What's behind the 'big lift' in climate risk concern for home buyers?

When Barfoot and Thompson real estate agent Kelly Midwood is selling property that is near, or far from, the water, she says there are lots of climate-related questions. 

Midwood sells properties in the East Auckland suburbs of St Heliers, Kohimarama and Mission Bay. 

"Every single home - it's now being questioned around it. So, you don't need to necessarily be waterfront. You can be on a hill.  

"So, it is certainly front of mind for purchasers and has been for the last year to 18 months." That's backed up by a new survey from insurer IAG, which shows climate risk has jumped as a concern for home buyers.

IAG chief executive Amanda Whiting said 56 percent of buyers were concerned two years ago. 

"This year it's 86 percent. So, you can see there's been a... big lift.  

"Part of that will be about recency and about the events that we had in Cyclone Gabrielle and the North Island flooding." 

Natural disasters in 2023 cost insurers $3.8 billion, according to the Insurance Council of New Zealand. 

Treasury research shows that's lead to premiums increasing on average by 31 percent last year. 

IAG said 28 percent of a client's premium goes to fire and earthquake levies. Twenty-six percent pays for the reinsurance and the cost of natural disasters.  

A customer's risk profile and claims history equals 19 percent, with company business costs and GST making up the rest. 

The good news is premiums might not rise as fast as a lot of the risk is now priced in. 

But there's no reason to relax. 

Ilan Noy of Victoria University is an expert in the economics of disaster and climate change. 

He said while New Zealand had a good summer, all the climate scientists believe Aotearoa is going to have more intense periods of rainfall. 

Prof Noy said insurers are starting to drill down on each individual property's risk profile. 

Whiting said they have been talking to the Government about a three-step plan to pull all the data together so there is one place customers can access information about climate risks for a property. 

"There have been very positive responses to that." 

Until that happens, home hunters will have to keep asking those curious climate-related questions.