Experts educate realtors on fire risk and the real estate market in Nevada County |

Experts educate realtors on fire risk and the real estate market in Nevada County

Greg Bulanti, the president-elect of the Nevada County Association of Realtors, far right, moderates the question and answer session of Friday's discussion panel hosted by the association about the effect of fire risk on home insurance.
Emily Lavin/ |

An active fire season throughout the state and years of prolonged drought have given insurance companies cold feet about doing business in California.

Homeowners in many of the state’s fire-prone areas, including Nevada County, are finding that insurance companies are declining to renew existing policies and are forgoing writing new ones due to fire risk.

But the situation isn’t just causing headaches for homeowners; it’s also a hot topic for the county’s real estate agents, who are often faced with the challenge of helping those relocating to or within the county find affordable policies that will protect their homes in the event of a blaze.

On Friday, the Nevada County Association of Realtors hosted a discussion panel aimed at giving realtors the information they need to understand how fire risk affects the availability of home insurance in the county and to help homeowners overcome potential hurdles to secure insurance.

Joanne Drummond, the executive director of the Fire Safe Council of Nevada County, joined local insurance agents Mike Bratton, of State Farm Insurance, Wanda Mertens, of Farmers Insurance, and Mark Ridens, of Ridens Insurance Agency, to address a crowd of about two dozen realtors at the Nevada County Association of Realtors office on Crown Point Circle in Grass Valley.

The prevailing message: realtors should treat the current home insurance climate as the new normal.

“This is the worst situation that I’ve ever seen in the 31 years I’ve been doing this,” said Bratton. “And I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon.”

It’s not just the blazes that burned over the summer that are upping the fire risk, Mertens told the group. It’s that more sophisticated technology is being used to determine which particular houses or blocks of a neighborhood are especially susceptible to fire, based on access, water source, wind patterns, type of roof on a structure and more.

“Not only is the fire service far more educated and has information they can access, but the insurance industry does too,” Mertens said.

Insurance companies who are canceling policies or refusing to write new policies are in part trying to manage their existing risk in Nevada County, Bratton said.

He said a company’s priority is taking care of its existing clients; if a company already has significant business in a high-risk fire area, the company becomes more reluctant to take on new policies in that area.

“We don’t want to put too much risk in the fold that could damage future rates” for existing policy holders, Bratton said.

All of the contributing factors amount to a “frustrating” situation for those seeking a home insurance policy, Ridens said.

“Their opportunity to look for an insurance company that fits their needs, that offers the services that they want at a price they can afford is drastically reduced right now,” Ridens said.

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin, email or call 530-477-4230.

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