In recent months, the threat of earthquakes in Oklahoma has become increasingly prominent. According to Tulsa World, in the 90 days leading up to May 15, 2014, 94 earthquakes were detected that had strength of at least 2.5. While these earthquakes have not been strong enough to cause significant damage to buildings or cause injuries, they have definitely made us take notice. Researchers suspect that oil and natural gas activity is responsible, but for the time being there are no definitive answers as to why the region has experienced a 50 percent increase in seismic activity since October 2013. This leaves many our local real estate buyers and sellers wondering how this earthquake threat will affect home prices and the market.
Researchers have indicated that – with the recent jump in seismic activity and the record breaking number of earthquakes that the area has experienced – the chance for a quake of magnitude 5.5 or higher is growing. A quake of this strength would have great potential for damaging some buildings. In the Oklahoma area, which is not as well known for earthquakes as it is for tornadoes; it isn’t as common for buildings and homes to be built according to earthquake standards the way they frequently are in areas along active fault lines, such as California. If a slightly stronger quake should hit, the lack of earthquake-specific reinforcements will increase the likelihood for building damage.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey, oil and natural gas activity in the area should be considered a “contributing factor” in the cause of the recent earthquakes. Their report indicates that the risk of a potentially larger earthquake continues to grow. The Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, on the other hand, has pointed out that no Oklahoma-based researcher has produced any definitive evidence that links the rise in seismic activity with the oil and natural gas production. The OIPA points out that since production occurs in 70 out of 77 Oklahoma counties, any seismic activity, regardless of cause, would be near oil and gas wells.
Earthquakes and Oklahoma home prices
Various real estate market analyses from the end of 2013, which saw the beginning of the rise in the number of earthquakes, indicated that prices have continued to remain constant or show a slightly positive rise. Predictions for the beginning of 2014 indicated a continuation of this trend. These changes indicate that the market has not yet experienced any major effects from the earthquake activity and warnings.
Analysis from real estate professionals who work in areas more prone to earthquakes say that predicting how these natural disasters can influence housing prices is a difficult process. For example, after California’s major earthquakes in 1989, the state’s housing market failed miserably as buyer confidence decreased and people pulled out of home sales due to anxiety. The issue of damaged property and decreased inventory also play a role in the final outcome of housing prices following a disaster.
On a grand scale, however, the minor quakes and threats do not seem to have had a large impact on the market just yet. Like any natural disaster, or threat of natural disaster, earthquakes have the potential to scare residents and make potential buyers nervous about living in the area. Understanding what researchers believe about the potential for earthquakes in the Tulsa area, along with an understanding of how these threats might influence the local market, can help professionals and customers alike in making wise decisions about their property. The next few months will reveal how much of an impact these threats have made. If you have any questions about our featured Tulsa listings and the affect of earthquakes, give Cindy a call.