If you’re looking to buy a new home, you’ve recently purchased or even if you’re a longtime homeowner looking for peace of mind, you’ve likely wondered whether your house is in a flood zone.
The good news is, you can easily find the answer to that question. All you have to do is check out FEMA flood zone maps by ZIP code, address or even latitude/longitude coordinates. This will help you determine whether your home is in a low-, moderate- or high-risk area. If you are located in a high-risk flood zone, you’ll need insurance, and, even if you’re not, you may still want to consider it.
Follow these steps to assess your risk and protect your home and family from flood damage.
Step 1: Find out if your house is in a high-risk flood zone
When you apply for a home loan, lenders will likely want to know your new home’s flood risk. Finding out whether your home is in a flood zone is a part of the buying process. This information may be in the seller’s disclosure, but since it’s not a legal requirement in many states, it may not be included.
You may need to find out for yourself and bring that information to your lender. If that’s the case, or you’re already established in your home and looking to assess your flood risk, you can check your address in the National Flood Services database or the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) portal.
Step 2: Assess the flood zone risk
When you look up your home’s location, you’ll find FEMA has several flood zone classifications. The main four to be aware of include:
- Flood Zone V: The highest risk is for coastal homes right on the beach, for example. Flood insurance is mandatory for these homes.
- Flood Zone A: Areas near lakes, rivers or other bodies of water, which may be subject to rising waters. Flood insurance is mandatory in these areas as well.
- Flood Zone X: Minimal risk areas, inland and far from any significant bodies of water. Flood insurance is not mandatory in these areas, but may still be a good idea.
- Flood Zone D: Zone D areas are ones that haven’t been thoroughly studied but may have some flood risk.
Step 3a: I'm in a risky flood zone – what next? (Insurance considerations)
If you find out that your home is in a risky area and you don’t already have flood insurance, don’t wait. You can start by finding out if your insurance provider participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, or simply call your provider and find out if you can add flood insurance. If not, you can contact the NFIP Referral center at 1-800-427-4661 and request a referral, or use FEMA’s find a flood insurance provider tool.
It’s never a good idea to forgo flood insurance if you live in a flood zone and hope for federal or state aid in case of disaster. Disaster grants average around $8,000 or less, which is usually inadequate to cover the average flood damage claim, which ranged between $13,000-$66,000 over the past year. Other aid comes in the form of low-interest loans, which are costly and not guaranteed if you lack collateral or good credit.
Similarly, waiting for an imminent threat to purchase flood insurance is a risky plan, as most plans have a 30-day waiting period before they take effect.
The bottom line is, don’t wait to get flood insurance if you live in a high-risk flood area.
Step 3b: My house isn’t in a risky area. I can forget about it, right?
It’s tempting to just forget about the matter if you live in a low-risk zone, but you may want to consider protecting yourself anyway. As many as 25% of flood claims come from homes outside high-risk zones. In other words, low-risk never means no-risk.
Not only that, but flood zones do change for a variety of reasons. FEMA updates its flood maps periodically, so it’s a good idea to keep tabs on your home’s flood risk from time to time.
Step 4: Peace of mind
Whether your home is right on the beach, next to the banks of the Mississippi or deep in the desert, it’s always wise to know your risk level and how your area is changing. Check in with the FEMA flood zone map for your area periodically and, if you move, make sure to assess the flood risk of your new home.
While flood insurance may not be mandatory, or even your highest priority, in a low-risk area, it’s still worth considering before something happens. And if you live in a high-risk zone, flood insurance is a must.
Frequently Asked Questions
FEMA’s maps are constantly being updated and improved. While they are the best source of flood risk information, they are not always perfect. If you feel that your area may be inaccurately presented, you should contact FEMA directly.
FEMA flood maps are updated as needed as new information is acquired. You can find out the status of a map in your area by visiting FEMA’s website.
Being in a flood zone can significantly increase your flood insurance premium, but your home’s location is not the only factor. Several factors, including elevation, construction type and the age of your home help determine your rates.
Yes! If you live in a high-risk area, flood insurance is required, so you’ll have to consider that in your budget. Even if you’re in a low-risk zone, flood insurance is worth serious consideration.