With every day that passes, climate change becomes more of an imminent threat to our livelihoods. This year, and nearly every other year in recent memory, wildfires have ravaged the West Coast while hurricanes have wreaked havoc across the Gulf Coast. But even as environmental concerns increase, it’s hard for homeowners to accurately and easily determine if their property is at risk.
An online platform launched on Wednesday called ClimateCheck aims to change that by taking the guesswork out of climate threats for homeowners by allowing instant access to a property’s vulnerability to environmental impacts related to climate change.
Cal Inman, Bay Area developer and lecturer at University of California, Berkeley, is heading the new company as CEO (Disclosure: Cal Inman is the son of Brad Inman, the founder and chairman of Inman Group. Inman Group is not affiliated with ClimateCheck in any way). The company’s remaining team members include science, real estate and technology experts (including Brad Inman, an investor in the company) interested in consumer advocacy and conservation.
By simply entering in a street address, city, neighborhood or ZIP code into a search engine on ClimateCheck’s website, a user will be given individual risk assessments for floods, storms, fires, heat and drought, as well as an overall risk rating for climate hazards occurring to their property between five to 40 years into the future.
“How do we think about risk in 30 years, how do we bring it down to the local level so that people can make those decisions? That’s what we’re doing at ClimateCheck,” Skylar Olsen, ClimateCheck’s principal economist (and former Zillow economist), told Inman.
Risk assessments are generated on a numerical basis from 0 to 100 with 100 representing the riskiest locations. In order to generate the assessments, ClimateCheck pulls climate data from 30 academic and government institutions — including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the National Hurricane Center, and the U.S. Forest Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — and combines that data with property-level data to create a targeted picture of how climate change may impact a specific property in future years.
Olsen noted that climate risk can vary widely even within the same region of a state, which is why ClimateCheck’s targeted data specific to an individual property is so valuable. The company aims to become an affordable option for mom and pop investors, as well as everyday buyers and sellers, for acquiring accurate climate risk data, rather than having to hire an expensive consultant.
“There’s not necessarily a tool or company before ClimateCheck that was trying to do the same thing to a consumer audience, so a mom and pop investor, everyday buyers and sellers,” Olsen said. “So that it’s not just kind of locked within larger entities who can afford to hire a consultant to produce this kind of information for them or to buy it from other companies.”
In addition to explaining specific risk factors, a full report generated by ClimateCheck can also provide recommendations to consumers for how to mitigate their risk.
“The roadmap for the premium report absolutely is recommendations for resiliency,” Olsen said. “What do we have to do about it to make it so that those communities are still an option in the future.”
ClimateCheck anticipates that in the not too distant future, assessing a property’s climate risk will be the new norm when a buyer looks for a new home. Olsen even compared completing a report with ClimateCheck to doing a FICO score check, but for climate risk instead of credit.
“This is going to be more and more standard, so we’re trying to provide what will be standard for institutional investors to everyday people [so they’re] not left behind,” Olsen said.
At this time, ClimateCheck reports are available on the company’s website for free, but may be offered for an unspecified fee in the future, as the company looks to grow.