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.
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:
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:
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:
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.
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).