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Review of all things Real Estate: How to lower fire insurance costs

In my very first article I informed the readership that this weekly column would be about information and education regarding selling anything. In view of skyrocketing fire insurance rates, the below article, courtesy of SNAP Natural Hazard Disclosure Company, provides information about a new product that may contribute to lower fire insurance costs.

What is the Wildfire Disclosure Report? The Wildfire Disclosure Report (WFDR) was developed by FortressFire® to assess wildfire characteristics of a property, provide mitigation recommendations, and help property owners better understand the vulnerability of their home to wildfires. It helps real estate professionals, sellers, and buyers comply with various fire zone mandates. This report is not based on general hazard modeling; its analysis focuses on a specific property and its surroundings. Results will vary from home to home.

Is this report required? The report itself is not required, however certain elements of the report are required in a real estate transaction. The laws in this area are complex, overlapping, and evolving. The WFDR can help all parties understand and meet their obligations, and stay ahead of requirements.

Isn’t this information already in the Natural Hazard Disclosure report? No. Although a few elements of the Wildfire Disclosure Report are touched on in the Natural Hazard Disclosure Report, the WFDR is significantly more detailed, provides mitigation recommendations, may aid in securing insurance, and ultimately helps property owners better understand the vulnerability of the home to wildfires.

Can this report help me get homeowners insurance, or get a better rate? Each insurance carrier defines their own underwriting criteria for homes in wildfire-exposed areas. The WFDR was designed to integrate into carrier underwriting processes. While WFDR-recommended mitigations improve a home’s insurability and wildfire survivability, carriers are not required to offer insurance based on these mitigations.

Who orders the WFDR report? Anybody can order the Wildfire Disclosure Report, at any time. It was designed for home sellers, home buyers, and their real estate agents, brokers, and escrow agents.

strong>How can WFDR help in a real estate transaction? There is no fire insurance contingency in the California Residential Purchase Agreement, buyers need to do their own due diligence. If there is a loan contingency, failure to obtain fire insurance and secure a loan after the offer is accepted would not excuse the loan contingency. The information in the Wildfire Disclosure Report can help avoid fire insurance complications and delays in a transaction and lead to better informed negotiations.

Does someone go out and inspect the property? No. The Wildfire Disclosure Report is compiled using satellite imagery, public record, and proprietary technology. FortressFire® does not walk the property though optional on-site inspections will be available later this year.

How much does it cost? How do I pay for it? The Wildfire Disclosure Report has a suggested retail price of $140, but actual pricing may vary with each distribution partner. Payment can be deferred to escrow or paid-up front via credit card.

How do I order the WFDR? FortressFire® has partnered with Snap NHD to distribute the Wildfire Disclosure Report for the initial launch of the program.

When should I order this report and what is the turnaround time? The Wildfire Disclosure Report can be ordered at any time, it does not have to be a part of a property sale or purchase. Imagine having this information on hand when renewing homeowners’ insurance or even incorporating it into the maintenance strategy for a property. A PDF version of the report is emailed to the purchaser within 48 hours (about two days) of ordering.

How long is the WFDR valid? Like a home inspection report, the Wildfire Disclosure Report is valid for several months. The vulnerability of a property to wildfire evolves over time due to changes in structural materials, modifications, addition/removal of adjacent structures, or vegetation types and density.

How do I implement the mitigation services recommended in the WFDR assessment? Recommended mitigations may be implemented by the homeowner. Qualified service providers can deliver these services across the state.

Who is FortressFire®? Why should I rely on their Wildfire Disclosure Report? FortressFire® brings together a diverse group of scientists, technologists, insurance experts, service operations leaders, and fire management professionals dedicated to protecting homes and businesses from the devastation of wildfire. FortressFire worked closely with the California Association of REALTORS® to develop the Wildfire Risk Report.

The sister company of FortressFire developed and distributes a proprietary, eco-sensitive, and sustainable fire retardant, currently used by CAL FIRE to combat wildfires in California. FortressFire also collaborates with CAL FIRE, Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety (IBHS) and California Department of Insurance (DOI).

CAL FIRE conducts inspections. IBHS sets the national standard for resilient construction. DOI sets the insurance standard. Wildfire management expertise and a commitment to mitigation and protection is FortressFire’s mission.


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