California Faces Homebuyer Exodus Due to Climate Risk

October 2nd, 2023  / Author: Zachariah Peterson

Looking at a list of California’s natural disasters in the last few years it is not surprising that there is a rising number of climate migrants. This especially stands for central and southern parts of the state. Los Angeles County is losing more and more residents to other metro areas with affordable housing and better weather conditions.

Since the start of a pandemic, the Sun Belt states, such as Texas, Arizona, and Florida have seen an influx of people coming from expensive coastal cities. San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York are showing a constant outflow of residents, due to a few factors.

Mainly, people are moving because there is no need to live in an expensive apartment or a house, just because it is in close proximity to the office. Home offices are creating the need for more indoor space and a lack of commuting makes the outdoors more desired. People are longing for backyards to sunbathe and relax after a long day of home-work.

The state of the market is also a reason many decide to move. Low, but rising mortgage rates are motivating residents to relocate, and they usually opt for moving somewhere more affordable.

Sometimes this creates a chain reaction, where out-of-town buyers in moderately-priced metro areas price out the local buyers, who then settle for a property in a smaller metro or a rural area. The inventory decrease is upping the housing prices, locals are getting tired of losing a bidding war after bidding war, and thus, growing more fond of the idea of relocating.

Who Are the Climate Migrants?

All of these housing market trends are somewhat expected, but a new Redfin survey about relocation motivation shows that 10% of all sellers want to move due to climate disasters, and another 39% are at least taking it into consideration. Those people are sometimes addressed as climate migrants.

Climate migrants are residents whose main reason for relocation is the need to live somewhere with better and safer weather conditions and air purity.

This growing trend of climate migration is getting traction in the States as the weather in some counties gets increasingly unpredictable. People fear for their safety and for their home budget, and rightfully so.

Some reports show that half of the people living in places prone to natural disasters invest at least $1.000 in their house protection. Most of the residents invest more than $5.000 in order to be protected from natural hazards.

Investing in protection can mean having insurance and a lot of other things, like additions or changes around the house, depending on what kind of event is most likely to happen in the area. Maintainance is a costly part of owning a property in and of itself but adding the protection and repairs in case of a misfortunate event creates an even bigger pressure on a home budget.

Data show that there are Californians who want to move away from the expensive and hazardous Southern parts, but still want to stay in their own state - and those people go to Sacramento. Although this area is prone to floods, it is far away from the infamous wildfires that are becoming an annual event around Los Angeles, and that is comforting for traumatized residents.

However, a bigger part of relocating Californians is moving out of state to Las Vegas, Nevada, Fenix, Arizona, and some of Florida’s urban areas. There is no data showing if climate change motivated these patterns, but considering the fact that Arizona is a Sun Belt state with a low risk of natural disasters, it is not illogical to assume.

Those who move up tend to worry more about climate change and the risks of natural disasters, while first-timers think about affordability. Properties in areas prone to risk have lower property taxes, luring first-time buyers and people with lower incomes.

The state of the matter is that the migration is at an all-time high, hitting the early pandemic relocation numbers. Relocation is stressful for a family and the reasoning behind it is complex and rarely affected by only one factor. Nevertheless, experts say that climate migration has just started and is going to be one of the main migration stimulators in the future.

More pressure should be put on the local authorities to help with the property protection and repairment, in order to slow down the resettling of residents. Protection from natural disasters should not be a status symbol, but a necessity. Fewer thoughts and prayers on social media after the fact, and more real community work - two things that should be expected from the government on all levels.



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