Catastrphic event increase in likelihood....does this impact your choce of rent vs buy?

Everybody of us saw extreme weather event happening in places that are not the “usual” one - what happened in Germany could have happened in similar region around the Rhein or oher rivers in Switzerland.
The mud avalanche in the center of Tokio, heatwave in Canada, etc.

The consensus (without even talking about man-made nature of climate change) but the trend is clearly towards an increase of these extreme event, that means that once-in-a-1000 years event will happen every 100 years, and once -every-100 years will happen every 10 years so to speak.

Our infrastructure is built for once-in-a-100 year event…there is a certain incertitude if it can resist multiple extreme event in subsequent years.

Does this factor comes into play when you think about real-estate, eg buying vs renting, ownership risk vs flexibiltiy to move?

For me it does comes into play a bit - I know there is insurance, and money is only partially an issue…but time to renovate and fix everything? what if your neighborhood basically disappear like in Germany…? I guess renting would be easier to then start anew somewhere else.

I’m just feling a bit unsure in having so much of my assets tied to a single Real-Estate in a certain place, in the last two years more than before.

Curious to hear your thoughts


Interesting points. I’d definitely take hazards into account when choosing a location where to live, doubly so if I am buying real estate. If I wasn’t confident in my ability ot assess those risks, that would weight in my decision to buy vs rent.

Securization projects nowadays take into account extreme scenarii, aiming at mitigating their impact (diverting excess floods toward non-constructed areas, for example). On top of that, we are developping monitoring measures aimed at anticipating the events, mitigate their impact and optimize our reaction in the aftermath. Some areas are hard to secure and I’d not buy there, some Gemeinden don’t have the skillset/will to handle it properly either. This does factor in my decision of where to live.

Some places should definitely be avoided. In case of doubt, I’d go the extra mile and consult an expert before choosing a location. Natural Hazards maps should be available on the Canton’s website, they’re already a useful indicator of the situation. I’d add excess rains and earthquakes in my thought process before settling on a location.

Some places are still pretty secure, I’d buy/build there without hesitation.

A useful website concerning natural hazards: Home: National Platform for Natural Hazards


FYI - in Vaud you can check this (and other useful information) on Just choose the theme you are interested in from the menu and then what exactly you would like to see on the map.

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one advantage for buying is that you can equip your home against some of this event - eg installing solar panels and air conditioning to mitigate a heat wave. When you rent in Switzerland you have no chance to find such combinations.
On the other hand, if a region or even a country becomes very annoying to live in, I wonder how the market will shift (more sellers than buyer). Although that is less of an issue if I see how california real estate behave, although hit hard by many of these extreme events. There may be peripheral region already experiencing this, with people that want to leave but can’t sell their homes at a fair price

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The opposite should be true too: if you can find an area that would be spared the brunt of the harshening conditions, it may appreciate more than other places.

but that benefit does not compare with the risk. I mean if you pick the right location and everybody wants to move there, your value is increasing but how that benefit you? You are not going to sell if you have found a place spared by catastrophes, basically just your theoretical wealth goes up, and what does that you? you can have larger mortgage and you can pay more taxes? If selling is not an option what would you benefit from an increase in value of your home? Genuine question.

On the other hand if you are forced to move you theoretically can get stuck with an unsellable home that is going to drag your finance down and cause a big loss.

Sorry, I got carried away, my perspective was to search for real estate assets for investing purposes (rentals) or value storage (land). From a own housing perspective, the gain is indeed purely to simply live in a nice place, which can be achieved by renting just as well.

In addition to hazard information on cantonal geographical information systems, you can always check out a location yourself.

  • Cracks in the walls might indicate shifting ground or earthquake damage.
  • Nearby trees might damage the property when felled by a storm
  • Slanted property might slide away during an earthquake, if a layer of clay minerals is underneath it
  • Properties on a hilltop might be fully exposed to storm events (wind, lightning, hail)
  • nearby creeks and rivers might carry unusual volume of water (and mud) across your property
  • low lying rooms within your property (basements) might be susceptible to water rising up through drainage holes
  • talking to locals about previous 100-year events

This is just a rough sketch of what you want to look for when assessing risks.

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