What to know before buying a home on a fault line

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When buying a home, it’s good practice to conduct due diligence before committing. Part of your due diligence process involves establishing whether a property is sitting on a fault line. This information enables you to understand how future earthquakes might affect your property and the types of natural hazards that can impact your safety.

This piece focuses on the key things to keep in mind before buying a home on a fault line.

What is a fault line?

A fault line refers to a break or fracture on the ground caused by tectonic plates that move or shift. The break in the earth’s tectonic plates is a likely site of a future earthquake. A fault line can run for hundreds of miles and cover massive ground.

How a fault line affects your property

Safety while living in the home

Earthquakes can compromise the integrity of a building by shaking it off it foundation, turning the soil to liquid, and causing landslides. Should an earthquake occur, the house on the fault line will bear the most impact. If your home is located on a fault line, you are typically at a higher risk than someone outside the zone. Although the chances of an earthquake remain very small, living on or near a fault line may be outside of your risk-acceptance level.

House remodels

Proximity to an earthquake fault zone can also affect your future remodeling or modification plans. After buying a property on a fault line, you’ll need to acquire detailed geological studies and surveys before carrying out any significant renovations on the property. These studies and surveys ensure that an active rupture line is avoided and the integrity of the foundation is maintained.

Resale of the property

It can be a bit tricky to sell a home located on a fault line. Like in a scenario where the power lines are running too close to the house, being in the fault line zone can negatively impact the demand and the resale value of your home. Typically, a reduced demand results in a lower purchase price and resale value than areas outside the zone.

What to do before buying a home on a fault line

When planning to purchase a home in a state with a high frequency of earthquakes, it is crucial to plan ahead and decide where you’re comfortable living.

In addition to consulting the United States federal government’s seismic maps, do the following:

Check for earthquake-resistant features

Your first step is to determine whether a building has earthquake-resistant features. It’s important that structures stay up to date with the latest earthquake-proof technology designed to mitigate hazards. Some of the features to check for include specialized diaphragms, cross-bracing, moment-resisting frames, shear walls, trusses, and lightweight roofing. If you have no knowledge of these features, hire an expert to check them out.

Conduct a thorough inspection

If the home you are considering is a few years old, it may have been through small earthquakes already. Have the home inspected by an expert to ascertain the quality of its build and any hidden structural issues. Damage from earthquakes is not always apparent to the untrained eye, and a house that looks fine to you on the surface could be hiding heavy damage.

Price earthquake-proof retrofitting

Making a building earthquake-proof is a substantial investment on your part. There are myriad structural additions that can help your home endure a massive earthquake. Older homes, in particular, may need the latest earthquake retrofits and upgrades. Before buying a home, determine the types of accommodation needed to enhance a home’s earthquake readiness and price them during the escrow period.

Determine the cost of earthquake insurance

Standard homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover earthquakes. Buying a home in earthquake-prone locations may force you to buy special coverage that protects your home and possessions. You should therefore get quotes for the earthquake insurance before you buy your home.

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