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Earthquakes, wildfires make Los Angeles the highest-risk city for natural disasters

Earthquakes, wildfires make Los Angeles the highest-risk city for natural disasters

San Francisco, Sacramento face less risk

As Southern Californians recover from two major earthquakes and remain wary of Mother Nature’s wrath, a new report details the often obvious — Los Angeles is a high-risk place to call home.

The nation’s second-largest city — surrounded by mountains, the ocean and an earthquake fault line — earned a natural disaster score of 100, largely because of the very real risk of earthquakes and wildfires, according to a recent Redfin report.

Redfin ranked both of those natural risks as 100, the highest possible score, while the threat of flooding was 51. Los Angeles has battled all three recently. Hillside wildfires often lead to massive flooding and mudslides a few months later.

Washington, D.C., also earned the highest risk score because of a number of combined natural threats, including earthquakes, fires, floods and hurricanes.

Riverside is the third most-at-risk city for natural disasters in the U.S. Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Riverside, about 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles (without traffic), finished in third place in the nation. Fire and floods are the biggest risks for Riverside.

San Francisco finished in the middle of the pack at No. 25, with earthquakes the leading risk. Sacramento, about 75 miles east of San Francisco, actually had a greater risk from natural disasters, with earthquakes, fires and floods as the leading threats.

Providence, R.I.; Detroit and Hartford, Conn. are the safest cities in the U.S. Las Vegas, a leading destination for Californians looking for more affordable housing and warm weather, finished in fourth place, with fires as the largest risk. 

Photo of Anaheim Hills fire by Aarti Kalyani/Shutterstock

CA homeowners to continue tapping equity for remodeling projects

The buying and flipping craze is slowing and returns are sliding, but homeowners will continue to spend on home-improvement projects in California, thanks to hefty home-equity gains in recent years.

Remodeling spending will increase in much of California. Roger Sullivan/Flickr

In fact, home-improvement spending will improve 11% in San Jose in 2019, with an estimated 8% increase in the Sacramento region, according to an annual report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.  

The rest of the state will see less spending for remodeling projects, from a 7% increase in San Francisco and the Inland Empire (Riverside and San Bernardino counties) to 4% or less in San Diego County.

(Interest on many home equity loans remains deductible.)

Western states, which have enjoyed some of the largest home price increases in recent years, will benefit the most from remodeling spending, while more than half of the 49 metro regions in the nation studied will experience more muted growth.

About the author
About the author

Ron Trujillo, an award-winning business journalist-turned-public relations executive, is the editor-owner of CalHomeNews and can be reached at

Tax reform affects Bay Area homeowners the most

California may boast one of the lowest property tax rates in the nation, but the Golden State also has some of the most expensive housing markets.

The average San Jose and San Francisco homeowner paid $9,626 and $8,493 in real estate taxes in 2017, the second- and third-most in the U.S., behind only the $10,200 in New York City.

San Jose and San Francisco homeowners also paid the most in mortgage interest at $15,000 and $14,500. Almost one of every three federal income tax returns claimed paying real estate taxes in 2017, according to the LendingTree report.

However, thanks to fast-rising prices that have greatly increased equity rates, few homeowners in the Bay Area have mortgage insurance — a rather costly coverage for homeowners with less than 20% equity.

Los Angeles finished as the 10th priciest metro market in the nation, with the average homeowner paying $6,635 in property taxes — less than Austin, Houston and Dallas, popular destination cities for those moving from the Golden State.

Property taxes are a major concern for higher-income Californians in pricier markets, especially with the federal tax overhaul of 2017. With a local tax cap of $10,000, some higher-income homeowners are hurt by the tax cuts, since they only receive credit for some of their local taxes — property and state income taxes. 

Of course, many taxpayers, even those who own homes with a mortgage, pass on itemized tax returns in favor of the standardized deduction.

Despite the changes, many consumers looking to buy are shrugging off the implications from tax reform, according to a recent Redfin report. Only 55% say the tax overhaul is affecting their buying decisions, only slightly higher than the 53% rate nationwide.

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