America's Top 10 Disaster 'Safe Zones'

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With Tropical Storm Erin moving west over the eastern Atlantic this week, the fact that we haven't yet hit peak hurricane season and are still cleaning up from Hurricane Sandy, can make you wonder: Why live in a place prone to natural disaster? But avoiding them is not so easy. While you might dodge hurricanes by not buying a home in coastal regions, the torrential storms spun off by them can reach far inland. Then there are other natural disasters to consider: devastating floods, rampaging wildfires, earthquakes and tornadoes. In 2012 the U.S. declared 99 natural disasters, a record number for the past few years, up from 81 in 2010. As a result, homeowners insurance rates rose in badly impacted areas -- sometimes dramatically.

To help homebuyers (and renters) determine the areas most and least likely to be struck by a major disaster, Trulia has devised a map showing the areas most and least likely affected by natural disasters -- so that you can weigh that when buying a home, right alongside the threats of dry rot, mold and crime. Here's how it works: When you zoom into the area that you are interested in, you'll notice that "Natural Hazards" are listed on a menu of items to select as relevant to your search, along with such others as "Home Values" and "Schools." Click on that, and you're offered an array of potential disasters to choose from. And when you click on one of those the intensity of the threat it poses is shown on the map in colors ranging from blue for "low" to red for "high."

Of Trulia's top 10 relatively "safe zones," a few major cities made the list, along with several other familiar places where you just might want to buy. [See the gallery below.]

"When Hurricane Sandy hit, we knew we had to provide more information on natural hazards to our consumers, because buying a house is such a huge investment," said Lee Clancy, vice president of consumer products at Trulia. "With these maps, users will be able to visualize where their dream home is located relative to where natural hazards have hit. That information can prove to be invaluable before you sign on the dotted line."

Will such maps lead to drastic decreases in homeownership along the Atlantic Coast or Gulf of Mexico? Probably not. But they might at least help you zoom in on a particular neighborhood or city there that's least likely to be affected.

The price of neglecting that can be more than higher insurance rates or the cost of home reconstruction or repairs, though. According to a report this week from real estate analytics firm CoreLogic, when a natural disaster occurs a mortgage holder is almost twice as likely to default in high-risk areas such as Miami, as compared to low-risk one.

Best Places for Avoiding Natural Disaster
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America's Top 10 Disaster 'Safe Zones'

Located in the historic village of Warren, this four-bedroom, three-bath home has been featured in "Better Homes and Gardens.” The private yard of this 1937-built home features a built-in pool, hot tub and brick paver patio. The list price is $329,000.

See more homes for sale in Warren, Mich.

This three-bedroom home has wood floors throughout as well as a large finished basement with laundry, family room, bathroom and bedroom. The original garage has been converted to an office with heat and cable/internet installed. At 1,708 square feet for $450,000, the home is located across the street from a park.

See more homes for sale in Denver.  

This recently remodeled four-bedroom, three-bath "Hollywood Park" Tudor-style home has a gourmet kitchen adjacent a breakfast room, with granite counter tops and a built-in convection oven, and a radiant heat floor.  At 3,600 square feet, it's listed for $450,000.

See more homes for sale in the Chicago area.

This five-bedroom, four-bath Colonial home is larger than it may first seem. With 4,158 square feet, it has hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and skylights. There are French doors and windows overlooking the patio. Built in 1989, it's listed for $449,900.

See more homes for sale in Allentown, Pa.

This five-bedroom, four-bath home built in 2007, is only $339,900. It has a side staircase, tucked away so the main foyer stands open to the formal dining room, living room and family room. There is a 2-car attached garage and a playset in the backyard.

See more homes for sale in Dayton, Ohio.

This classic four-bedroom colonial is nestled on a 15,000-square-foot lot. The home has hardwood floors throughout with an updated kitchen, beamed ceiling and fireplace in the family room. 

See more homes for sale in the Bethesda, Md., area.

This 3,256-square-foot, five-bedroom, 2.5 bathroom Colonial home that includes a two-story addition, a parklike expansive lawn with updated landscaping. Additional features include: double-wide gated driveway, two car-garage, and new private fenced-in yard.

See more homes for sale in Buffalo, N.Y.

This five-bedroom, four-bath home has a large foyer entry and extra wide stairway. The first floor has a den and office with a private half bath. The kitchen in this 1973-built home has a separate dining area with desk. The finished basement has a wet bar and a separate pool room.

See more homes for sale in Akron, Ohio.

This Grand Italianate mansionette on a double lot still maintains some of the home's original 1880s features, including pocket doors and gaslight fixtures. There is a formal parlor and a library in the 3,276-square-foot home.

See more homes for sale in Cleveland.

 In 2011, the kitchen in this 5,941-square-foot farm-style house was gutted and renovated with a granite island and design details. The home has seven bedrooms and four baths in two attached residences, perfect to have as rental property. The upper residence occupies the second and third floor. The first-floor unit could be used as a rental to help cover the mortgage. The home is listed for $338,000.

See more homes for sale in Syracuse, N.Y.


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