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 highly infrequent, once-in-a-lifetime events that happen 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 can wipe out everything you own in a matter of seconds. So if there is ANY risk that your property is in a flood zone—is it really worth rolling the dice on this?

Why Is a Flood Zone Important to Identify?

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 to check whether your property is situated in (or anywhere near) a flood zone.

Simply understanding your situation is half the battle won:

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. What’s more, if you’re buying land in a flood zone using some kind of financing (such as from a bank or a credit union), they may require you to pay for flood insurance.

RELATED: How to Identify (and Avoid) Wetlands

Do I Need Flood Insurance?

If your property is in a confirmed flood zone, the short answer is yes. Even if the risk is relatively small, a property at risk of flooding puts the lender’s collateral at stake. Most lenders will require their borrowers to pay for flood insurance to mitigate that risk.

Even if you buy a property free and clear and don’t purchase flood insurance, it’s still a problem for the next owner. When it’s time 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 need flood insurance (and, more importantly, how much it can cost them), it can deter them when they otherwise would’ve been happy to buy your property.

The added cost of flood insurance isn’t always huge, but it depends on the type of flood zone a property is located in. And it can get REALLY expensive—I’ve seen flood insurance that costs up to thousands of dollars! It’s something that wouldn’t even be necessary for a property that isn’t in a flood zone in the first place. When flood insurance is required, it’s like a second property tax bill the owner has to pay each year.

If flood insurance is something you (or any future owner) will have to pay on an ongoing basis, you should know about the issue BEFORE it’s your problem to deal with. However, if you do need flood insurance, you can do a Google search for “flood insurance agents near me” and make a few phone calls. This will give you a better idea of the cost of flood insurance for your specific situation.

Is My 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. The video below explains how it works:

To get started, just search for your property address on FEMA.gov to access the nearest, most relevant flood map in the area. 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:

property in flood zone

You can also use a site like FloodTools.com and search for your property there as well. In fact, I 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:

check flood zone

As you can see, this site will give you a good idea as to whether your property lies within the 100-year floodplain, 500-year floodplain, or ideally, NO floodplain. Keep in mind that this information is advisory only and not the final determination of 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.

There are all kinds of things that can create headaches for property owners. 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 concluded 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 some cases, you could also go through the motions of getting your property removed from a flood zone. If a flood zone determination was made decades ago without careful analysis of the elevations and characteristics of your specific property, there could be a solid case for getting the flood zone classification changed on your property.

If you want to pursue this option, you can contact DJ McClure at NationalFloodExperts.com to see if there might be a case for this on your property. His email address is dj@nationalfloodexperts.com.

The cost of flood insurance can vary widely depending on the flood zone determination and the specifics of your property, so it will be up to you to determine whether the benefit of fixing the flood zone issue is worth the cost.

About the author

Seth Williams is the Founder of REtipster.com - an online community that offers real-world guidance for real estate investors.

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