SF Real Estate Market Strong, Despite Earthquake Risks

I was interviewed for a story that ran yesterday in the British daily The Guardian about the threat of a large earthquake and how that might influence people when they consider purchasing real estate in San Francisco.

Yes, local market is particularly strong right now, and yes, I routinely have conversations with home buyers about the concept of earthquakes and how they can protect their investment. When it comes down to it, it’s important to know what ground you’re on and how solid your foundation and other seismic components are.

The Guardian’s Nate Berg did a great job presenting all angles of this topic. Check it out here:
When, Not If: How Do San Franciscans Live With the Threat of the Next Quake?

And if you’re interested in my take on earthquake insurance, this past blog post discusses that:
Should You Buy Earthquake Insurance?

Should You Buy Earthquake Insurance?

I’m often asked about earthquake insurance—do most homeowners in San Francisco have it? Do the majority of condo buildings have an earthquake policy?

Only about 12-15% of California homeowners have earthquake insurance, and I believe that ratio drops further in The Bay Area and San Francisco. The reason behind this is that earthquake insurance is very expensive. In a condo building, it doubles your homeowners association dues (HOAs). Additionally, most policies come with a 10-15% deductible. This means the damage to the building would have to be pretty severe in order for you to use your coverage.

What do you look for when evaluating how well a property will hold up against an earthquake? Take note of its overall construction material (i.e., wood-framed buildings tend to hold up better against ground shaking). Review the hazard report rating (i.e., is the building located in a Zone A–the most susceptible to an earthquake, or a Zone D/E, which would have a better chance in an earthquake). And consult a general contractor about how seismically sound the property may be (i.e., foundation bolted, etc). If a property was built before 1906 (year of the big earthquake) and it’s still standing, that’s a good indication that it’s been constructed well.

I have sold many condos in San Francisco over the past decade, and maybe one or two condo buildings I’ve sold actually had earthquake insurance. Ironically, the buildings with earthquake insurance tend to be harder sells, because the HOA dues are prohibitively expensive for buyers. If you’re buying within a building that doesn’t have earthquake insurance, the HOA would have to decide whether to obtain that coverage. It’s not available on individual units.

If you’re interested in more information, contact your favorite insurance rep and inquire about the specifics for earthquake coverage.