How Do I Know If My House Is in a Flood Zone?
When most people think about floods, they think about the devastating ones that level houses, destroy property, and cause fatalities. While it’s true for some floods, thankfully, they represent a tiny number of floods that plague the country.
A ‘Flood,’ by definition, is the overflow of a body of water. It can happen in a river or a canal. It can also be a coastal flood, where sea level rises to swallow an area of dry land. A flood might be powerful enough to cause structural damage, or it may merely drown the streets and fill homes and properties with water. This kind of flooding is usually enough to cause millions of worth of property damage in an area.
Floods are also more common than most people realize. Heavy rainfall is one of the primary causes of floods, and in a poorly planned community, they can cause urban flooding, even if there isn’t a large body of water present in the vicinity.
You must try to determine if your house is in a flood zone or not. Or more accurately, which flood zone your house is in.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has classified a lot of communities into different flood zones, depending upon the flood risk they present. For ease of understanding, FEMA has developed flood maps, akin to the ones that have been used for decades, but with many more insights and updates.
Flood zones have been divided into different categories. Flood zones C and X represent minimal flood risk.
Zones B and X are for moderate flood risk areas. A. denotes high-risk areas. There are further classifications in the A zone, like AH, AO, and A99. The coastal flood zones are indicated with V. The areas where the risk of flooding hasn’t been assessed yet are considered the D zone.
Flood zones are classified on the basis of historical data, and they are rated on the probability of annual flooding. Knowing your flood zone is not only associated with flood risk and disaster prep but is also useful when it comes to insurance.
How to Find out Your Flood Zone
There are a few ways to find out which flood zone your house is in. One of the most common methods is to use the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s map.
FEMA Flood Map Service Centre
The flood map created and update by FEMA is the most credible source of finding out your flood zone. Whether your concern is home security, or figuring out your flood insurance, this map is your guide. It backs up the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP was created to reduce the impact a flood has on a property and an area.
NFIP determines the premiums based on your flood zone. Naturally, a higher risk of flooding equates to a higher premium.
The FEMA maps are updated continuously. You can use this flood map service to find out your flood zone by merely typing in your address. If there is digital data available for your area, you will know right away about your flood zone. Otherwise, you will be directed to use a printed flood map. They are linked to the website in PDF formats. You can spot your property in those maps and consult a legend to know your zone.
The FEMA maps provide other valuable information as well. Not only from the flood insurance point-of-view, but about the topographical data that can also be used by local governing bodies to mitigate flooding risks as much as they can.
Another, more comprehensive tool about your area’s flood zone is Floodtools. Like FEMA flood maps, you can simply type in your address, and you will know the risk of flooding in your area. The tool is relatively easier to understand and use. It also gives necessary information about the average flood losses, the number of flood-related claims, and other relevant information.
You can use this tool to get an idea about how much your flood insurance costs. It helps evaluate your flood risk against the cost of your insurance premiums.
There are other free online tools available, as well. If you are taking out a mortgage in a high-risk flood area, your lender will require you to pay for flood insurance. This usually is how people find out about the flood zones in the first place. The flood insurance rates vary according to the flood risk.
The government created the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) with two goals in mind: Sharing the risk of flood losses, and restricting floodplain development. In the communities that participate in NFIP, any new loan, mortgage, and line of credit has to be insured under NFIP.
But it doesn’t mean that people who live in low-risk areas can’t buy flood insurance. Flood insurance covers the losses sustained by a property because of water. They are optional for low-risk areas but mandatory for high flood risk areas. The NFIP sets and regulates the insurance premiums according to zones, so they don’t vary much from agent to agent.
The average flood insurance in 2019 has been $699 a year. Per the risk of flood in the area, the insurance premium was as low as $550 in Florida and as high as $1,395 in Connecticut. Since NFIP also encourages better flood management, there are some measures you can take to qualify for a lower insurance premium.
- Floodproof your home (Wet floodproofing or Dry floodproofing).
- Build an elevated home.
- Make sure your flood openings are per FEMA code for your flood zone.
- Elevate the necessary machinery: Your heating/cooling system, ventilating, and some plumbing fixtures above flood elevation levels.
If you make sure that your house complies with all the FEMA regulations according to your flood zone, you may qualify for a much lesser premium than your area average.
Flood insurance may seem like an added expense, but that’s because most people don’t realize how costly flooding can be. According to an estimate, just half a foot of floodwater in a 2,500 sq. Ft. single-story house can cause around $52,000 worth of damage. If the insurance premium stays the same, that’s the amount you will pay in about 74 years, on average. The cost of flooding increases with every inch.
There is another reason why people refrain from taking out flood insurance. FEMA may cover even your uninsured losses by flooding, but only if the area is classified as a flood disaster area. This happens less than half the time.
Flood Zone and House Prices
There’s a million-dollar question, or rather, a 226,800-dollar (Median house price) question. Do house prices get affected by the flood zone they are in? And the honest answer is yes. It’s mostly seen in areas with high flood risk and, consequently, higher flood insurance premiums.
Homebuyers and sellers both should understand the significance of flood zones. If you are in a relatively safe area where flood insurance is not mandatory, the flood risk might not tip the price too much. But in areas with a history of flooding and a strong probability of floods in the future, the house prices may drop dangerously.
Home sellers usually understand the cost of flooding and the extra expense of flood insurance better than home buyers. So they set a price realistic enough to attract the buyers. The buyers, who are taking out a mortgage to purchase the house, find out about the flood risk when their lenders direct them to buy flood insurance.
People usually ask if their real estate agent should tell them about a house’s flood zone or not. It may depend upon the state in which you are buying the property or FEMA’s regulations about disclosure of flood zones in certain high-risk areas. Still, federal law doesn’t force a realtor to share the flooding history of an area or a property. They might be required to do so by their own ethics code.
If you are buying a house in a new area, you should find out about the flood zone it’s in and the flood insurance you might need to pay. Add this to the yearly upkeep of the house and negotiate accordingly. Home sellers should also be upfront about the flood zone. Homebuyers will also appreciate any information given to them about previous floods and damage calculations. Whether it’s the agent who gives it to them or home sellers.
How Worried Should You Be About Your Flood Zone?
That depends whether you are worried about the possibility of a flood destroying your property, or about the effect your flood zone has on your home valuation and your overall insurance expense. If you are worried about the flood, information about the history of floods in your area, and the damage caused by previous floods should give you an idea.
If there were floods in the past, the chances are that the local government has already taken measures against it, especially preventive measures against urban flooding. You can mitigate your own projected losses in case of a flood by adequately preparing your house.
If you are worried about the added flood insurance expense, it can also be lessened significantly by preparing your property against the risk of flooding. The home value will probably be more affected by any recent floods than the designated flood zone.
Some FAQs about Flood Zones
You can use the FEMA website to find out your flood zone. If your house is on the digital map, on the Flood Map Service Centre, you will find out about your zone in an instant. If it’s on an old map, you may require some help from the map legend to figure out your flood zone. If your property was recently appraised, it might also include this information.
If your property is in a high flood risk area, then yes. Flood insurance for your property will be mandatory. Depending upon how risky the area is, the flood insurance premium will be accordingly high. Even if your house lies in the moderate flood risk area, it’s prudent to take out flood insurance. It won’t cost you much in premiums but might prevent you from significant losses if your area is ever flood
The general home insurance doesn’t cover the damages caused by a flood.
Flood Zone A is relatively riskier than other zones. It might not be as susceptible to flood damage as coastal flood zones, but it will qualify for relatively higher insurance premiums. Being in Zone A might not be a cause for worry. You will have a better understanding of your flooding risks and your insurance premiums if you figure out which zone A are you in, whether its Flood Zone AE, AO, or A56 makes a difference.
Knowing about the flood zones is essential. You may want to make some structural changes, take some precautions, and prepare your home, depending upon your flood zone. You will also be able to find your optimal insurance premium and how you can qualify for a lesser premium if you understand your flood zone. This is especially crucial when you are buying or selling your house.
Many people are reluctant to find out about their flood zone because they prefer the comfort of not knowing. The fact is that it is always better to be prepared. The more you know about the risk, the more cautious you will be. It is also imperative that you stay updated about the flood zones too, as they are constantly being updated, and some weather patterns might cause FEMA to reevaluate your area’s flood zone.