Housing report ranks Whatcom County low in man-made environmental hazards

Whatcom County has the seventh-lowest score in the nation when it comes to man-made environmental hazards, according to a newly released report.

That’s the assessment from RealtyTrac, a national supplier of real estate information. The firm ranked the 578 largest real estate markets based on five man-made environmental hazards: percentage of bad air quality days, number of Superfund sites, brownfield sites, polluters and former drug labs per square mile.

According to the data collected by RealtyTrac, Whatcom County averaged zero bad air quality days annually in recent years and was below the U.S. average in the other categories. The brownfield sites, polluters and former drug labs totaled 0.06 per square mile, according to the report. The complete report can be found on the realtytrac.com website, in the Housing and Foreclosure section under News.

Several other areas in Western Washington did well in this report. Skagit County had the fourth-lowest score in the U.S.; Snohomish County was fifth and Thurston County was ninth.

The area with the highest man-made environmental hazards was St. Louis County, Mo. It had 5.35 Superfund sites on the national priority list per square mile.

RealtyTrac took the rankings and compared it to home appreciation, discovering that the 50 highest hazard counties had better short-term home appreciation than the 50 counties with the lowest hazard scores. However, when it came to the 10-year period, the 50 counties with the lowest scores averaged 16 percent appreciation, while the 50 counties with the highest scores averaged 6.8 percent.

The median price also tilted toward the 50 counties with the lowest hazard scores. The median home price for those counties was $212,638, while the median home price for the 50 counties with the highest hazard scores was $197,946.

Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, noted that the most hazard-prevalent housing markets tend to have higher populations.

“It’s also important to keep in mind that not all of these environment hazards are created equal, ranging widely in scope and severity,” Blomquist said in a news release, adding that potential homebuyers should dig into the details to make the most-informed decision.

Questions about the environment are popular among potential out-of-town homebuyers, said Darin Stenvers, manager at the Bellingham John L. Scott office. He’s noticed an increase in those questions in the past five years, the most common being the coal train debate, something that wasn’t factored in this study.

“Consumers are pretty good about looking into quality of life of the area when looking for a home,” Stenvers said, adding that his brokers are trained to provide that information.