Nearly half of U.S. homes face severe climate risks, study finds


Nearly half of all U.S. homes are threatened by extreme weather conditions, according to a new analysis that examines the potential impact of climate change on the country’s housing market. 

Across the nation, roughly $22 trillion in residential properties are at risk of “severe or extreme damage” from flooding, high winds, wildfires, heat or poor air quality, Realtor.com found. An economist with the online real estate firm said that such dangers can impact home prices, drive up insurance costs and even destabilize the broader housing market. 

“These natural disasters can destroy homes and communities,” Realtor.com said in its report. “Even properties that aren’t directly affected by climate risks are being affected by higher insurance premiums — threatening potential sales and making homeownership increasingly more expensive.”

The total value of the U.S. housing market is roughly $52 trillion, according to Zillow.

Such findings jibe with a growing body of research, along with ample anecdotal evidence, that underscores the vast scale of the problem for homeowners. Nearly 36 million homes — a quarter of all U.S. real estate — face rising insurance costs and reduced coverage options due to mounting climate risks, First Street Foundation, a nonprofit that studies climate risks, found last year. 

Climate risks aren’t contained to coastal areas threatened by rising sea levels or mountainous regions prone to wildfires. Research from First Street also shows that residents of inland states such as Kentucky, South Dakota and West Virginia are facing sharply higher insurance premiums because of increased damage from extreme weather.

Largest Wildfire In Texas History Sweeps Across Panhandle
A homeowner searches for items in the remains of her house after it was destroyed by the Smokehouse Creek fire near Stinnett, Texas, on March 3, 2024.

Scott Olson/Getty Image


Realtor.com tapped First Street’s data to estimate the number of homes facing potential climate damage, focusing its study on the 100 largest cities. Other key findings from Realtor.com’s analysis:

  • 5.5% of homes, worth $3 trillion, face a severe or extreme risk from wildfires, with 39% of these properties in California.
  • 6.6% of homes, worth $3.4 trillion, are at high risk of flooding, with New Orleans having the largest share of vulnerable homes.
  • Over the next 30 years, 18% of homes will be at risk of damage from hurricane-strength winds.
  • 9% of homes, worth $6.6 billion, face severe or extreme risks because of declining air quality.
  • Homeowners in 19 states and Washington, D.C., are now required to carry additional hurricane-related policies.

Beyond its impact on the housing market, climate change is already influencing where people live. More than 3 million Americans have moved because of the growing risks of flooding, First Street has found. Meanwhile, some 83 million Americans — or roughly 1 in 4 — are exposed each year to unhealthy air, according to the group.

“The changes that we’re already seeing over these past two decades are already beginning to impact almost every major sector of our society,” Jay Banner, a climate scientist and director of the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, said Wednesday in a panel discussion organized by Realtor.com.



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