Earthquake hazard factor in Pacific Northwest

11 Replies

Hi everyone,

I have recently become very interested in moving the pacific northwest to invest in buy-and-hold properties long term.  I am particularly interested in the Portland and Vancouver areas as well as other places in Washington state and Oregon, including Seattle.  These states and metro areas seem both like a nice place to live long term (10, 20+ years) as well as invest.  

I got particularly interested in Vancouver for tax reasons, but then realized it is located next to several active volcanoes (Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Ranier, Mt. Hood...).  I started looking into what risk volcanic activity might pose, and then started investigating the earthquake hazards in the region more generally.  

Considering I am planning on holding properties in the area for decades it seems like a real factor to consider.  Earthquake and tsunami risk aside even just having tons of ash dumped on numerous properties sounds devastating.  I have read as well that insurers in the area typically won't insure against such hazards.  

Anyway, I imagine I will get a mixed response here, but I am very curious what people more familiar with the area and the risks have to say.  How much of a factor would these hazards be in a long-term investment strategy in the region?

I wouldn't worry about it.  at all. 

disclosure: i've lived in Vancouver BC and Bellingham WA for combined 26 years.  

Originally posted by @Patrick Britton :

I wouldn't worry about it.  at all. 

disclosure: i've lived in Vancouver BC and Bellingham WA for combined 26 years.  

Thanks for your quick reply, Patrick!  Yes, you would be the type of person I would want to here from.  

Any reasons why you're so unconcerned?

@Nick Brubaker

  Mt. Hood is inactive... Mt St Helens already blew its top... and Rainer is way to far away to affect anything In the Vancouver WA area  different water sheds and there is many mountains between them.. not sure if Rainer is inactive either.   Patrick is talking about Vancouver BC.. not Vancouver WA.

Tsunami are not an issue as you are 60 miles inland... the nuclear reactors were all decommission 25 years ago... The Columbus day storm came and went in 1962 and the Tillamook Burn was 55 years ago..

last tremblor  was in mid 90s and 5 point something. but there could certainly be another earth quake.. But its not like living on the San Andreas fault  ( were I lived in the 1989 quake in SF.. I was right on it in Palo Alto)

So for natural disasters its safer than most.. but for violent weather that kills many IE Tornados Hurricanes lighting  Zero chance.. other than the afore mentioned Columbus day storm of 1962 which brought 100 plus mile an hour winds to metro PDX and NW Oregon. it was a once in 500 years storms.

So all in all you will be able to live a fruitful long Albeit kind of wet  life here in PDX if you so choose...

@Nick Brubaker

 not to mention some of the cleanest air in the world nothing but big blue ocean and all the tree's produce all that nice Oxygen .... LOL...

Maybe I should write for the chamber of commece.. at the end of the day I would still much prefer to live in the Napa Valley ( which is were I lived before I moved up there) but its a pretty nice spot really.. and I travel extensively thorugh the US on work.. so I see many metro areas and their housing stock..

No humidity to speak of in the summer either that's the big draw back for me for anything East of Denver ... hard to get used to is... plus we get only 3 to 5 inches of snow a year .. and like this year did not get any...

But it does sprinkle non stop for months at a time... again why I prefer northern CA.. nothing like it in my mind.

Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs :

@Nick Brubaker

  Mt. Hood is inactive... Mt St Helens already blew its top... and Rainer is way to far away to affect anything In the Vancouver WA area  different water sheds and there is many mountains between them.. not sure if Rainer is inactive either.   Patrick is talking about Vancouver BC.. not Vancouver WA.

Tsunami are not an issue as you are 60 miles inland... the nuclear reactors were all decommission 25 years ago... The Columbus day storm came and went in 1962 and the Tillamook Burn was 55 years ago..

last tremblor  was in mid 90s and 5 point something. but there could certainly be another earth quake.. But its not like living on the San Andreas fault  ( were I lived in the 1989 quake in SF.. I was right on it in Palo Alto)

So for natural disasters its safer than most.. but for violent weather that kills many IE Tornados Hurricanes lighting  Zero chance.. other than the afore mentioned Columbus day storm of 1962 which brought 100 plus mile an hour winds to metro PDX and NW Oregon. it was a once in 500 years storms.

So all in all you will be able to live a fruitful long Albeit kind of wet  life here in PDX if you so choose...

Jay you are incredibly helpful, not to mention informative - I'm starting to wonder if I am talking to computer with database covering the entire country, not a single person  ; )

I tried to vote on your post, but it is saying "0 vote".  Do I have a vote limit or something?

We are overdue for an earthquake, but no one has a crystal ball and were talking year spans we can't really comprehend for our lifetimes. When I am crawling around in my crawl spaces I always worry about it, but not enough to ever justify paying for earthquake insurance (if the big one hits there will likely be way worse problems than just your buildings)

@Nick Brubaker

  My business is financing fix and flippers and turn key companies nationwide and I have been doing it since 2001... so I am intimately familiar with virtually every market were turn key companies work .. One year I spent over 150 days at Hiltons across the country and have the frequent flyer miles to prove it... :)

My vote and post counts are goofed up for some reasons. I actually have more like 7500 posts my post number keeps going backwards not sure if my vote numbers are climbing. pretty soon I will have a post count of 100 and votes of 5000....

If you get to Portland I can arrange to have one of my agents show you around.

Originally posted by @Jay Hinrichs :

@Nick Brubaker

  My business is financing fix and flippers and turn key companies nationwide and I have been doing it since 2001... so I am intimately familiar with virtually every market were turn key companies work .. One year I spent over 150 days at Hiltons across the country and have the frequent flyer miles to prove it... :)

My vote and post counts are goofed up for some reasons. I actually have more like 7500 posts my post number keeps going backwards not sure if my vote numbers are climbing. pretty soon I will have a post count of 100 and votes of 5000....

If you get to Portland I can arrange to have one of my agents show you around.

 Thank you, Jay.  Yes, it would be good to have an agent show me around.  I'll let you know if I decide to visit or move to Portland.

well, it's just one of those things we have been warned about for the longest time and nothing's happened.  

there are a lot more tangible and imminent risks facing investors of real estate in the NW USA than natural disasters.  

If you want to take advantage of the research that big insurance companies (and more important, their actuaries) do to calculate the risk of such an event, any easy way to do this is to price earthquake insurance. It isn't perfect, but the premiums give you a feel for the "extra cost" of doing business. As other for mentioned you'll have a lot less of other problems: frozen pipes, snow removal, broken AC (in many cases housing doesn't have AC), etc.. It's all about what risk/cost you are used to. We choose not to insure against earthquakes, and I've been through three major ones on the west coast in the last 25 years. We live in the Seattle area now and love it. It is hard to imagine living anywhere else in the US than the Pacific Northwest, but it isn't for everyone!

I'm 30 and I don't think of ever thought about earthquakes once. Except for there was a 4.2 earthquake in Springfield on the Fourth of July. I just googled Oregon earthquakes holy crap man they are going off all the time.