Floodplains matter. Apart from your home at risk of being filled with water it can create a lot of extra costs and headaches. Insurance rates will be higher or may be unavailable – and it could also derail a home sale or purchase. After all, if you were looking to purchase a home in a floodprone area – wouldn’t you want to know?
Looking up a flood-zone map is not hard anymore though. It does depend on the county and some have better tools than other. If your county does not have their own tools you can always go to the FEMA site and look at the actual FEMA map. Anyways, we are in Fairfax County so lets say I was looking to purchase a home in the Pimmit Hills subdivision in Falls Church near Tysons Corner.
The home I was looking to purchase happened to be on Pimmit Court. Pimmit Court is a cul-de sac that backs up against the Pimmit Run stream (much of which is underground past Leesburg Pike.) Some of the lots on that street are pretty low lying and it would seem reasonable to think that there could be an issue. How would I know for sure though?
The first place to go would be the Fairfax County website and their look up tool at http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/gis/DMV/Default.aspx
By selecting the FEMA-SFHA from the Available Map Types and typing in an address I get a map similar to this:
Hmmm. As per the map above some of the properties and also some of the structures are certainly in the floodplain. If I was purchasing a home and the home was covered in green on the map I would:
- Give my lender a call and ask if financing is still be available. I would also ask what new conditions there would be for the loan.
- Give my insurance company a call and ask if insurance was available. I would also ask at what cost and what exemptions there would be.
- Check to see if private or federal flood insurance is available (and at what cost.)
- Call the county and ask what restrictions there are on the use of the property. For example, can you expand the home? Can you build a fence? What about a deck or a driveway?
Being in a flood-zone may not mean the end of a transaction. Often homes in flood zones have gorgeous lots backing up to normally quiet streams or rivers. You just have to weigh the otherwise potential premium lot against the likely extra cost of flood insurance (if it is available.)
Apart from a home potentially being in a floodplain there are other related issues too. Your home could be near wetland, in a dam inundation zone(see the large list of state-regulated dams in Fairfax County alone) or in a RPA. Any one of those could have a significant impact on your insurance rate, use of the property and also on the value of your home. See the earlier article on Resource Protect Areas (RPA.)
If you have a stream, ditch or pond on your property the EPA through the Clean Water Act may also have jurisdiction and say over what you can do on your property.
Lots of things to keep track of – so if you are looking to buy or sell I would recommend you have a real estate agent on your side to help figure these things out!