Homes at Risk in the Urban-Rural Interface

Wildfire, Flood Damage Breaks Records Every Year

Photo credit to Nate Grigg

Photo credit to Nate Grigg

Over the last few decades, the interface between urban population centers and rural areas has been heavily developed with often high-value homes built precariously in high-risk environments. The attraction of homebuyers to what firefighters call the “wildland/urban interface” has been enhanced by advanced construction techniques, reliable roads and services, and now by satellite Internet and cell coverage available almost anywhere in the United States.

Despite the modern technology, the ancient threats of fire and flood have become often unexpected but painfully real issues for many homeowners, particularly in western states effected by massive wildfires and now the destructive force of “100-year floods” seen recently in Colorado and other semi-arid regions.

Homebuyers are finding deals in places where fires and floods left many homes intact, but cast an emotional burden of fear surrounding many properties. Many homes in the rural mountain areas of Boulder County, Colorado, saw values drop nearly 50% even when left untouched by the Four-Mile Fire in 2010.

Buyers may be attracted to lower prices, but need to take heed of issues in high-risk areas surrounding insurance rates and availability, proximity to water sources and fire protection services, and historic flood and fire data. According to real estate data analytics provider Corelogic, more than 1.2 million homes in 13 states are at risk of wildfires, representing $189 billion in property value. In Colorado alone, well over 80,000 homes are in high-risk wildfire zones.