Millions of homes and condominiums across the country are in high danger zones for environmental hazards, according to the third annual Environmental Hazards Housing Risk Index produced by ATTOM Data Solutions, curator of the nation’s largest fused property database. The index shows that 17.3 million single-family homes and condos with a combined estimated market value of $4.9 trillion are in Zip codes with high or very high risk for at least one of four environmental hazards: superfunds, brownfields, polluters or poor air quality. This number represents one-fourth of the 68.1 million single-family homes and condos in 8,642 Zip codes analyzed by ATTOM. The indexes were each divided into five categories of risk: “very low”, “low”, “moderate”, “high” and “very high”.
Of the 8,642 Zip codes analyzed, 6,238 with 50.8 million single-family homes and condos (75%) worth a combined $16.9 trillion did not have a “high” or “very high” risk index for any of the four environmental hazards.
The Zip codes with the 10 highest Total Environmental Hazard Index values were located in Denver, Colorado; San Bernardino, California; Curtis Bay, Maryland; Santa Fe Springs, California; Fresno, California; Niagara Falls, New York; Saint Louis, Missouri; Mira Loma, California; Hamburg, Pennsylvania; and Tampa, Florida.
Those with the highest superfund Zip codes posted the weakest housing appreciation and had the highest foreclosure rates. The Superfund Risk Index for each Zip code was based on the number of Superfund sites on the 2016 list of national priorities among the known releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants throughout the United States and its territories as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The highest-risk Brownfield Zip codes posted the highest percentage of properties seriously underwater and the weakest appreciation. The term Brownfield site means real property, the expansion, redevelopment, or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminants.
Those properties in the lowest-risk polluter Zip codes, naturally, posted the biggest price gains and lowest underwater rates. The Polluters Risk Index for each Zip code was based on the number of facilities included on the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) list in 2015 (the most recent data available at the time of the analysis), and the index was divided into five categories of risk from “very low” to “very high”. In Zip codes in the “very high” risk category for polluters, 12.7% of properties were seriously underwater, the highest of any risk category.
Properties with the highest-risk air quality Zip codes post the weakest long-term appreciation and sales volume change. The Air Quality Risk Index for each Zip code was based on the percentage of days in 2015 that were deemed to not have good air quality by the EPA, and the index was divided into five categories of risk from “very low” to “very high”.
Many buyers take environmental hazards into consideration when making an offer on a home or when negotiating the post-inspection agreement, with the most common inspections performed for lead-based paint, radon and mold. However, there are many other environmental issues buyers should consider, such as inspecting and testing for past meth labs in the property, the presence of asbestos and in rural areas and buried fuel tanks.
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