UPDATE, Feb. 19 2021, 3:30 p.m.: Redfin began publishing flood risk data for millions of homes listed on its platform this week, six months after suggesting that publicizing such information could devalue properties.
Redfin has partnered with nonprofit First Street Foundation to provide flood risk data to accompany all of its listings. The “Flood Factor” service assigns a score between 1 and 10 for all properties, in addition to displaying the home’s estimated Federal Emergency Management Agency flood map zone.
“We’re making it easier to understand the risk each home faces of being damaged by flooding,” said Christian Taubman, Redfin’s chief product officer. “Most homebuyers and sellers say that the frequency or intensity of natural disasters factors into their decision about where and whether to buy or sell a home, so this is information they can really use.”
Redfin’s new approach has been under consideration by the company since at least last summer.
Redfin’s lead economist Taylor Marr told NPR the company felt it needed to be “very careful” about how it displays new data on its platform, citing the effect flood risk information could have on property values.
“Could this actually reduce the value for this existing homeowner and essentially take away a lot of their net worth?” Marr asked at the time.
A spokesperson for Redfin disputed that Marr had any reservations of about whether or not flood data should be displayed and said the company was “deep into talks with First Street and already working with them to add flood risk data to our site” at the time of Realtor.com’s announcement.
“We’ve always felt that this data was important for consumers and our position on this has not changed,” the spokesperson said.
Marr told Inman this week that Redfin’s Flood Factor feature came about after the company spent months testing how consumers interact with flood-risk data and reviewing academic research.
“We determined there was a greater harm in not surfacing flood risk information,” he told the publication. “Without it, customers are at greater risk of overpaying for a home or under-assessing the costs of potential flood damage to high-risk properties.”
The move comes as insurance companies are paying greater attention to properties’ changing flood risk and hiking rates accordingly, particularly in flood-prone regions like South Florida.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include a quote from a Redfin spokesperson, as well as clarification on the timeline of the Flood Factor service.