Hot properties

This Austin-area suburb is No. 1 in the U.S. for risk of extreme heat, report says

This Austin-area suburb is No. 1 in the U.S. for risk of extreme heat

thermometer heat hot sun
Williamson County in Central Texas is tops in the U.S. for heat risk. Photo by Getty Images

To be sure, the housing market in Williamson County is hot, as it is throughout the Austin metro area. In recent months, the median sale price for a home in Williamson County, the area’s second largest county, shot up 43 percent compared with the previous year.

However, Williamson County, home to the booming suburbs of Georgetown, Taylor, Hutto, and Liberty Hill, is a hot housing market for another reason — this one related to the weather.

data analysis by residential real estate brokerage Redfin identifies Williamson County as the No. 1 county in the U.S. facing a high risk of intense heat. Redfin bases heat risk on the number of extremely hot days in the future, defined as the number of anticipated days with high temperatures above 90 degrees.

The analysis determined all of the more than 200,000 homes in Williamson County, valued at nearly $88.9 billion, face a high risk of extreme heat. Redfin ranked the counties with high heat risk according to the net migration for each county from 2016 to 2020. For Williamson County, the net migration rate was 16.3 percent.

Redfin relied on climate data from ClimateCheck, along with county property records and U.S. Census Bureau figures, to come up with rankings not only for counties confronting extreme heat, but also counties facing a high risk of droughts, fires, floods, and storms.

“Homebuyers in Williamson County sometimes ask about utility costs — especially after the major power outage caused by the snowstorm this winter — but they don’t seem too concerned about the heat,” Redfin agent Barb Cooper tells Redfin.

“Part of that may be because you don’t know what you don’t know. If you come from an area that hasn’t experienced significant heat or drought, you might not be aware of the implications for homeowners,” she adds. “For example, when it gets hot and dry here, local authorities often put restrictions on how much water homeowners can use, shut down car washes, and only let people water their yards on certain days.”

The only other Texas county to appear in the top five of any of Redfin’s five climate categories is Dallas-Fort Worth’s Denton County. The analysis calculates drought risk based on expected pressure on a county’s water supply.

Denton County, which saw a net migration rate of 13 percent from 2016 to 2020, lands at No. 2 on the list of U.S. counties facing the greatest risk of drought conditions. Custer County, Colorado, located southwest of Pueblo, grabs the No. 1 spot.

Nearly 260,000 homes in Denton County, or 99.9 percent of all homes, face a high risk of drought, Redfin says. These homes are valued at nearly $107.8 billion.

“People have been gravitating to places with severe climate risk because many of these areas are relatively affordable, have lower property taxes, more housing options, or access to nature,” Redfin economist Sebastian Sandoval-Olascoaga says.

“For a lot of people, these benefits seem to outweigh the dangers of climate change,” he adds. “But as natural disasters become more frequent, homeowners in these areas may end up losing property value or face considerable difficulty getting their properties insured against environmental disasters.”