Investing In Land – Are You On Shaky Ground



Investing In Land – Are You On Shaky Ground?

Most people consider California to be the most earthquake-prone state and it is. But less known is that the largest earthquake ever to occur in the continental United States may have occurred more than 2,000 miles from San Francisco two hundred years earlier along the Mississippi River. The epicenter was in New Madrid, Missouri and the tremors were said to be felt for one million square miles (there were no modern seismological equipment at the ready in 1811 and 1812 when the quake occurred). Eyewitnesses reported that the Mississippi River had waves flowing northerly.

Recently the United States Geological Survey has updated its risk map for earthquakes in America and elevated risks in many areas not California. After all there has been more damage from earthquakes in Washington DC (a 5.8 magnitude quake in 2011 was the largest on the East Coast since 1944) than in Los Angeles in recent years. According to the government geologists 42 of the 50 states “have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years.”

Sixteen states are believed to be at high risk. In addition to New Madrid other “hotbeds” of seismic activity away from the famous fault lines of California, Oregon and Washington are near Knoxville, Tennessee and Charleston, South Carolina. The risk of earth-moving tremors has been elevated in Boston and all of New England. So what does a land buyer do with this information?

Any time you are looking at buying or building on property on a cliff or hillside or near a potential fault line you will want to request a Geological report to assess the potential hazards in your path. California often requires the seller to provide these reports as a matter of course. Now that practice can be expected to routinely spread beyond the Golden State to regions of the intermountain West and other vulnerable regions identified by the United States Geological Survey. The findings can affect any building plans you have for future land.

Even if there has been no known recent rumblings it can be a sound practice to retain the services of a geological engineer to review public  geological surveys and map out the distance from known fault lines to your intended property. There is nothing like unstable ground to turn an investment sour in a matter of seconds.