Has This Home Ever Been Affected by a Wildfire?
Wildfires can strike an area that has burned before, so it's crucial to know whether a home you’re looking to buy is in a wildfire-prone region. Although a home seems far, fire can quickly spread from building to building. If the house is in an area that has experienced wildfire before, you must appraise the home for any damage. You may check with the local zoning department to see if building permits for structural changes were filed for the property. Likewise, find out what the homeowner has done to safeguard the home from future wildfire damage.
Is the House Built With Fire-resistant Materials?
Take the time to determine whether a home has protection to survive a wildfire, especially when it comes to its building materials. The roof is especially susceptible to fires since flying embers can land there and ignite, so steer clear from homes with wooden roofs. Avoid vinyl siding because it melts in a fire. Metal, tile, asphalt, slate, and composite shingles are some of the excellent fire-resistant materials to look for. Multi-pane or tempered glass windows will also protect during a wildfire instead of single-pane windows. If the house doesn't have fire-resistant materials, you can negotiate for repairs, for example replacing the old roof to give the entire structure a better chance of surviving a fire. Buying a home with wildfire protection in place will save you money in the long run. The sense of comfort it can provide during the home-buying process is priceless.
Is the Outside Space and Landscaping Designed to Mitigate Fire Risk?
When shopping for a home in fire-prone areas, assess the landscaping to see if it was designed to mitigate wildfire risk. The first thing you should look for is whether there's a defensible zone around the property. You can use this guide to defensible zones
published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to learn more. Having defensible zones around the home can reduce the number of fuel sources for a wildfire. If you’ve successfully bought a home, you can take steps with landscape design to protect your property. Make sure you’re consistent in clearing brush, grass, or leaves, trimming bushes and trees, keeping the gutters clean, and maintaining a defensible space around your property. Having easy access to water to put out fires is also important, so swimming pools can also come in handy, especially if they’re in-ground.
Is Wildfire Damage Covered by Homeowners' Insurance?
While it’s a no-brainer to get a good home insurance policy wherever you buy, comprehensive home insurance is critical when you live in a high-risk place. Unlike in flood-prone areas where you are required to purchase a special, separate policy, most homeowners’ insurance cover damage caused by fires, including wildfires. However, you’ll want to be sure there’s enough coverage for your entire structure, belongings, and temporary living costs should a total loss occur. Review the fine print carefully and check the policy to understand the deductible and specific coverage details for wildfire damage.
When considering a property in an area with a wildfire risk, don't forget to ask the right questions. Especially if there’s no disclosure requirement for fire risk in a particular area, if you want to know something, just ask. Your real estate agent is also your go-to person if you want to be educated about the community, the designation of the home you’re looking to buy, and other resources that can help you should you proceed to buy a home in a fire-prone region.