Record share of homebuyers flee into the path of climate change

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Research shows that people are concerned about the changing climate’s impact on their hometowns, but they’re more concerned about a lack of housing affordability, according to a new report from Redfin.

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More homebuyers are looking to relocate to a new part of the country, and it’s sending them into areas that are increasingly vulnerable to ever more commonplace extreme weather events.

Twenty-six percent of homebuyers are looking to buy in a different part of the country, up from 19 percent before the pandemic began, according to a new analysis released Tuesday by Redfin.

The relocations are spurred by a lack of housing affordability, and they’re driving more people to look at climate-prone areas.

“Relocations are holding up better than in-metro moves largely because homebuyers are searching for affordability, and remote work gives many Americans the freedom to move,” Redfin said. “Nine of the 10 most popular migration destinations have a lower median home-sale price than the most common origin of homebuyers moving in.”

Redfin created the report based on the searches of about 2 million people searching on its platform. It calculated a percentage measure for the likelihood of relocation based on a person’s home location and the regions they viewed for-sale homes in.

For example, if someone living in Chicago looked at five homes in Sacramento and five in Phoenix, they would be considered half of a migrant to both cities, Redfin said. An area’s popularity was then determined by the balance between people looking to move out versus people looking to move in.

Using those metrics, the online real estate portal found an increasing appetite for people looking to live in areas that face extreme heat, floods, hurricanes or some combination of all three.

“While research has shown that homebuyers consider climate risk when deciding where to live, affordability is often a more significant factor,” Redfin said.

Sacramento and Las Vegas — two cities that routinely face extreme summer heat — are the top two areas for homebuyers that Redfin says are looking to relocate. Both broke various records for hottest recorded temperature last summer.

Sacramento is popular among San Francisco residents who are looking to trim the cost of living by looking at California’s less expensive capital city, Redfin reported.

“Half of the buyers I’m working with are moving in from out of town, all but one from the Bay Area,” said Alison Williams, a Redfin Premier agent in Sacramento. “Most of them are moving not necessarily because they can’t afford the Bay Area, but because they want a bigger home and better quality of life. They’re searching for high-end homes with spacious yards where they can raise a family. I’m also working with a few investors who are looking to buy a home here and rent it out for a few years before moving in themselves.” 

Orlando and a string of other Florida cities are also popular among searchers viewing homes in new areas.

A city set inland from the coasts, Orlando is at less risk of direct impact from the hurricanes and tropical storms that batter the Sunshine State on a near-annual basis. However, 13 percent of all properties in Orlando face the threat of severe flooding over the coming 30 years, according to the First Street Foundation.

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