Is a property in a disaster zone?

You’ve found a place you love and the price is right. But could it be in an area prone to natural disasters? Here’s how to find out.

From fire to flood, Australia can dish up plenty in the way of natural disasters, and it’s important to know if a property you’re thinking of buying could be in a disaster-prone location.

Buying a place that’s in a high risk area can mean paying higher insurance premiums. It can also limit your ability to build or extend a home. Worst case scenario, your home and belongings could be badly damaged if disaster strikes.

Make a visual assessment 

The first step to get an idea of the risks a property faces, is to make a visual assessment of the area.  

Leafy suburbs with pockets of bushland can be prone to bushfires. A beachfront home may be subject to storm-driven coastal erosion.  In fact, almost 39,000 buildings around the Australian coast are located within 100 metres of soft shorelines, and that puts them at risk of erosion from sea-level rise and changing climate conditions1

Areas subject to flooding can be harder to pick. Tell-tale signs include the presence of nearby creeks or rivers that can burst their banks in heavy rain. But many early settlements were built on natural floodplains. Over time these townships have grown into substantial suburbs2, and the risk of flooding can be less obvious. 

Check with authorities

Councils are usually a good first port of call to understand potential disaster risks.

Many councils have flood maps that identify flood risk precincts3. Check the council website or enquire in person to see what information is available. The local council should also be able to identify erosion-prone coastal areas. 

If you’re taking a long term view, the Coastal Risk website shows predicted coastal flooding from climate change for the address you select.

If you’re unsure about the bushfire threat, check out the website of your state’s bushfire authority. The Rural Fire Service in NSW for instance features an online mapping tool that shows whether the property you’re looking at is in a bushfire-prone area.

Hazard apps are available

If you’re considering a variety of different locations, the Insurance Council of Australia has put together the MyHazards app. 

It provides a visual map and summary of potential natural disasters and severe weather hazards, including cyclones, floods, and bushfire risk for more than 11 million properties. 

Have an expert review the contract of sale

The contract of sale for a property is often required to spell out potential disaster risks4, though the information required varies between states. 

This highlights the importance of having your legal rep review the contract before you sign. You may be prepared to accept the risks, but at least you’ll know exactly what you could be up against.

Check the insurance cost

Talk to your Mortgage Choice broker about getting a few quotes for home building cover. Insurance companies have a good idea of the natural risks facing a property, and the premiums will reflect this.  The reality is that in areas with known risks, the cost of cover is likely to be higher.

A checklist to follow

Disasters are just one issue to consider when you’re buying a home. Cover all your bases with our handy Property Inspection Checklist that sets out all the boxes to tick when you’re inspecting different properties.

Contact your local Mortgage Choice broker for home buying advice and help in choosing a home loan that’s right for you. 

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