Is Your Property In A Flood Zone? Find Out In 2 Minutes Or Less!

is your property in a flood zone?

For most of us, the risk of losing everything in a flood is NOT something we lie awake worrying about at night.

Flooding disasters tend to be a highly infrequent, once-in-a-lifetime event that happens to other people. They make for a compelling story on the nightly news, “but that kind of thing would NEVER happen to me” (or so we tell ourselves).

It's an understandable bias, because statistically speaking, the average person will never have to deal with it… but then it happens and suddenly YOU are part of that dreaded statistic.

Like most natural disasters, a flood has the capacity to wipe out everything you own in a matter of seconds… so if there is ANY risk that your property is situated in a flood zone – is it really worth rolling the dice on this?

Why It's Important

Flooding may or may not end up hitting you where you live – but regardless of how concerned you are about it, there are at least a few solid reasons why you should go through the motions of checking whether your property is situated in (or anywhere near) a flood zone.

As you'll see below – simply understanding your situation is half the battle.

Flood Zones = Risk

When a property is located in a confirmed floodplain, it can have a serious effect on the cost of property ownership, even if it doesn't flood.

The reality is – most properties cannot be purchased without some kind of financing (usually from a bank or credit union). When most lenders identify that a property is located in a flood zone, the vast majority of them will require their borrowers to pay for flood insurance on the property, because when a property is at risk of flooding (even when that risk is relatively small), their collateral is at stake – and the risk needs to be mitigated.

In some cases, the added cost of flood insurance isn't a huge issue – but depending on the type of flood zone a property is located in, this insurance could cost hundreds, or even thousands of dollars per year (a cost that wouldn't even be necessary for a property that isn't located in a flood zone). When flood insurance is required… it's kind of like a second property tax bill the owner gets to pay each year.

Flood Insurance can get expensive, REALLY expensive. If this is something you (or any future owner of the property) will have to pay on an ongoing basis…   you'll want to know about the issue BEFORE it's your problem to deal with – trust me.

RELATED: How to Identify (and Avoid) Wetlands

Even if you buy a property free and clear and you choose NOT to purchase flood insurance to protect yourself…  this could still be a significant problem for the next person down the line who owns your property. When the time comes for you to sell (even if that sounds like an eternity from now), a property with an elevated flood risk can create a serious obstacle in the selling process. When most buyers find out they're going to need flood insurance (and more importantly, how much it's going to cost them), this can be a significant deterrent for many people who otherwise would have been happy to buy your property.

Is Your Property In A Flood Zone?

Luckily, there's a quick and FREE way to find out if your property is located in a flood zone. I'll explain how it works in the video below:

To get started, just search for your property address on FEMA.gov and you'll get instant access to the nearest, most relevant flood map in the area (hint: if you're dealing with a vacant lot that doesn't have a registered address, just find the nearest property that does have an address and search for that one).

Here's an example of what these flood maps look like:

FEMAFloodMap

You can also use a site like FloodTools.com and search for your property there as well (in fact, I actually prefer this website over FEMA.gov, as it's much more user-friendly).

Just search for the address of your property and you'll see a map that looks something like this:

As you can see, this site will give you a good idea as to whether your property lies within the 100, floodplain, 500 year floodplain, or ideally – NO floodplain (just keep in mind, this information is advisory only and is not the final determination as to whether you're going to need flood insurance).

If you discover your property is anywhere in or near a flood zone, you can also click the “Get a Flood Insurance Quote” button on the same page, where you can get a “ballpark estimate” on how much flood insurance is going to cost.

I think it's also a good idea to do a Google search for “flood insurance agents near me” and make a couple phone calls as well. This will give you a more specific idea of what flood insurance is going to cost for your specific situation.

Depending on what type of flood zone a property is located in, the cost could be nominal, or it could be a bit shocking, which is why it's important to do this research BEFORE you buy a property.

There are all kinds of things that can create headaches for property owners, and considering how quick and easy it is to verify this aspect of a property on the front end, there's no reason not to take a couple of minutes and do this research before the problem officially falls in your lap.

RELATED: The Truth About Land Investing: 15 Warning Signs to Look For BEFORE Buying Vacant Land

My Property Is In A Flood Zone. Now What??

Don't panic. If you've come to the conclusion that your property is within the boundaries of a flood zone, the first step is to contact a qualified agent and verify whether your assumptions are correct. They should be able to confirm or deny whether this is an issue and if so – how much it will cost you to insure over it.

In most cases, the cost shouldn't be too outlandish and luckily, most new home builders aren't intentionally building properties within the boundaries of a high-risk flood zone (and if they are, they're probably installing the proper foundation to deal with any potential flood hazards).

Free Webinar With Seth and Jaren

You are invited to an exclusive webinar with Seth Williams and Jaren Barnes on Wednesday, October 24 at 8:00pm EDT (5:00 PDT).

Jaren will be hosting a live presentation addressing some of the most critical elements involved with finding deals and motivated sellers in the land business.

In this live webinar, you’ll get the scoop on how to choose the right market, how motivated sellers think, where to find them and what to say ( including some of the best tips, tricks, stories and lessons you’ll need to know as you start pursuing cheap land deals on your own). You won’t want to miss it!

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About the author

Seth Williams is a land investor and residential income property owner, with hundreds of closed transactions and nearly a decade of experience in the commercial real estate banking industry. He is also the Founder of REtipster.com - a real estate investing blog that offers real world guidance for part-time real estate investors.

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  • Scott Vu says:

    Thanks for the detailed and valuable information, Seth.

  • Al Pecherer says:

    Not sure why this older post ended up in my email. I can say three things about floods:

    1: A flood can be among the most miserable experiences (regarding material things) possible. A fire, if it’s a decent one (to use a bizarre word) destroys pretty much everything you have but at least you can shovel most of it away. I have been through both. Most of the “keep or toss” decisions will have been made for you in a fire. A flood destroys just about as much but everything is still there, it stinks, and usually weighs aMy comment is.. lot more than it did dry. You think you’ll save some things. All I was able to save were some Rubbermaid waste baskets, trust me, I own the most expensive plastic waste baskets on the face of the earth.

    2: I had a business in a flood zone that got 100% destroyed 35 days after it opened. My insurance agent did not know about NFIP which would have cost about $600. His only suggestion was to buy Earthquake & flood insurance in a package which was about $12K per year, especially costly because CA had just had an EQ. I simply couldn’t afford it. Why I had never seen the NFIP commercials all over TV before then I can not tell you. LET ME BE VERY CLEAR, I saw dozens and dozens and dozens of them AFTER I had been flooded out. That sure felt great.

    3: So I sued the Ins agency for negligence. And I lost and I lost badly. You mean, an insurance agency where the agents must take an annual refresher course on ins products isn’t liable for knowing about a national flood insurance program? NO: THEY ARE NOT. IT IS YOUR responsibility to know about what products are available and ask for them. I *DID* ask for flood insurance, but the only answer he had was “$12K for exceptions; take it or leave it”. That was all he knew about. He couldn’t maybe ask his boss if there was another alternative. He couldn’t ask one of his ins buddies if they knew about something else. Nope. And of course, when you are opening a business, insurance is the very first thing on your mind, isn’t it? So, I can go to a McDonalds and I can ask the minimum wage dude or dudette behind the counter for a Big Mac. And he/she can say “I’m sorry sir, we’re all out of Big Macs, will a quarter pounder be OK?”

    I can get that out of a minimum wage worker. But I can’t get that out of a state licensed insurance agent.

    In the “real world”; As far as the “real world” is concerned; the presence of insurance is actually MORE IMPORTANT than whatever the heck you are doing.

    • Wow, that sounds horrible Al, I’m sorry you had to go through all of that. I appreciate you sharing your experience here though. Those are great things for all of us to be aware of.

      Probably my biggest takeaway from your comment was the importance of buying all Rubbermaid products from now on. 🙂

  • nguyen tuan says:

    Thanks for share the article
    That’s good to know!

  • rich says:

    I have PUrchased 1 acre with a small 2 bedroom home on 8ft piers. I knew that it was in a flood plain because of course the home is on piers. the flood elevation shows that I only need to build (1.5 base 1.5 above) 3ft from grade level to be insured. since the home is really high the insurance is about $1100 per year. I don’t have a problem with that. i was given an old survey when i purchased it but am going to get a new one but i now see that according to my estimate 3o% of the property is in the flood fringe and the other 70% in the flood way where the present home is. my question is, am i able to build a nicer home in the flood plain area? on concrete foundation? am i limited to what I can build on the flood way? will it have to be on piers like the existing home? I am thinking the county will give me a hard time with adding on to the existing home or a new build in the 30% flood plain part. your help is appreciated.

  • Erin says:

    We JUST found out the property we are going to buy is in an AE flood zone. The previous owners had NO idea. Our cost will be 212 more a month for insurance. The frustrating thing about all of this is we are JUST finding out now (3 weeks from closing and we already sold our current house!) Does anyone know who dropped the ball on this one? Our lender??

    • Lila says:

      Erin,
      Your Realtor dropped the ball on this. However, they do say ‘Buyer Beware’. But still Realtor should have checked this for you. They didn’t care if you bought a house and got flooded. No two ways about that.

    • Seth Williams says:

      AH, sheesh – that IS frustrating! I suppose you have 3 options:

      1. Go back to the drawing board and find another house.
      2. Move forward with the purchase and pay the $212 per month.
      3. Move forward with the purchase and DON’T pay the $212 per month (assuming your lender will even allow this).

      I realize probably none of those options sound great, but at least you’re learning about this NOW, while you still have a choice on how to proceed.

      Best of luck to you on this!

      Seth

  • Monica says:

    We purchased a house in 2009. We were told that we were not in a flood zone, so we did not purchase flood insurance. We now see that almost every time it rains, about 4-5 feet of water builds up in front of the house and comes to the front door, after we saw this we purchased flood insurance. The rate is VERY expensive because little did we know, the house had flooded several times in the past. My neighbors stated that the house had been sold 3-4 times because of flooding and that it floods ALL THE TIME. The house recently flooded and we are certain that it will flood again. This information was not disclosed to us and we are looking to sell the house, but that is going to be difficult, knowing the history of it. We have called the city, lawyers, investors, etc. But it looks as if we are stuck and tricked into buying this home. Even though the house is not in a flood zone, according to FEMA, this house is dangerous and I wouldn’t sell it to my worse enemy.

    • Lila says:

      I know this post is old, but I’m pretty sure more info is ever relevant. I can’t believe realtors let their buyers buy a house in a flood zone. I’m not sure who you asked about the house being in a flood zone, but your Realtor should have checked this out for you. You had a bad realtor who didn’t care about what you bought. They can and should have pulled a ‘CLUE’ report to find out if there have been any flood insurance claims made on the property. We can also call our own insurance agents to request the info. But since most buyers don’t even know about CLUE reports RE agents should do a better job for their buyers. There is also a useful tool/site called ‘Elevation Finder’…. https://www.freemaptools.com/elevation-finder.htm You can plug in any address and get the actual elevation from sea level. The elevation finder and the floodtools.com site are my two favorite sites. I go to them when ever I’m even a little bit interested in a property. I also get Well, Septic (if applicable)and Permit records pulled before making an offer. Knowledge is Power, Good Luck to All

    • Seth Williams says:

      Wow, that’s not a fun surprise to encounter Monica – I’m sorry to hear about that. I actually had a similar (but not quite as severe) issue with my last house, where we weren’t properly informed about a distant flooding issue (and we didn’t know how to do our own research at the time either).

      I wouldn’t say these types of houses are impossible to sell, but your asking price may have to go down a bit. There are several houses build beside a big river in my town that flood constantly, yet people still choose to live there… so while it may be a downer, I wouldn’t say it’s a deal-killer.

      Best of luck!

      • Dan says:

        In your flood insurance policy there’s an inclusion called increased compliance coverage for properties that suffer one claim greater than $50,000 or three claims greater than $5,000 in a five-year period you’d qualify for increased compliance coverage give you $30,000 to elevate the home so as to reduce the chances of interior flooding.

  • Torey says:

    Thanks for the article Seth!
    Have you ever bought and sold a piece of land in a 100 year floodzone? Or is this a deal breaker for you?

    • Seth Williams says:

      Hi Torey – yes, I actually have. It wasn’t a deal breaker, and I was able to get in and out of it with no problems… but it’s also an area I wouldn’t even want to approach without being fully aware of the inherent risks that come with the territory (that is, if a property is located in a flood zone).

      Most of us will never be confronted with a flooding disaster head on, BUT the possibilities of it (and the potential insurance costs that come with the territory) are definitely something you’ll want to be aware of.

  • Bill says:

    You have a good point Seth. I owned a house and even though 2 sq ft in the corner of my back yard was in a flood zone, I had to pay full flood insurance. It’s a federal national program, so rates are NOT competitive.

    • Seth Williams says:

      OUCH. Sorry to hear about that Bill. Sooner or later, it seems like we all get raked over the coals for one reason or another. Let’s hope you don’t ever have to deal with that again!

  • Bangalore property sale says:

    Very inforamative post.

  • Thomas S. Moore says:

    Should have read this before buying one of our previous homes. We asked about whether not we were in a flood zone and of course we really get back NO response or if you are it shouldn’t cost that much. We decide we really want the home and find out that not only is the home in a flood zone but it flooded 20 years ago. Flood insurance is not cheap depending on your location. Like a friend of mine stated its the cost of doing business. Great views cost.

    • Seth Williams says:

      Yikes, sorry to hear about that Thomas. I’ve never been stuck in that particular situation before, but I’ve definitely had my share of unexpected surprises (and believe me, I know it isn’t fun).

      As with all things, we live and learn. Best of luck to you!

  • BGC says:

    Informative video! There are also websites that help home owners to know if their property is in a floodzone like freeflood.net and myfloodzone.com. 🙂

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