Devastated by Wildfires, Northern California Town Home Values Drop 21 Percent Annually

Devastated by Wildfires, Northern California Town Home Values Drop 21 Percent Annually

Residential News » San Francisco Edition | By WPJ Staff | December 14, 2020 9:00 AM ET

According to U.S. property broker Redfin, home values dropped 20.5% in October 2020 from a year before to $136,000 in the 95969 zip code in Paradise, California -- an area that was devastated by record-breaking wildfires in 2018 -- a bigger decline than any other zip code in the U.S.

Redfin's analysis is based on Redfin Estimate data on median home values in U.S. zip codes with more than 10,000 occupied housing units in October 2020, compared with October 2019. The analysis excludes Manhattan zip codes in New York City due to insufficient data.

"Relative affordability is luring some buyers into certain wildfire-prone parts of California, but Paradise is not one of them," said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. "Much of the town was destroyed by the Camp fire two years ago, and the pandemic halted a return to normal life, including a pause on rebuilding the nearly 14,000 homes that were lost in the fire. Most of the properties for sale right now are empty lots where homes used to be. The devastation caused by past fires and the looming threat of future wildfires are causing buyers to look elsewhere."

The 44839 zip code in Sandusky, Ohio experienced the next-biggest drop, with values falling 9.3% year over year to $185,000 in October. Another Sandusky zip code, 44870--home to Cedar Point amusement park, which was closed until July due to the coronavirus pandemic--saw the sixth-biggest home-value drop in October, with values declining 5.8% year over year to $89,000.

Next comes the 97201 zip code in downtown Portland, Oregon, where police officers and protestors have been clashing for the last several months. Home values there fell 7.5% year over year to $427,000 in October.

"Peaceful and violent protests have persisted in downtown Portland since the beginning of the summer, and they've been disruptive to people living in the area and driven homebuyers to other parts of the city," said Portland Redfin agent Nicole Arnold. "The civil unrest combined with empty office buildings, closed restaurants and remote workers' desire for large homes with a lot of outdoor space have caused home values to decline in the heart of downtown, where homes are relatively small and expensive."

Redfin housing reports, Cities with biggest home price declines in 2020.jpg

Six of the 15 zip codes where home values have dropped most are in Brooklyn or Queens, with values dropping 4.8% year over year to $493,000 in Forest Hills and 4.4% year over year to $823,000 in Bedford-Stuyvesant/Crown Heights.

Declining home values in parts of New York City come as the coronavirus pandemic drives many remote workers out of densely populated neighborhoods and into more suburban and rural areas where they can find more spacious homes for less money.

"I've helped a few clients sell apartments in Queens to move to different areas because they're either working from home full time or only have to commute into the city once a week," said New York Redfin agent Martin Freiman. "A few people have moved upstate, and others moved to Florida and Pennsylvania, where they can find single-family homes with outdoor space for less money. Some of them were considering leaving the city for a slower pace of life even before the pandemic, and it pushed them to make a decision. Sellers are still adjusting to the new market, where homes are selling for a bit less than they used to."

"But I'm starting to see buyers regain interest in the city with the election behind us and promising vaccine news," Freiman continued. "Young people who want to be close to the action once the city reopens and empty nesters who are downsizing are taking another look at urban life."

The 11355 zip code in Flushing, Queens, where home values dropped 4.2% year over year to roughly $642,000, is home to Flushing Chinatown. Travel restrictions from China to the U.S. due to the coronavirus, along with difficulty securing loans for Chinese buyers, is one reason for falling home values in that area.

Home values also dropped in part of downtown San Francisco, where many remote tech workers have left the city, and parts of Waikiki and the Las Vegas Strip, tourist destinations that have fallen off in popularity due to the pandemic.

The home-value declines in certain parts of the country come while values rise in most of the U.S. as the pandemic fuels Americans' desire to move.


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