For previous generations, the questions surrounding where to buy a vacation home were simple: What’s your budget? And do you want to be near the mountains or the beach?
But now, in the disturbing wake of tragic natural disasters like the wildfires in Hawaii and catastrophic floods in the Northeast, many people are pausing to consider the ways climate change may wreak havoc on where they choose to settle: hurricanes that can sweep away beach homes, fires that can incinerate properties, tornadoes that can flatten condos — not to mention the risk to human lives.
It’s such a hot topic that Cal Inman developed a website, Climate Check, to give people “detailed climate risk data and reports for individual properties, portfolios and geographic corridors so you can assess your exposure to extreme weather events now, and up to 40 years into the future,” according to the website.
"There are a lot of reasons people purchase real estate: Be around the grandkids, be around kids, a job, or you’re thinking about retirement or vacation," he told Kiplinger. "You think about those needs and price point, but climate risk is certainly one factor to consider amongst all the other parts to the decision-making process of where to purchase."
And it’s not just the major weather factors to consider as you look at where to purchase real estate (and how to protect your home from natural disasters with the right insurance). Extreme heat can severely affect your quality of life, keeping you inside and racking up your air conditioning bill, while wildfire smoke, even from miles and miles away, can cause health issues.
But as Inman noted, factors are ever-changing, and while you can make educated guesses from the data, nothing is a sure thing — and no place is perfectly safe. Instead, you can simply familiarize yourself with the hazards of a region, so you can properly prepare for any possible situations.
So, even though it’s not possible to really predict the future, there are still some places that may be more attractive as a vacation house destination if climate change risk is on your mind. Here are just a few of the best places to buy a house to avoid most natural disaster risks.
1. Duluth, Minnesota
If you’re looking for a place that’s climate-proof, look no further than Duluth, Minnesota, a city on the shores of Lake Superior that’s repeatedly earned that label from major outlets.
Not only can you get the benefits of city living here, but you can also enjoy the beauty of one of America’s iconic Great Lakes. There’s not a real risk of hurricanes or wildfires here, and even the tough winters have become more bearable over the years.
Michigan is appealing for many of the same reasons Minnesota is: Low risk of storms like tornadoes or hurricanes, a temperate climate with comfortable summers, vast swaths of unspoiled nature, and of course, you can find homes on the beautiful Great Lakes.
Unlike a beach house, which can be threatened by hurricanes or rising sea levels, a Michigan lake house feels like a safer bet.
3. Park City, Utah
If mountains call you more than lakes, consider Salt Lake City, Utah. Park City is framed by stunning mountains, and unlike other vacation homes, it offers incredible recreational activities all summer long: Hike in the summer, go skiing in the winter.
While Utah is at risk of wildfire and drought, it’s also low risk for earthquakes, floods, and hurricanes, making it an appealing option for many.
4. Denver, Colorado
Another mountainside option? Denver. Denver gives you access to gorgeous natural scenery and outdoor recreation, as well as a bustling city vibe. After a long hike through Colorado’s forests, you can enjoy a meal at one of Denver’s world-class restaurants or a show at one of its many entertainment venues.
While Denver is at risk of wildfires, in general, it’s a sunny place that avoids the brunt of blizzards, flooding and hurricanes.
5. Orlando, Florida
Alright, a vacation home in Orlando isn’t for everyone. But for people with plenty of kids and teens coming along, it can be an incredible choice, with access to Disney World, Universal Studios, and other theme parks.
Plus, if climate change is a big concern, Orlando has been named by multiple outlets as one of the best cities to live to avoid climate change. You can still reach the other parts of Florida and soak up the sunny weather, but you also mostly avoid the hurricane and flooding risks.
6. The Catskills, New York
You get all the best of nature in The Catskills: mountains, waterfalls, forests, lakes… if you visualize a stunning scenic vista, you can probably find it in the Catskills. It makes it the perfect place for a vacation home, especially if you want to avoid the brunt of climate change.
While rising temperatures and flooding is a concern, the Catskills see less wildfires than the West Coast, don’t experience earthquakes, and usually avoid major storms as well.
The tip of New England may not attract as many vacationers as California, Florida or New York, but it offers similar attractions: Maine has beautiful lakes and oceans, thick, verdant forests, cresting mountains and charming small towns. It may not be a huge state, but it offers a diverse array of opportunities for vacation homes, meaning both beach-lovers and mountain dwellers can find a place they’d love here.
In terms of climate change risk, storms can batter the coast line, the winters can be rough, and flooding is a potential issue to consider, but the temperatures are more bearable, drought isn’t a considerable risk, and earthquakes and tornadoes are a non-issue.
Becca van Sambeck is a writer and editor with experience in many fields, including travel, entertainment, business, education, and lifestyle. Her work has appeared in outlets like NBC, Oxygen, Bravo, the University of Southern California, Elite Daily, CafeMom, Travel For Teens, and more. She currently resides in New York City.
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