Tech-powered brokerage Redfin is now publishing flood risk data for listings on the company’s website where such data is available, the brokerage announced Wednesday. That stands to impact listings on over 94 million homes on the company’s website.
Individuals who visit Redfin.com will now see a “Flood Factor” score from 1 to 10 for each property (1 being the least risk), representing a home’s flood risk over the course of a 30-year period. That score will be determined by data collected by science and technology nonprofit First Street Foundation, a company that also provides flood risk data to realtor.com.
When realtor.com initially started providing this data on its listings back in August, Taylor Marr, lead economist at Redfin, expressed caution about publishing such information on listings because of the potential it had to impact home values.
“We need to be very careful about how we provide information,” Marr told NPR at the time. “Could this actually reduce the value of this existing homeowner and essentially take away a lot of their net worth?”
However, the company now seems more concerned about providing transparency to potential homebuyers so they know what they’re getting into when investing in a property.
“Showing flood risk data for homes on Redfin.com is something we carefully considered,” Marr told Inman in an email. “After reviewing academic research with First Street Foundation on this topic and testing how consumers interact with the data, we determined there was a greater harm in not surfacing flood risk information. Without it, customers are at greater risk of overpaying for a home or under assessing the costs of potential flood damage to high-risk properties.”
“Buying a home is the biggest purchase most people will make in their lifetime,” Christian Taubman, chief product officer at Redfin, said in a press release.
“By publishing the Flood Factor score, we’re making it easier to understand the risk each home faces of being damaged by flooding, meaning everyone can make better-informed decisions about buying and selling. Most homebuyers and sellers say that the frequency or intensity of natural disasters factors into their decision about where and whether to buy or sell a home, so this is information they can really use.”
Listings will also include data on whether a property is located in an estimated Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) zone, and links to more detailed resources for flood risk, including a place where homebuyers can request an instant quote on flood insurance for the property.
“Our goal has always been to help current and future homeowners understand the extent of the flood risk facing a property, its severity, and how it’s changing over time with changes to the environment,” Matthew Eby, founder and executive director of First Street Foundation, said in a statement.
“Integrating with Redfin significantly expands our ability to enable home shoppers and owners alike to understand otherwise complex, difficult to find information about flooding and the sources that contribute to and exacerbate it. By providing them with this data when preparing to buy or sell a home, Redfin is an invaluable partner in contributing to the public’s understanding of flood risk.”
First Street Foundation’s flood model provides a climate-adjusted assessment of flood risk on a particular property from today through the span of a standard 30-year mortgage. It takes into account flood risk from heavy rainfall, storm surge, tidal and riverine sources, as well as how climate change stands to impact these factors in future years.
The company models areas that are currently not mapped out by FEMA, the federal body that determines payouts for individuals who apply to aid through the National Flood Insurance Program.
That information about properties outside of FEMA-mapped areas could prove vital for an individual homeowner — about one-third of federal disaster money paid out to flood survivors is distributed to people who do not live in designated flood zones, according to NPR.
Update: This post was updated on February 18, 2021 with a comment from Redfin lead economist Taylor Marr.