BY JOSEPH KING – As new and existing home sales remain sluggish, one way sellers can increase appeal of their homes is by adding disaster-resistant retrofits, according to the Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS).
For sellers, the addition of properly installed disaster-resistant retrofits is a great way to differentiate their home from others on the market. For buyers, a disaster-resistant home represents a sound investment. “The bottom line is the buyer is getting more house for their money when they buy a home that has been properly retrofitted with disaster-resistant features,” said Julie Rochman, CEO & president of the IBHS. “A buyer is getting a house that is going to perform better during a natural disaster.”
The U.S. has experienced record snowfalls, flooding, tornadoes, wildfires and earthquakes – and that’s just in the first half of 2010. With 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season activity predicted to be above average, the number and severity of natural disasters in the second half of the year could match, if not surpass, that from the first half.
The type of disaster-resistant retrofit(s) homeowners should make depends on the location of the home. For example, homes in the Southeast within 50 miles of the coast should implement retrofits to make them more resilient to hurricanes; homes in the West should implement retrofits to make them more resilient to wildfires.
To help homeowners identify and learn more about several types of natural disasters where they live or may want to live, the IBHS offers a ZIP Code-based tool at DisasterSafety.org. The tool provides a list of the natural disaster(s) that may occur in that particular area.
“Reports are that it continues to be a very difficult home sales market right now,” Rochman said. “Sellers compete not only with other sellers but also with low-priced foreclosures. Disaster-resistant retrofits are an excellent way for a seller to get a leg up on the competition.”
Rochman urges homeowners to invest in disaster-resistant retrofits first before more cosmetic changes. “For example, all the money spent on new cabinet fronts or hardware, different colored appliances and granite countertops in a kitchen will have been totally wasted your house is severely damage or destroyed by a flood, wind storm or fire,” Rochman said. “The better value for that same money would be to invest it in things that help keep the house intact, so it is livable. Protect the structure first.”
IBHS Chief Engineer and SVP of Research Dr. Tim Reinhold recommends that homeowners in hurricane-prone regions make their roof the highest priority, followed closely by protecting and strengthening doors and windows.
In wildfire-prone areas, again Dr. Reinhold recommends starting with the roof. If the roof isn’t fire resistant all the other retrofits are relatively unimportant. After the roof, keeping embers out of vents, replacing single-pane windows with double-pane units and tempered outer panes, and vegetation control are among the most important retrofits.
IBHS’ website, DisasterSafety.org has a series of guides to help homeowners retrofit for hurricanes and wildfires as well as other information on what can be done to protect your home from damage during a severe weather event.
IBHS is an independent, nonprofit, scientific and educational organization supported by the property insurance industry. The organization works to reduce the social and economic effects of natural disasters and other risks to residential and commercial property by conducting research and advocating improved construction, maintenance and preparation practices.