Business & Economy

LA is one of the riskiest places to own a house, report says

The last major tremblor to hit the Los Angeles area was the Northridge earthquake in 1994.
The last major tremblor to hit the Los Angeles area was the Northridge earthquake in 1994.
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Los Angeles ranks third among major cities at greatest risk of losing housing from natural disasters, according to a new report out Thursday. 

L.A. trails only Oklahoma City and San Jose on the list covering all natural disasters compiled by Attom Data Solutions, the Irvine-based real estate research firm. 

When only the looming threat of earthquakes are considered, L.A. falls among the most at risk along with San Jose, Bakersfield and Seattle.

Attom found that homes are in high demand in many areas of potential danger. Home prices in the top 20 percent of hazard-prone areas have grown twice as fast over the past five years than those in the bottom 20 percent that are at less risk.  

Attom’s Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist said that’s because many high-risk areas tend to be job centers located in picturesque locales.

"Often when you have natural beauty, that does go hand-in-hand with higher natural disaster risk," Blomquist said. "The mountains comes with higher risk of earthquakes or wildfire."

Blomquist said home appreciation has weakened in areas prone to flooding like parts of Florida and Louisiana. But the threat of earthquakes has not had a similar effect on prices. Blomquist said major earthquakes don’t happen often, and when they do, people’s memories seem to be short.  

"People forget how devastating that can be to their individual home and to the overall market when something like that hits," Blomquist said. 

Homeowners can protect their homes through seismic retrofitting and buying earthquake insurance, although only a minority of homeowners have.