flood zone

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

Flooding disasters tend to be highly infrequent, once-in-a-lifetime events that happen to other people, right?

It's an understandable bias, because statistically speaking, the average person will never have to deal with it. But what if 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 Do Flood Zones Matter?

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 and you are borrowing money to buy the property, 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 will still most likely be a problem for the next owner. When most buyers find out they need flood insurance (and, more importantly, how much it can cost them), it can be a deal-breaker for them when they otherwise would've been happy to buy your property. A property with an elevated flood risk can create a serious obstacle in the selling process. 

Keep in mind, the added cost of flood insurance isn't always huge, but it depends on the type of flood zone a property is located in.

In some cases, flood insurance can get very expensive. I've seen flood insurance quotes that add several thousand dollars to the annual holding cost of some properties! It's something that wouldn't even be necessary for a property that isn't in a flood zone. When flood insurance is required, it's almost 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 are a few fast and FREE ways to determine if your property is in a flood zone. The video below explains how it works:

To get started, 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 with an address and search for that one.

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

property in flood zone

Another way to search on the FEMA website is through the National Flood Hazard Layer (NFHL) Viewer, which will give you an interactive map.

NFHL Map Viewer

You can also use the Obie Risk Map and search for your property there. In some ways, I prefer this website over the FEMA maps because it has a more user-friendly look and feel.

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

Obie Risk Map

As you can see, this site will give you a good idea as to whether your property lies within a high, moderate, or low-risk area. 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 Instant 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 property on the front end, there's no reason not to take a few minutes and research before the problem officially falls in your lap.

RELATED: The Truth About Land Investing: 21 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 info@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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