Fortress Wildfire Disclosure Report in California

Quick Overview of the Fortress Wildfire Disclosure

The Fortress Wildfire Disclosure report is a new automated report for California homes.  It is akin to a natural hazard disclosure report; both are generated automatically based on mapping and other data, to alert buyers about potential natural and other environmental risks posed to any particular property. The Fortress Wildfire Disclosure report is concerned specifically with wildfire risk. It includes satellite imagery to estimate how close potentially combustible materials (e.g. trees and bushes) are to the property and to calculate what kind of risk those materials pose to the property – and also provides an estimate of cost to mitigate those risks.

Anyone can order a Fortress Wildfire Disclosure report.  They are provided by the same companies that do the Natural Hazard Disclosure reports, but are an additional expense – which varies between companies.

Video Transcript

Are you thinking about buying or selling a home in California that’s anywhere near a tree?  I was in my office meeting yesterday, or actually I was on my Peloton or working out, watching my office meeting on my iPad and they were talking about how there’s a new line on the California Residential Purchase Agreement about this Fortress Wildfire report. It’s actually baked in now to every purchase agreement if there should be one of these reports obtained and who should pay for it, the buyer or the seller (or both).

I thought that was very interesting that there was a very robust discussion about that. And my feeling is that if you are in a area where wildfire is a concern, and let’s be real in almost every part of the Bay Area, Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, Santa Cruz County, even Monterey County, anywhere really where there is any kind of trees, which I think is pretty much everywhere in the Bay Area except for the very urban dense parts of the Bay Area where there really aren’t that many trees, people are going to be concerned with wildfires.

And that is why the California Association of Realtors has now put that into their contract. And in my office meeting they were saying, well gee, what do you do if the buyer all of a sudden orders this wildfire disclosure report and they find something alarming in that report and they want you the seller to pay for it? Well, I have a good answer for that. I just think that hey, you’re a seller. You’re a smart seller. You are going to get a home inspection of course, and a termite inspection of course. And maybe if you have a septic system, you would definitely get that inspected and maybe your well would be inspected or maybe you get a roof inspection. There’s all kinds of things which you might want to pay for so that you can make a complete and full disclosure to the buyer before they make an offer on your property so that you are having an as-is sale.

My feeling is that you as a seller would definitely want to pay to have this report done, which I believe costs around, was it $125, $129, yet one more fee to pay as you go selling your house. But I think that as this could quite likely end up being a possible deal breaker in some cases on the purchase of a house, which I always say one of the most expensive things that could happen to you when you’re selling your house is to have it fall out of contract. You really want to minimize the risk of falling out of contract. So you want to have all information available to a buyer that the buyer might otherwise find all on their own. And it seems like this wildfire disclosure report, which is obtainable by the click of a button, it’s very possible the buyer would get one of these.

For Best Results

So why don’t you as a seller prophylactically havethat report done ahead of time? So I’m going to show you this report right here (in the video of this post). Now, this is a sample report which I pulled off the internet. So take a look at it here. And the thing is, is that this is not a replacement for an actual defensible space report. So now if you are selling your home in a high wildfire area or a very high wildfire area or a state responsible area that’s not high or very high but is in a wildland fire area, you need to get what is called a defensible space report. And the best way to find out if in fact you really need to have this report done is to call your local fire department and they will confirm if you do need to have that done and which agency would be doing the report.

And again, if you are selling a house that is anywhere near a tree, then you are probably most likely going need to have this report done. And that does involve having an actual fire inspector come inspect your home and tell you, oh, you’re going to have these trees cut back and this grass cut back and you can’t have mulch anymore. I mean, they actually have a fairly long list of stuff that they look at when they’re evaluating your house in person. So this Fortress wildfire report, it is not that. It is not a substitute for that. This is in addition to that. So this is, even if you don’t require that AB 38 defensible space inspection report done by a fire person, you can still have this report done and it will tell you, Hey, these are areas of concern for the wildfire resistance capacity for the property that you are buying.

And interestingly enough, the report also does give you cost estimates of how much it thinks it will cost you to improve the fire hardening as it were of that property. So if you are a seller and you don’t have one of these reports and the buyer does get one of these reports and says, oh, look at this report tells me that I might have to spend 10 grand cutting back the landscaping in order to meet those fire safety standard, just don’t be surprised. Which is why I suggest that if you are a seller in these areas, that you get that report done ahead of time and put that into the disclosure package so that you’re not caught unaware by a buyer doing this and hitting you up to pay for that. I want to have all information about the property known ahead of time before you begin negotiating with the buyer.

So there’s one more hoop to jump through. If you are a seller of property and if you are a buyer of property and the seller has not done that report, I do suggest that you spend the money, you get that report done. And if it does indicate that you do need some work to improve the fire hardening capacity of your house that you’re going to buy, why that is a great negotiation tool to get yourself a pretty healthy credit from the seller.

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About the Author
Seb Frey helps long-time Bay Area homeowners make their next move easily the next one yet. If you're looking for a minimum of hassle, maximum net cash on sale, and certain results, contact Seb today.