Just about anywhere you live, flooding can happen - but northeastern North Carolina is especially known to be a region with active hurricane seasons and winter nor'easter storms. So, it goes without saying (but we'll say it anyway) that flood insurance is a good idea in our coastal area, even if you aren't technically located in a designated flood zone. Although your regular homeowners' policy may cover water damage due to a burst pipe, it will not likely cover water damage due to precipitation. Work closely with your insurance agent to determine what policies are recommended and what they specifically cover.
What is a flood zone?
A flood zone is an area designated by FEMA as having a potential risk of flooding, and this risk is calculated based on a number of factors - factors like nearby waterways, local terrain characteristics, elevation, and manmade structures. The "flood zones" are labeled with letters, and each letter indicates a different percentage of annual flood risk. Any area with a 1% or higher risk of flooding is designated as a Special Flood Hazard Area (or SFHA).
Is flood insurance required?
If you are purchasing a home in a special high-risk flood zone, and you are obtaining a mortgage loan to purchase the property, then your lender will most likely require you to purchase flood insurance. If you are paying cash for the property, the decision is yours alone.
The most common high-risk flood zones (or SFHAs) in our area are Zone A & AE. Zones with low-to-moderate risk are Zones B, C, and X. Within these zones you may find shaded areas, which means that a barrier (like a dam, levee, or reservoir) has been built to help reduce the risk of flooding in that zone. However, manmade structures can fail, so there is no guarantee that your home will not flood.
How do I get flood insurance?
Your insurance agent can give you information and a quote for flood insurance when they are preparing your homeowners' insurance policy. Most insurance providers purchase flood insurance plans through FEMA; however, there are sometimes other third-party options available - your insurance agent will let you know what he/she recommends based on your particular situation and the location of the property.
Even if you are not required to obtain a flood insurance policy, it is HIGHLY recommended that you do so. Flood policies for properties in the lower-risk zones are usually very affordable, and it just makes sense to have the coverage when living in a coastal area. Most of our area is at or below sea level, so precipitation and wind from storms can easily cause rivers and sounds to rise. Many people in the lower-risk zones (or in no designated flood zone at all) have seen standing water accumulate in their yards and come dangerously close to entering their homes during hurricanes or nor'easters. It would simply take the right (or wrong) combination of wind direction and rainfall to cause flooding even in areas that are not designated as risky.
If you do choose to get flood coverage, you will most likely need an elevation certificate. This certificate shows the elevation of the first-floor living space, and compares that to the base flood elevation for the area. This elevation helps determine the cost of your flood insurance coverage. If the current owner of the property carries flood insurance, you may even be able to assume their policy without needing a new elevation certificate. Your Hall & Nixon REALTOR® and your insurance agent can help research this for you.