American Homeowners Association Membership  
American Homeowners Association



How Home Buyers and Owners Can Avoid Floods

Last month, Hurricane Floyd ravaged the eastern states, turning streets into rivers, causing deaths and wiping out homes, farms and businesses. Sixty-six counties in North Carolina were declared disaster areas, as well as several counties in Connecticut. Although damage assistance for flood victims is underway, what about getting homeowners to avoid floods in the first place? That is exactly what FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) is trying to do--move homeowners out of harm's way, and encourage them not to build where flood risks are high. Here's how you can avoid buying or building a home in the flood plain.

FEMA publishes maps of flood prone areas found in the United States. If you're a homebuyer, and you apply for a federally secured loan, lenders are required to check the maps. If the home is located in a flood plain, the lender will require you to purchase flood insurance. Under most sales disclosure forms, the listing agent also is required to check with the seller and inform you if the home has ever been flooded, or is located on a flood plain.

What is a flood plain? That depends on whom you ask. Most people don't understand the definition of a 100-year flood zone. It doesn't mean that a flood will occur every hundred years. It means that the chance of a major flood occurring in any year is one percent. But ask the people who live in some 100-year flood zones, and you'll get yet another story. They'll tell you that their homes have been flooded two or even three years in a row. The bottom line is, predicting the frequency or severity of flooding anywhere is not exactly easy.

But checking the flood maps is a place to start. Remember that if the home was built prior to the 1960s when detailed maps first became available, the deed or other records may not contain accurate flood information. Rather than relying on the lender or the real estate agent, you can protect yourself as a homebuyer by double-checking the floodplain maps yourself, available at city or county real estate or emergency management offices. If you already live in a flood plain, make sure your flood insurance is paid and up-to-date.

FEMA and the state of North Carolina are so concerned about people rebuilding on the flood plain that they have begun a voluntary buyout program of flood-damaged properties. "We want to help North Carolinians rebuild (after Floyd). And we want to help them rebuild out of harm's way - out of the floodplain," says John Copenhaver, regional director for FEMA's Region IV office. The program would buy only the properties of people wanting to sell those properties, and would focus first on the most flood-prone areas, and the most damaged properties in North Carolina. Applications for buyouts will be made by local communities, not by individual property owners. Interested property owners can contact their city or county planning department, local emergency manager or local floodplain administrator.

Sources used to create this article include FEMA, writer Denise Neil and The Wichita Eagle.

Copyright © 2001, AHA, the American Homeowners Association, Stamford, Connecticut, USA All Rights Reserved.