BUYING A HOUSE IN A FLOOD ZONE

MOVING TO FLORIDA?

Moving to Florida and nervous about flood zones? Well that’s what we are talking about today so let’s get to it 

Florida – The Sunshine State! Beautiful beaches, rich wildlife, laidback people….and a whole lotta water! If you are thinking about buying a home in Florida you should definitely be educated about the natural environment and weather conditions you are likely to encounter. In a coastal town like St. Augustine, one of the biggest factors to consider when checking out properties is the Flood Zone.

 

So here are a few things to know before buying a house in a flood zone…

Flooding in any home can result from usual wear and tear or improper work done with plumbing. Rare weather events like massive rain storms can also affect any area. But in Florida, where the vast majority of the state sits at or even below sea level, the potential for flooding can be much higher than other places in the US.

Natural flooding threats can come from overflowing rivers, hurricanes or heavy rain, elevated sea tides, or any combination of these. And while the likelihood of major events are unpredictable, in 2015 we did experience a “perfect storm” of continuous rain overflowing the rivers and intracoastal and the arrival of a hurricane literally at the peak of the full moon.

While we are forever at the mercy of Mother Nature, you can minimize your risk AND prepare for any potential loss. The first step is knowing about “Flood Zones”.

A “Flood Zone” is a geographical area that FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) designates based on sea level, proximity to bodies of water, and municipal infrastructure, like sea walls and sewer systems. More specifically, FEMA considers the likelihood of of the area being inundated by flood waters based on a percentage % calculated from a “base” historic trend, or 100-year flood.

HOW TO READ A FEMA FLOOD MAP

FEMA Flood Zones range from a series of “A” to “C”.

Most “A” zones are considered “Special Flood Hazard Areas” – that means they are at higher risk. Around St. Augustine MANY areas are in a Zone A, including all of historic downtown and most of Anastasia Island. These areas will almost certainly flood at least once every 100 years.

Zone “B” areas have a moderate rating (500-year flood or 0.2% risk). And Zone “C” are low risk areas.

Then you bring in Zone “X” which can be confusing because it is either no/low risk or moderate risk but likely has better local infrastructure, or the area simply has not been officially rated by FEMA yet.

 

BUYING A HOUSE IN A FLOOD RISK AREA?

You can find out more about the specific zones and check ANY PROPERTY online at FEMA.gov, and to determine the specifics for any particular property an, Elevation Certificate can be made [but I’ll get back to that later)

So you have found your dream home but it is definitely in Zone A… What’s next?

Don’t give up on your ideal lifestyle just yet! There are some other important things to consider…

History of Flooding

Working with your real estate agent and home inspection experts, you will be able to determine if the property has experienced any flooding in the past, to what extent, and what was done to remediate any damage. After Hurricane Matthew in 2016 many homes around St. Augustine underwent repairs and if the home you are considering was affected by past storms, that information [should/will] be disclosed to you.

Elevation of the home

Some homes are in a high risk flood zone area but the house itself may have a high elevation so even though the property may have flooded in the past, the home may not have had water intrusion. Any homes constructed after (2012? 2008?) must meet a minimum elevation at the base of the structure. Older homes can’t guarantee this, but there are options like adding in drain fields and sump pumps to help alleviate the threat of intrusion. An existing or older home can also be “raised” on to pilings or stilts – a classic look for any beach abode – thus eliminating the potential for damage.

And while most of Florida is “flat”, there are some parts of natural elevation even within the more susceptible areas. The “hammocks” of Anastasia Island, for example, are geographic island hills that can be up to 20 feet above sea level. If living on the island is your ideal but a flood zone is your worst nightmare, finding a home in a specific neighborhood might be a great solution!

Cost of Flood Insurance

Like all insurances, flood insurance is a safety net to help you bounce back in the worst case scenario.

If you are obtaining a mortgage for your home, and even if you are in a Zone B or X,  your lender will require you to purchase flood insurance.  In this case an elevation certificate will be required l but not every seller will have an existing or current copy, so you may need to pay for one during your due diligence period.

Freeflood lists the details of each flood designation, but more importantly, their flood maps show the flood risk zone. Check to see if the entire property is in a flood zone, or if it’s a corner of your lot that doesn’t include the home. That can determine the price of the insurance as well.

MOVING TO FLORIDA, CHECK TO SEE IF IT'S IN A FLOOD ZONE FIRST

LEARN THE FLOOD RISK AREAS BEFORE YOU BUY A HOUSE.

https://floodfactor.com

Many people also worry about continuously rising rates for flood insurance. But keep in mind that the insurance companies aren’t going to want to renovate your home every time a natural disaster hits; instead  they will work with you to remediate and prevent water intrusion in the future. This could include raising the structural elevation, adding water barriers or sump pumps, etc.

For cash buyers you are not required to purchase flood insurance, but depending on the location, elevation and age of your home it is something you should definitely consider.

So there’s the basics of Flood Zones and what to keep in mind while searching for homes. One more thing to know is: St. Augustine is a small town with a big heart. After the impacts of Hurricane Matthew and Irma the community rallied together to help one another, and came roaring back to life better than ever. The county and city governments are actively working on preventative measures and plans to keep our beautiful Oldest City safe and dry!

….And hey, what’s a little water for 365 days of paradise!

I hope you found this information helpful, if you have any question, you’ll find my contact info in the description below. You’ll also find a link to my relocation guide.

If you want to learn more about what it’s like to live in this beautiful part of Florida then check out this next video.

About the Author
Kim Devlin is a Realtor with RE/MAX LeadingEdge in beautiful St Augustine Florida. She enjoys sharing real estate tips and local insight on communities and life in St Augustine. Tune in weekly and be sure to subscribe to her monthly newsletter.