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Who Will Tell You about Your
Property’s Flood Risk?

When you buy a home, you’ll want to know if it’s in a flood zone and how likely it is that water will fill your basement during a storm.

So how do you find out? Will your real estate agent tell you? Would your insurance agent know, or do you have to research on your own?

Flood awareness is the first step toward protection, but it’s often unclear whose obligation it is to inform property owners about their flood risk. As a result, millions of people who need flood insurance go without it because they don’t realize they’re at risk.

That can change when you have the facts long before a flood strikes: when you first buy your property. Here’s what buyers should know about understanding a property’s flood risk.

Your Real Estate Agent’s Role in Flood Disclosure

Real estate agents might tell you about a property’s flood history when you first buy it, but they’re not always required to.

That’s because flood disclosure laws are different in every state. The amount of information a prospective buyer receives about a property’s flood risk can vary widely, and the same is true for other environmental risks like wildfires. Only about half the states require that information about flood risk be disclosed to homebuyers at all, and just two Western states require disclosure of wildfire risk.

If your mortgage is in an official FEMA flood zone, a Special Flood Hazard Area, you’re legally required to carry flood insurance, which your real estate agent will tell you. If the property is located on land that holds either of these designations, it’s likely that you’ll also be required to purchase flood insurance in order to get a mortgage loan.

But a property that isn’t in a FEMA flood zone can still see destructive flood damage – about 25 percent of flood insurance claims come from properties outside SFHAs. Certain properties might be more flood-prone than their neighbors because of structural or geographic vulnerabilities. It might not have a raised foundation, or it might be located at the bottom of a hill, for instance.

If you still have questions about your property’s flood risk, ask your insurance agent.

Ask an Insurance Agent about Your Flood Risk

Flood insurance agents can help you get an understanding of your flood risk and flood coverage options. You don’t necessarily have to find a new insurance agent if you want to learn more about flood insurance – many agents are licensed to sell flood in addition to other policies.

One common misconception to note is that homeowners insurance covers flood damage: it doesn’t. It’s possible that your homeowners insurance provider also sells flood policies, but if they don’t, they may not have the flood risk answers you’re looking for.

If your insurance agent doesn’t carry flood insurance, it’s easy to find one. Head to our agent library to choose the flood insurance carrier of your choice, and start talking to an agent about your flood risk right away.

The Property Buyer’s Flood Preparedness Checklist: Flood History, Flood Risk, and Flood Protection

Identifying your property’s flood risk can be tricky. The climate is changing, which means an area’s flood history may not always be indicative of its current flood risk. Many regions of the country now see more frequent, more intense flooding than they did in decades past.

Real estate and insurance agents can be a great resource for learning about flood risk, but sometimes property buyers may need more information to get the full picture.

Here are three questions you can ask your real estate agent, your insurance agent, or look for on your own:

  • Has the property flooded before? This is the property’s flood history, which is one piece of your flood risk. Neighboring residents and local media reports probably have insights.
  • How likely is it that the property will flood during my mortgage? Sea level rise, increased rainfall, and more frequent storms have increased millions of properties’ likelihood of flooding. Flood Factor is a great tool that compiles up-to-date research about flood projections across the country.
  • What kind of flood insurance coverage does the property need based on its risk profile? Once you’ve got an understanding of your property’s flood history and current risk, talk to a flood insurance agent about what coverage is appropriate. For more info about what’s covered and finding a policy, head to FEMA’s website.

Know Your Flood Risk Before You Close on a Property

It’s devastating to learn only after a flood has damaged your home that you weren’t covered for your losses. National Flood Services is here to help property owners understand their flood risk and feel confident about their protection.

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