The already difficult task of finding the perfect home gets even harder when you’re searching in an area prone to earthquakes.
The top five states with the most earthquakes are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Washington, according to the United States Geological Survey. But the truth is, earthquakes aren’t just a West Coast problem. They can happen virtually anywhere.
The good news is that potential buyers have plenty of resources available to research potential risk and find homes that have been built to earthquake-resistant standards.
Understand geologic hazards. A geologic hazard is defined as a naturally occurring phenomena capable of causing loss or damage. With respect to earthquakes, hazards include fault lines, landslides, and weak underlying soil or rock. In other words, during an earthquake these hazards can cause damage. The good news is that hazard is not the same thing as risk. While hazards can’t be controlled, risk can be managed.
Check a map. The Geological Survey has seismic hazard maps that show the zones containing earthquake hazards across the United States. You can use them to evaluate the hazards for a potential home or a home site. These maps are used by engineers and government agencies to help improve building designs and codes. Insurance companies employ them to determine insurance coverage and costs.
Get an inspection. Land located in seismic hazard zones should be evaluated by a geologist or a government agent. Protocol varies from state to state. In states where earthquakes are common, set procedures are in place for this type of evaluation. For example, in California, a seller is required to disclose if the property is located within a hazard zone. This disclosure will affect the valuation of the property, insurance needs, and any potential for development. Keep in mind, however, that residential structures may be excluded from state requirements regarding hazard zones.
Manage risk. There are several ways to decrease the risk of serious damage or loss in an earthquake. Specialized building techniques such as braced frames and foundation anchoring can improve a home’s seismic resistance. Proper land management and grading can decrease the risk of landslides.
Get insurance. Typical homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage resulting from earthquakes. Some insurance carriers offer separate earthquake protection policies for houses and other structures. Earthquake insurance policies often come with a very high deductible. Because of this, an earthquake insurance policy will usually only cover a total loss resulting from an earthquake and not lesser amounts of damage. Earthquake insurance rates will vary based on the location of the insured structure relative to the hazard zone and the types of materials used in the construction.