When you’re buying a property, it is important to know if it’s in a Flood Zone! Why? Because, if it is, it can require costly flood insurance and negatively affect your ability to re-sell it! Note: This is something the listing broker (if there is one) should know and disclose. The listing broker may not know, however it is incumbent on you to ask…and do your “due diligence” to find out. We learned this lesson the hard way once….at it could have cost us dearly!
But first, understand that FEMA has mapped out most of the US with regard to flood zones. Using GPS and other very modern tools, they charted out the topography of the land as it relates to the various bodies of water, streams and rivers. From their calculations, including weather data and history, they have created maps with grids on them covering every possible address. It is rather complicated to explain, but suffice it to say that your property will fall into a particular zone with a certain flood “rating”. From which you can determine what your flood zone status.
The red pointer in the following screen shot below shows our house on the FEMA maps. We simply went on the FEMA site and typed in our address. From there you get the “map number” and take it from there. (See hyper links below on how to look up the address you’re researching).
We are house “flippers” and once early on, as relative new-comers, we bought a house, completely unaware that it was partially located on the edge of a “100 year storm flood” zone. It was several blocks away from a local creek, which we would never have considered a flood threat. Yet, if we’d done our research we would have discovered that the FEMA map showed that once every 100 years the basement of this house could flood potentially. According to the data, the flood surge of this type of catastrophic flooding would only reach (& potentially fill) the basement of our house!
This means that if a flood occurred, this house would possibly have its furnace, water heater, washer & dryer (all presently located in the basement) and any wall and floor finishes ruined. Although certainly not a pleasant prospect, it wouldn’t be catastrophic, and would only require clean-up and the replacement of these fixtures and appliances.
We were lucky! The house’s location required “flood insurance” of only a nominal amount, and our buyers were OK with that! Whew! Other houses, located closer to that stream, however, had a worse flood rating because more of the structure of those homes could be far more adversely affected by flooding (possibly flooding first floors or even more, again depending on the home’s elevation, etc. As a result, the flood insurance rates are much higher. When that happens, the value of the house declines.
So, what if you’re considering a house and you want to check out their “flood zone” situation?
The easy way is to check http://www.freeflood.net, which is fairly accurate. If you need, however, to be doubly sure, then you’ll want to go to http://www.fema.gov for a flood map or get flood certification from a title company.
Also, keep in mind that Flood Insurance is only required when you take out a mortgage. So if you’re buying a home for cash, you may decide to take your chances on a “100 year flood”. However, most buyers will have a mortgage and the bank will require flood insurance. So whether you’re ‘flipping’ or ‘holding’…it’s good to know!