Seattle-area homebuyers now have climate to consider

Mar 3, 2024, 11:28 AM | Updated: 7:45 pm

Puget Sound, Seattle single family zoning, homebuyers...

A row of homes in Seattle. (Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons)

(Joe Mabel, Wikimedia Commons)

Curb appeal, a walk-in closet, and proximity to local schools are no longer alone in the list of reasons for homebuyers. Redfin has added climate factors to its menu of items to consider when shopping for real estate.

Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather joined Seattle’s Morning News to explain why they added the new function and how it works. Fairweather admits that even they weren’t sure users would be interested at first.

“We did a test period first and we found that people were clicking in on the information and it was something they used in the home search process,” Fairweather said. “So, since first adding flood we’ve added other risks like fire, wind risk, and now air quality risk.”

Related story: Starter home sales in Seattle drop 36%, largest of any US metro area

She says for flood risk in particular, when users see that a home has severe or extreme risk, they end up making offers on homes with about half the risk. Air quality is also an important data point for Redfin shoppers.

“Wildfire smoke might not be coming from Pierce County directly, but coming from surrounding counties and even as far away as Canada, Oregon, and California,” Fairweather said. “There’s just a lot of wildfire risk currently and that risk is increasing, which would increase the amount of days where there is unhealthy air quality.”

Even though some of Redfin’s data shows people will choose lower-risk homes when the information is in front of them, the data does not appear to change their choice to move to their preferred geographical location. If their heart is set on Florida, they will move to Florida, even though that state is in the bull’s eye of climate impacts such as more intense hurricanes, flooding, and land erosion.

“For heat, flood, and wind risk people are moving into those areas. Think of Florida that has all those risks. For air quality, people are leaving the West Coast, which has the highest air quality risk. And that’s largely because of affordability. Seattle has become quite unaffordable over the last 10 years or so. And that’s true of San Francisco and Los Angeles as well where the air quality risk is high,” Fairweather said.

What about sellers who see their home listed with poor climate data? Daryl says Redfin will remove that data from a listing if a homeowner contacts them. Hear more from Redfin’s Chief Economist on the February 29th Seattle’s Morning News podcast.

Editors’ note: This piece originally was published on March 2, 2024. It has been updated and republished multiple times since then. 

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Seattle-area homebuyers now have climate to consider