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Retrofit your home to help prevent a total loss in an earthquake

Photo by qingwa/ Photo by qingwa/

With buildings in California, as with people, the term old is relative. That is, unless the house was built before 1980. If it was, it qualifies as an old home in one important way: earthquake safety. Most modern seismic building codes did not take effect until the 1980s, so if the home was constructed before then, it’s probably at higher risk of sustaining major damage in a temblor.

But that doesn’t mean you have to give up your beloved Victorian or Craftsman house. Most older homes can be retrofitted to be safer and more stable. The process is typically simpler and less expensive than you might expect.

“Spending a smaller amount of money to help prevent damage can help avoid a much bigger repair bill after an earthquake,” says Glenn Pomeroy, CEO of the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). “Whatever the cost, it is a relatively small price to pay to protect the value of your home and, more importantly, make it safer for your family.”

To retrofit your home, contractors will likely go into the crawl space underneath it to brace the walls and bolt the structure to the foundation. Depending on the type of retrofit your house needs, the job usually takes a few days. In most cases, contractors can complete the project without ever entering your home.

Cost of retrofitting a house

Most seismic retrofit projects cost between $3,000 and $7,000, and the California Residential Mitigation Program’s Earthquake Brace and Bolt program provides homeowners up to $3,000 for residential seismic retrofits in areas where the earthquake risk is especially high. What’s more, when you retrofit your home, you can apply for a reduction in your CEA insurance premium of up to 25%.

What if you already have earthquake insurance? It certainly helps protect your investment in your home, but retrofitting can provide another layer of protection that’s just as important.

A seismically retrofitted home has a greater chance of withstanding a temblor, while a home that hasn’t been retrofitted can fall completely off its foundation, sometimes resulting in a total loss, even in a moderate shaker. Yes, earthquake insurance can help you rebuild your home from the ground up if necessary. But wouldn’t you rather avoid that scenario?

Ask an agent: Condo earthquake policies

Question: I live in a condo. Do I need earthquake insurance?

Answer: It’s a good idea to have a condo earthquake policy. It can help pay for any assessment your homeowners association charges for building repairs, as well as cover damage to personal possessions that occurred during the earthquake. It can also help pay rent or hotel bills if you must move out temporarily. —Monique Robinson-Cardenas, AAA insurance agent.

Have you experienced a major life event? Make sure your policy is up to date. Go to For other insurance information, go to, call (844) 226-3897, or visit your local Auto Club branch.

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