Buying a House? Here’s Your Complete Guide to Assessing a Home’s Flood Risk

When it comes to house hunting, one of the first things to look forward to is your home’s safety from the high-risk flood zone. With water-related events that have contributed to massive damages to homes in different parts of the world, it only makes plenty of sense to be extra cautious when choosing the right location for your home. 

So, how do you determine the property’s flood risk? A lot of us might think that it’s easier to consider the location’s flood history. However, today’s unpredictable weather due to climate change is making weather trends less reliable. For instance, what if a catastrophic flood hasn’t occurred in the area for a very long time? Does it indicate a safe zone already? No. Flood history is just one of the many factors to study when assessing the flood risk. In fact, just because a flood has not occurred in the area for a long time doesn’t mean it won’t come to pass in the future.   

As a homebuyer, the last thing you want to experience in your shopping journey is finding yourself in a place considered “flood-prone” long after the purchasing has been said and done. To avoid dealing with regrets in the future, you must examine your potential property before you make a decision of closing the deal. Follow these tips when determining a home’s water risk. 

Identify the flood zones. 

First things first, talk to your potential local emergency management office, building department or floodplain management office to collect information about flooding in your target area. The reason why you need to do your own research is that not all states require a real estate agency to share the property’s flood history with buyers.

The local offices can give you a flood map of the community, which will help you determine the areas that are considered “flood zones” or those with a high risk of flooding. Local experts identify these flood zones by considering the community’s flood history, topography, rainfall and river-flow data and all the flood-control measures that are present in the area. 

Some states will allow you to take an online assessment, where you just need to enter your postal code and some personal information to find out how high is your potential property’s flood risk. 

Know the odds of flooding. 

If the property is located in a high-risk area, there is a 1-in-4 chance of flooding. This may also refer to a 25-, 50- or 100-year flood zone. It is essential for homebuyers to understand these terminologies. A 100-year flood zone means that a house is considered to have a 1 per cent risk of flooding in any given year. This percentage may sound a bit low; however, it means the property may experience a flood anywhere that it rains. It is more than enough to damage floors, walls and appliances—costing you thousands of money on repairs. To avoid these high-risk areas, you can spot them on the community’s flood map labelled with the letters A or V. 

Properties in moderate-to-low risk areas, on the other hand, indicates a reduced risk of flooding but chances are not completely removed. With areas that are outside the 1% annual flood-risk areas, flood insurance is not highly required compared to properties in high-risk areas. Then again, owners and renters in moderate-to-low areas are still advised to consider flood insurance given a property’s flood risk can change over time because of certain factors including project development within the area. These properties are zone labelled with B, C, or X on community flood maps.

Consider other risk-related factors. 

Another step to take when evaluating the property’s water risk is to rely on a list of other related factors including: 

  • Elevation
  • Type of Terrain
  • Proximity to different bodies of water
  • Rainfall/Snow Amounts
  • Soil Absorption; and
  • Government-controlled defences (water channels and dams)

Other local risk-related factors such as poor/inadequate drainage systems and broken water mains or leakages can also play a big part in community flooding.

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