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Is your home exposed to environmental risks?

When you have a home, you know you have to insure it to protect it from the usual risks. There is always a chance that you could have a fire or that a wind or hail storm could strike and damage your property. In some areas, including Minnesota, at certain times of the year, there is the risk of a tornado or even potential for flooding. And your homeowner's policy also probably includes some level of protection for personal liability, such as would be needed in the case of someone being injured on your premises.

But there may be additional risks that you may not anticipate. A recent risk index was released that catalogs the various environmental risks of the nation's housing stock. The report found that there are 17.3 million residences located in high-risk zip codes. The index analyzed more than 8,000 zip codes and classified different types of environmental risk to which those homes were exposed.

The environmental risk levels included poor air quality, superfund sites, polluters, brownfields and former drug labs. They examined various Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data to measure the risk to property within a given zip code.

Superfund sites are locations where there was significant pollution, often from long-closed industrial businesses. The Superfund was created to deal with pollution that was often left behind after when industrial concerns closed or moved leaving behind decades of accumulated pollution, frequently without an operational company to pay for the cleanup.

Brownfields are similar to Superfund sites, but may not be as large or as contaminated. They may be former industrial plants or as small as an old corner gas station that left behind leaking underground tanks.

The report tracked the change in value and noted that areas with the highest environmental risk saw the lowest appreciation. Home in low-risk zip codes experienced the largest growth.

No property owner wants to be surprised to find that their property is burdened with any of these risks, and any buyer should ask questions and perform a through due diligence when purchasing any property.

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