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Living With Climate Change: Wind damage will impact more U.S. homes than before, in Florida especially. How best to protect your property.


Severe winds will be on the rise in the coming few decades, both because more tropical cyclones will reach major hurricane status and because some areas, Florida in particular, can expect severe winds to push further north.

The prediction comes in recent research from nonprofit First Street Foundation, who is adding wind and hurricane risk to their library of detailed maps and data already exploring flood, wildfire and heat risks. The site allows for a search by address.

Read: Homeowners can check a property’s flood, heat and wildfire risk for free with this high-powered app

And the data sparks input from real estate and insurance data firms who say not only should climate change and resulting severe weather be top of mind for Americans laying down huge investments in homes and other property, but those buyers must be more diligent about building material, orientation of the property, excess vegetation and more.

In 2022 alone, there were 18 weather events with insurance losses exceeding $1 billion each. Most modeling indicates that’s a total that’s only going to rise

First Street Foundation’s own model finds that over 13.4 million properties will be exposed to tropical cyclones in 30 years that are not currently exposed. This increasing exposure is due the greater proportion of hurricanes that are expected to reach major hurricane status (Category 3-5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale) today and into the future.

Read: Nicole is U.S.’s first November hurricane in 40 years — why climate change extends hurricane season

The research also turned up a stronger likelihood that storms will track further northward along the U.S. East Coast.

And the research demonstrates that Florida, the most exposed state, can expect a shift in the landfall of hurricanes from the south in cities such as Miami, to more northern locations such as Jacksonville. This shift in location and strength of hurricanes in Florida alone results in the number of properties that may face a Category 5 hurricane rising from 2.5 million in 2023 to 4.1 million by the year 2053.

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“ A shift in location and strength of hurricanes in Florida alone results in the number of properties that may face a Category 5 hurricane rising from 2.5 million in 2023 to 4.1 million by the year 2053. ”

First Street tapped global consulting and engineering firm Arup to calculate the dollar value of expected damage and the associated downtime for each specific building structure, meaning businesses that may be put out of operations and residents unable to return home for days and weeks, or longer. The added layers of data account for factors like the number of stories, residential or commercial category, spatial orientation of the building on a site, roof type, building materials and more.

Drilling down on property-level damage estimates shows that on average, the country can expect to see an annual loss of $18.5 billion this year resulting from hurricane winds, increasing to just under $20 billion dollars in 30 years. Of that $1.5 billion in increased damages, and the vast majority of that figure, roughly $1 billion, comes from increased exposure in Florida alone.

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“Compared to the historic location and severity of tropical cyclones, this next generation of hurricane strength will bring unavoidable financial impacts and devastation that have not yet been priced into the market,” said Matthew Eby, founder and chief executive officer of First Street Foundation.

The findings also prompted executives at CAPE Analytics to share what their own research finds to be shortcomings among many homeowners when it comes to property characteristics and an increasing risk that wind will bring far greater damage than a home is insured for, or that owners fully understand.

CAPE uses AI-powered geospatial property intelligence, and is increasingly leveraging drones to bring the latest property details up to date, added to historic records.

Kayvan Farzaneh, head of marketing at CAPE Analytics, told MarketWatch that in addition to the scientific findings warning of increased wind damage, there are property characteristics that only potentially aggravate the damage.

Roofs in bad condition are 2.5 times as likely to sustain wind damage in the event of a hurricane. Roof style can matter. Hip roofs are far more wind-resistant than gable or flat roofs, for instance.

Roof age is often used as a proxy for condition in both real estate and insurance, but 10% of new roofs (under 5 years old) are in bad condition, while 39% of “old” roofs (older than 20 years) are in good condition. That means up to date intel is critical.

Homes with trees overhanging the roof have a 90% higher chance of sustaining damage in a windstorm. 

Homes with trees overhanging the roof are 3 times as likely to sustain fire damage in the event of a wildfire. But the same issue can mean different risks. Homes with trees overhanging the roof do reduce their likelihood of hail damage by 65%. Although, notably, homes that do not clear the vegetation from 10 feet around their home are 2.5 times as likely to sustain damage in a wildfire.

And the federal disaster insurance program FEMA adds its own tips specific to reducing wind damage.

Homeowners should secure outdoor objects like furniture, gutters and downspouts, FEMA says.

And seal cracks and gaps to prevent wind or water from coming in the home. And make sure caulking around windows and doors is in good shape and not cracked, broken, or missing.

Plus fill any holes or gaps around pipes or wires that enter your building with a waterproof sealant, the agency adds.

“For us, you can’t forget the last layer, looking at specific property characteristics and vulnerability and that’s where we come in: the condition of the roof, the shape of the roof, is there a roof extension, is there a swimming pool?” said CAPE’s Farzaneh. “We can measure 70-plus factors and comb through 20-million property records. And we can run a statistical analysis that links the relationship between specific property characteristics and how those characteristics influence risk.”

CAPE leverages AI and aerial imagery to create a living database of these features and now can gather and share that data at an even greater scale.

Earlier this month, CAPE said it now partners with Google Cloud

to develop predictive analytics that enhance risk management for insurance carriers and property valuation for the real estate and mortgage industries.

And while CAPE, and now Google, primarily help insurance and real estate professionals better understand how climate change, weather severity, and understanding how materials choice and condition will matter more than ever going forward, they see the benefits of making sure consumers are empowered.

Any consumer seeking an updated homeowners’ policy or searching for property to buy should consider asking the professionals they’re working with if AI and cloud data can better inform climate-related risks.

“Roofs in bad condition are 2.5 times as likely to sustain wind damage in the event of a hurricane. Roof style can also matter. Hip roofs are far more wind-resistant than gable or flat roofs, for instance.”

“The risk profile of all those properties allows you to have conversations, hopefully, such as what the value of making certain decisions, maybe repairing a roof, can do for them long term,” said Farzaneh.

For sure, consumer-facing real estate search sites have already caught on., for one, is integrating flood-risk and wildfire scores on its listing sites.

Read: Buying a home and worried about wildfires? There’s a free tool to check your risk

Farzaneh said the issue of building smarter in the face of climate change is challenged by an affordable-housing crisis in the U.S. The hunt for affordable living means more developers and homeowners take chances on areas that very recently were undeveloped wildland. The wildland-urban interface, which CAPE has researched, poses potential flooding and wildfire risk, for instance.

And Farzaneh said real estate pricing may still not fully reflect climate-change risk. It’s changing, but how fast will depend on the market, and how much a potential buyer is willing to look the other way.

“If you’re right by the ocean, how much are you willing to spend? And how much if you’re willing to have your own property destroyed in five years potentially and have to deal with that? I think that’s going to start to come into consciousness a little bit more and have an impact on prices,” he said.

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