7 Things Independent Agents Need to Know About Flood Insurance


By: Rick Tighe – April 13, 2020

As insurance agents know, the start of spring is also the start of flood season. In the coming months, your customers will face an increased risk for flooding—and if the last few years are any indication, some of that flooding could be severe, according to the National Weather Service. More generally, changing weather patterns year-round are making flood damage more common.

The bad news is that most homeowners aren’t prepared—only about 15% currently have flood insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

The good news? Companies with the power to make a difference are stepping up. The technology supporting flood insurance—from applications to claims—is improving, and private insurers are getting into the game, which means more competition and product variety.

Here are seven key facts about floods and flood insurance to help you help your customers:

1) Floods are getting more common. Already, floods are the most common type of natural disaster in the United States. But they’re getting more frequent, in part because of the way climate change affects weather patterns, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Now, the types of weather events most likely to cause floods, such as wildfires and heavy rain, happen more often, meaning flood events likely will, too.

This matters to everyone. FEMA’s official position is that “anywhere it can rain, it can flood,” and say that more than 20% of flood claims come from people in low- and moderate-risk areas. Last year, 14 million Americans were affected by floods and 200 million were at risk, according to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Support your customers by making sure they’re aware of and prepared for the changing reality of floods.

2) Floods are the most costly type of home damage. A single inch of water can cause $25,000 in property damage, according to FEMA. And while in 1980, the average flood claim was $5,497, in 2017 average payouts were above $90,000. In 2018, the average payout was $42,580.

These are key numbers to share with customers who may underestimate the potential for flooding to affect them financially. It’s particularly important to consider given that…

3) Most homeowners don’t have flood insurance. Many of the 85% of homeowners who don’t have flood coverage actually think they do—mostly because they assume it’s included in their homeowner’s policy.

As an agent, you can help clear up this misconception to make sure your customers have the protection they need. This kind of guidance can prove invaluable for those at risk of flooding, which can increase customer loyalty.

4) Flood insurance tech is getting better. If you’ve been hesitant in the past to broach the topic of flood insurance with customers because you dreaded filling out an application, I’ve got good news. The once-cumbersome, 60-question application is finally getting attention from private companies that sell NFIP policies.

Now, it’s more common to see tech-powered applications that serve only relevant questions and yield a quote with as few as seven responses. This is excellent news for independent agents, who can choose to write with a carrier backed by leading-edge tech, meaning they can find coverage faster and more easily for their customers.

5) Staying up to date is getting easier. One challenge of writing flood insurance is that the NFIP releases updates twice each year. Keeping up with those changes is a lot of work for most independent agents, who typically don’t count on flood as a primary source of revenue.

But again, private companies are stepping up to improve the experience. I’m particularly proud of what we do at National Flood Services: webinars that summarize the latest NFIP changes so agents don’t have to do the legwork of keeping track themselves. We make these available as videos after the fact to make sure information is always available and easy to access.

6) Flood insurance is different from homeowners insurance. Another challenge for agents who don’t write a lot of flood policies is that flood works differently from a traditional homeowner’s policy.

For example, rather than being location-specific, flood insurance is structure-specific. These small differences can be enough to prevent agents from writing flood policies for fear of doing it wrong and leaving their customers underprepared. Having this key knowledge, however, empowers agents to deliver the comprehensive protection customers come to them for.

7) Flood insurance products are improving. As the need for flood coverage grows, available products are adapting.

The NFIP is in the process of introducing its Risk Rating 2.0, which is scheduled for release in 2021. It will update the risk assessment and policy pricing to more accurately reflect an individual structure’s flood risk. In addition, more private insurers are getting into the game.

Both developments mean that we’ll soon see improvements to products, processes, and coverage that will make life easier for both agents and policyholders.

Flood insurance is an opportunity area for independent agents. The need for flood insurance is growing, and the industry has taken note.

There’s never been a better time for independent agents to differentiate themselves by serving as a resource for flood insurance and flood education. Doing so will not only improve the protection your customers enjoy, but it will also make you a more valuable partner, which translates to increased customer loyalty.

Rick Tighe is a managing director at National Flood Services. National Flood Services uses technology to help insurance companies and agents manage flood programs, sell policies, process claims and create a better, more efficient experience for their customers.