For most of us, the risk of a losing everything in a flood is NOT something we lie awake in bed 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 us.” (or so we tell ourselves).

It's an understandable bias, because statistically speaking, you'll probably never have to deal with it… until it happens and then suddenly you're 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 plain – is it really work 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 flood plain, 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 looks like:

FEMAFloodMap

You can also create a free account on FreeFlood.net 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 get instant access to some VERY helpful information, like this:

FreeFloodMeter

FreeFloodMap

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 that this information is advisory only and is not the final determination as to whether you're going to need flood insurance).

If you find out that your property is located anywhere near the vicinity of a flood zone, you'll also want to check out FloodSmart.gov, where you can get a “ballpark estimate” on how much flood insurance is going to cost. It will also give you some name of local agents who can give you an exact quote for coverage on your specific property. Example below:

FloodSmartEstimate

Depending on what type of flood zone a property is located in (if at all), the cost could be nominal, or in some rare cases, it could be a bit shocking.

For this reason, it's important to do this research BEFORE you buy a property. There are all sorts of things that can create headaches for you as a property owner, 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).

Join the discussion 23 Comments

  • 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. 🙂

  • 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!

  • Bangalore property sale says:

    Very inforamative post.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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

  • 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??

    • 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

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • nguyen tuan says:

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

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