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’ 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 the sea level rises to swallow an area of dry land. A flood might be powerful enough to cause structural damage or merely drown the streets and fill homes and properties with water. This flooding is usually enough to cause millions 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 in the vicinity.
You must try to determine if your house is in a flood zone or not. Or, more accurately, which flood zone is your house in?
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has classified many communities into different flood zones, depending on their present flood risk. For ease of understanding, FEMA has developed flood maps similar to those 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 are considered the D zone.
Flood zones are classified based on historical data and 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 for insurance.
How to Find out Your Flood Zone
There are a few ways to determine your house’s flood zone. 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 updated by FEMA is the most credible source for finding your flood zone. Whether your concern is home security or flood insurance, this map is your guide. It backs up the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP was created to reduce a flood’s impact 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 your flood zone by typing in your address. If digital data is available for your area, you will know immediately about your flood zone. Otherwise, you will be directed to use a printed flood map. They are linked to the website in PDF format. You can spot your property on 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 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 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 take 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 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: Sharing the risk of flood losses and restricting floodplain development. In the communities that participate in NFIP, any new loan, mortgage, or line of credit has to be insured under NFIP.
But it doesn’t mean people living 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.
- Ensure your flood openings are per the 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 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 should both 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 house prices may drop dangerously in areas with a history of flooding and a strong probability of floods in the future.
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 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 whether their real estate agent should tell them about a house’s flood zone. It may depend upon the state where you buy 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 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 about previous floods and damage calculations, whether the agent gives it to them or the home sellers.
How Worried Should You Be About Your Flood Zone?
That depends on whether you are worried about the possibility of a flood destroying your property or the effect your flood zone has on your home valuation and 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 them, especially preventive measures against urban flooding. You can adequately prepare your house to mitigate your projected losses in flood.
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 recent floods than the designated flood zone.
Some FAQs about Flood Zones
Q: What is my flood zone?
A: You can use the FEMA website to find your flood zone. If your house is on the digital map, on the Flood Map Service Centre, you will instantly find out about your zone. If it’s on an old map, you may require help from the map legend to figure out your flood zone. If your property was recently appraised, it might also include this information.
Q: Does my property require flood insurance?
A: If your property is in a high flood-risk area, yes. Flood insurance for your property will be mandatory. Depending on the area’s risk, the flood insurance premium will be accordingly high. Even if your house lies in a 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.
Q: Is Flood Zone bad?
A: 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 better understand your flooding risks and insurance premiums if you figure out which zone A you are in; whether Flood Zone AE, AO, or A56 makes a difference.
Knowing about the flood zones is essential. You may want to make structural changes, take some precautions, and prepare your home, depending on 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 as they are constantly being updated, and some weather patterns might cause FEMA to reevaluate your area’s flood zone.
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