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How Climate Change is Affecting Real Estate

How Climate Change is Affecting Real Estate

Are Canadian homeowners and prospective buyers beginning to take climate change more seriously in the real estate market?

A recent survey for Rates.ca and BNN Bloomberg found that 60 percent of young homeowners were thinking about the possible effects of climate change on the area where they were purchasing their residential property. By comparison, this rate was 31 percent for those 35 and 54 and a little more than one-quarter (27 percent) for those over 55.

However, climate change concerns are not resulting in much action by Canadians. The study learned that only 12 percent have applied for extra insurance to cover them in the event of extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change.

“We are living with the effects of climate change, and the results of the survey show that a growing number of Canadian homeowners are both aware of the risk and are taking steps to mitigate risk in where they choose to live or through additional insurance endorsements,” said John Shmuel, managing editor of Rates.ca, in a statement.

Indeed, many U.S. and Canadian insurance companies have warned about the growing costs of insuring homes in areas prone to devastating climate change-related weather events, be it floods or forest fires.

Meanwhile, additional studies have been sounding the alarm about climate-related risks, including property valuations. In fact, according to a recent report by the Centre on Climate Adaptation, climate change could reduce the value of homes in Canada by as much as 15 percent by 2050. At the same time, this has been seen in recent years.

A recent University of Waterloo study discovered that in the eight years before 2022, devastating flooding in Canadian communities resulted in a more than eight percent drop in the final sale of home prices. The extreme weather also resulted in a more than 44 percent decline in the number of homes listed for sale, and residential properties were on the market for nearly 20 percent more days before being sold.

“Canadian homeowners are paying closer attention to flood and wildfire risk when purchasing a home,” stated Blair Feltmate, head of Intact Centre on Climate Adaption at the University of Waterloo, in a press release. “With the impact of [extreme weather] featuring almost nightly on newscasts, homeowners are also increasingly aware of how flooding in communities can affect a home’s value.”

Industry observers present the case that the effects of climate change could be factored into a property’s value in the coming years and become the new norm. They say this would help consumers see the connection between climate risks and real estate prices.

But how would this work exactly? For example, potential buyers need to understand which areas are at a higher risk of floods or wildfires, areas that have poor air quality due to excessive air pollution, and areas that are warming faster than others, and similar facts could become associated with the decision-making process when it comes to evaluating and buying real estate.

Extreme weather events result in significant damage to buildings and infrastructure and might require repairs that could be expensive. Some weather-driven events, such as forest fires, can potentially destroy entire neighbourhoods. This not only results in displacement but also increases the burden of homebuilding for homeowners. Other issues can also be problematic, such as mould growth, foundation damage, and structural issues that could occur due to flooding and storms. Areas that are more vulnerable to rising sea levels and storms can also face challenges in terms of real estate prices and sales.

This does not mean the Canadian real estate market should expect the worst. Many major urban centres rank in the top ten of top North American cities that have engaged in sustainability, according to the Commercial Board of Real Estate (CBRE). These include Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal.

“The cities that take the lead on sustainability today will have a competitive edge as the economy shifts to a low carbon, more sustainable future,” said Robert Bernard, Chief Sustainability Officer at CBRE. “With over 50% of the world’s population living in cities, cities will be critical in driving sustainability and helping communities adapt to climate risks.”

According to housing market experts, climate change mitigation and adaptation measures should be better integrated into housing strategies, and governments should consider investing more in the modernization of green structures and other climate-friendly initiatives. Climate risk assessments should become part of real estate listings and be considered as important as other factors.

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