157, https://spark.adobe.com/page/8R7Ag/
  • Seeking full-time experienced farmer on 52-acre organic farm Union, OR. [email protected]
  • Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a Government Affairs Manager that is passionate about Western communities and the protection of the natural environment to support...
  • Metal roofing & siding, thru-fastened & seam profiles. Stronger, more attractive and longer lasting than any other panel on the market. 970-275-4070.
  • The Central Colorado Conservancy, a nationally accredited and state certified land trust, is seeking an innovative and dynamic Executive Director to guide the Conservancy into...
  • National conservation organization seeks a regular, full-time, Lake Tahoe West Senior Project Lead. Position is responsible for working with the National Forest Foundation (NFF) to...
  • Forever Our Rivers Foundation seeks a driven and creative individual to lead this national movement for river health. Deadline 6/14/19.
  • We are looking for an experienced campaigner to lead our work challenging the oil and fracked gas industry, specifically focused on fighting fossil fuel expansion...
  • 7/12-7/14/19 in Taos, NM. With over 21 workshops and keynote speaker, poet Arthur Sze.
  • Badlands Conservation Alliance is seeking an Executive Director. For job description visit https://www.badlandsconservationalliance.org/hiring.
  • NewTowncarShare News seeks a development assistant to help with fundraising campaigns. Strong candidates will have experience administering development programs, communicating with donors, and working...
  • Everland Mountain Retreat includes 318 mountaintop acres with a 3,200 square foot lodge and two smaller homes. Endless vistas of the Appalachian mountains, open skies,...
  • Spectacular views of snowcapped Sierras. 15 miles from Kings Canyon/Sequoia Parks. 47 acres with 2 homes/75' pool/gym/patios/gardens. 1670 sq.ft. main home has 3 bdrm/1 bath....
  • Beautiful off-the-grid passive solar near the CDT. 9.4 acres, north of Silver City. Sam, 575.388.1921
  • at RCAC. See the full description at https://bit.ly/2WJ3HvY Apply at [email protected]
  • Newly refurbished and tuned. Older model, great condition. Gasoline engine. Chains on tires. Heavy duty for mountain snow. Call cellphone and leave message or email.
  • Camping, hiking, backpacking, R2R2R, Tarahumara Easter, Mushroom Festival, www.coppercanyontrails.org.
  • Clean off, cool off & drink. Multiple spray patterns. Better than you imagine. Try it.
  • Actively introduce students to Experiential Education, Outdoor Recreation, and Sustainability while engaging and challenging them to learn and participate in these diverse opportunities. Room, board,...