There’s a lot to know about buying a home in an earthquake-prone area. Knowing which homes and communities are safest can help buyers pick the right property for their needs.
Get a Good Inspection
If the home that a buyer is considering has been around for a few decades or more, it’s probably been through a number of earthquakes already. This may give an indication to how well built the property is, but it also may hold hidden structural issues. Damage from earthquakes isn’t always obvious. Chimneys and foundations can sustain serious damage that is invisible to the untrained eye, which means a house that looks fine on the surface may have actually sustained heavy damage.
This risk can be mitigated by a thorough home inspection. Talk to a real estate agent to get recommendations for a local home inspector, and make a point to attend the inspection while it’s being conducted. The buyer should ask questions during the inspection to ensure they understand the findings. If there are aspects of the property that are not covered by the inspection (the chimney, for example), have that part of the house inspected separately by a qualified contractor.
Price Earthquake Retrofitting
There are many structural additions that can be made to help a home survive the next big earthquake. Older properties in particular won’t always have the newest earthquake retrofits and upgrades. Find out what kind of accommodations can be made to improve a property’s earthquake readiness, then have those upgrades priced during the escrow period.
Get a Quote for Earthquake Insurance
Typical homeowners insurance will not cover earthquakes. Homeowners in earthquake prone areas must buy special insurance to protect their home and possessions. Earthquake insurance is relatively affordable, but standard policies are limited in their protections.
As a buyer gets quotes for earthquake insurance, spend time crunching the numbers and pay attention to deductibles. Never opt for a deductible that would be unaffordable after a big earthquake, and give serious thought to the amount of coverage you would need in order to get back on your feet after a disaster occurs.
Know Which Properties are Most Vulnerable
Some types of homes are especially vulnerable to collapse and damage during an earthquake. Some of the most vulnerable properties may include:
Two story single family homes
Older concrete structures
Single family homes with “cripple walls”
Many of these types of homes can be retrofitted to be more stable during an earthquake. If a homeowner has already had these changes made to the house, ask to see documentation and certification to ensure that the retrofitting was done properly.
Research Earthquake Preparedness in the Community
Some communities are safer and more prepared for disaster than others. To find out what measures have been taken to ensure that a community is earthquake safe, contact the local schools and city hall to find out if the community has a disaster plan, what the local law enforcement and emergency services have done to protect the members of the community and which public buildings are earthquake retrofitted. The more prepared a community is for a disaster, the less disastrous an earthquake will be when it occurs.
Work With a Knowledgeable Real Estate Agent
Buying a home in a place that experiences earthquakes can be daunting, especially for home buyers who are new to the area. Working with a real estate agent can help make the process simpler and less stressful. Contact a real estate professional who understands the local real estate and can help buyers decide which property is right for their needs.