12. What to Know About Flood Plains

by Local Title

When considering purchasing a property, it’s crucial to determine whether it is located in a flood plain, as this can have significant implications for safety, insurance costs, and property value. A flood plain is an area of land adjacent to a stream or river which stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls and experiences flooding during periods of high discharge.

Understanding Flood Plains

Flood plains are naturally occurring features that serve several ecological functions, including water filtration and providing habitat for diverse wildlife. However, for homeowners, living in a flood plain carries specific risks and responsibilities. The primary concern is, of course, the potential for flooding. Homes within flood plains are more likely to experience flood conditions during heavy rains or rapid snowmelt, which can cause significant damage to property and pose risks to personal safety.

Regulatory and Insurance Considerations

Properties in flood plains are subject to various regulations that can affect how you use your land, what you can build, and how you must build it. Local building codes in flood plain areas often require that homes be elevated to a certain height to prevent floodwaters from entering living spaces. These regulations are enforced to minimize flood damage and ensure public safety.

Furthermore, if you have a mortgage from a federally regulated or insured lender and your home is in a high-risk flood zone, you are required to purchase flood insurance. Flood insurance can be significantly more expensive than standard homeowners’ insurance and must be factored into the overall cost of owning a home in a flood plain.

Researching Flood Risk

Before purchasing a home, you should check whether the property is in a flood plain by consulting FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center or by speaking with local municipal planning or environmental resources departments. These maps are updated periodically, so even if the property was not previously in a flood plain, it could be now.

Living with Flood Risks

If you decide to purchase a home in a flood plain, it’s important to prepare for potential flooding. This preparation might include installing flood defenses like sandbags or flood barriers, elevating utilities (such as furnaces and electrical panels), and developing an emergency plan for your family. Taking proactive measures can mitigate the risks and impacts of flooding.

The Impact on Property Value

While homes in flood plains can be less expensive due to the increased risk, they may also be harder to sell later. Potential buyers may be put off by the high insurance costs and the hassle of dealing with flood risks.

While living in a flood plain can be manageable, it involves additional costs and considerations. Prospective buyers should thoroughly research and prepare to ensure that they can handle the implications of their investment.