Your dream has come true. You can finally afford to buy property near the beach. There are many factors to consider in making an intelligent bid when buying a new home, investment property or vacation home near water. As a professional planner working in a coastal community, I see that buyers are becoming more educated on the dangers of living on water front properties which are most often located in a flood zone. Be sure to find out if a property is in a flood zone before you buy it.
What is a Flood Zone?
A flood zone is an area that has been identified by FEMA and shown on the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) produced by FEMA as having the potential to be flooded during natural events. The location and classification of flood zones are dictated by FEMA and your local government does not determine flood zone lines. If your community is part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) then your community must adopt the FIRMs.
Hidden Costs of Flood Zone
Buildings located in flood zones may carry hidden costs that you might not have considered in your bid. These costs should also be included in the list price when selling the property if you are a seller in the real estate market. In the event of a flood, you will have to pay for loss and damage to your property. Homeowners insurance policies typically do not cover losses occurred in the event of a flood so you may want to (or be required to) carry supplemental flood insurance. You might have to raise the building or make other improvements to comply with your local zoning or building codes if the building is determined to be noncompliant.
Where to Find Information
There are several ways to find out if a property is in a flood zone. You can hire a surveyor to survey the property and determine where buildings and property lines fall in relation to a flood zone. You can contact your local flood plain manager to help make a determination. This could be your Town Planner, Zoning Official or Town Engineer. You can also go the FEMA website to view digital flood maps.
So proximity to a flood zone is one of many factors to consider before buying property located close to a body of water. This relative location can have hidden costs that should be factored in your purchase price. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and Tropical Storm Irene, many coastal properties in flood zones were damaged and homeowners are baring the expense of raising their homes to protect them from future flooding events. There are several professionals available that can help you estimate these costs if the threat of a flood does not scare you off.