Understanding Different Flood Zones

June 4, 2019

You’ve scoured all the listings and finally found your ideal beach-front property. It ticks all your boxes and you’re already furnishing it in your head.

But before you make an offer and bring all your design dreams to life, have you considered adding a flood zone search to your to-do list?

Whether you’re buying your first or next home, you know there’s a seemingly endless list of things to consider. Knowing the flood zone of a property you’re interested in is definitely high up on the list.

How can you find out the information you need to help make a buying decision? Here’s what you need to know about conducting a flood zone search during your next home-buying venture.

Flooding 101

If you’ve never encountered flooding in person, you’ve likely seen it on the news. Research shows that by the end of the 21st century, 670 communities in the United States will face continuous flooding issues.

So what is flooding? Floods can be characterized by large amounts of water taking over areas that are usually dry.

It’s a naturally occurring event that can be linked to several causes:

  • Copious amounts of rain
  • Dam or levee that rupture
  • Rapid melting of snow or ice
  • Beaver dams that overtake a river and spill into a floodplain
  • Tropical storms and tsunamis that raise sea levels and inland from the coast

Often floods take time to build up, which means people can prepare or evacuate. But flash floods that overtake communities with little warning are much more difficult to come back from.

Flood Maps Explained

To say flooding is dangerous is an understatement. Flooding events can present a number of public health risks, including widespread deaths, and cost billions of dollars in damages.

You can protect yourself if you already live in an area with a high-flood-risk. You can also arm yourself with the knowledge you gain from a flood zone search before you buy.

The U.S. government also provides protection to towns and cities throughout the country through FEMA’s (Federal Emergency Management Agency) National Flood Insurance Program.

This program provides guidelines about the coverage requirements based on risk levels. One of the most important parts of determining the amount of flood insurance coverage you need for your home is through flood maps.

These are maps that show flood zones for all communities and their floodplains. Floodplains are areas that are usually completely or nearly completely flat and located right next to a stream or river that floods from time to time.

Another important part of the picture is what’s known as Base Flood Elevation. This is what FEMA calculates to be the amount of floodwater expected in an area, and is based on historical flooding. All of these impact how risky your area is for flooding.

Flood maps are always changing because they’re impacted by a number of human and environmental changes. For example, the way land is developed can change water drainage or flow. Changes in weather and other natural events like wildfires can also impact these patterns.

Flood Zone Definition

Flood maps are composed of flood zones. The boundaries of these zones are based on flooding severity risks.

When you conduct a flood zone search, you’ll come across a number of categories set by FEMA using an alphabetical and numerical naming structure.

The highest risk zones start with V and A. These zones are commonly beach areas or usually near bodies of water. They fall under the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) marker. This means that there’s a 1% chance of annual flooding in these areas.

The lowest-risk areas are B, X, and C zones. They own a 0.2% chance of annual flooding.

How to Conduct a Flood Zone Search When House Hunting

So how you do actually find the flood zone for your current or future home? Conduct a flood zone search.

FEMA offers free flood maps that allow anyone to search for floodplain by map address. Simply visit the portal and enter the address of the property you’re interested in or own. From there you’ll be able to see the relevant flood map for yourself.

In addition to taking advantage of FEMA’s flood maps, there are some other places to turn to for valuable flood zone search information.

You could visit your town’s city hall and inquire about the building permits department. You could also work with your realtor and insurance provider.

Since the government doesn’t require sellers to list flood zone information, doing some research with the help of these partners can simplify that process.

Own or Considering Buying a Home in a Flood Zone?

If you’re a prospective homeowner, you now know that you can check flood zone by address. It’s important information to consider before you sign on any dotted lines.

But another precaution you can take is to understand the type of flood insurance required based on where your current or future home falls.

Not all zones require flood insurance. If you find that your area does, the amount of necessary coverage can depend on specifics like flood zone, the elevation of the lowest floor, and how new it is.

And, of course, it’s all based on the risk of your property to flooding.

Protect Yourself with Flood Insurance

Buying a home is a monumental and exciting decision. You weigh everything from the size of the home, commute time, and school district. And a flood zone search is just another important aspect to consider before you buy.

Even if your new home isn’t in a high-risk flood zone, there’s no better way to protect you and our loved ones than with flood insurance.

Many home insurance policies don’t even include flood insurance. If you’d rather have the coverage you need and be prepared for the unknown, it’s a great time to get flood insurance.

Whether you’re a seasoned or first-time homeowner, we’ll help you determine the right coverage for your property. Get in touch today!


**This blog provides a brief overview of the terms and phrases used within the insurance industry. These definitions are not applicable in all states or for all insurance and financial products. This is not an insurance contract. Other terms, conditions and exclusions apply. Please read your official policy for full details about coverage. These definitions do not alter or modify the terms of any insurance contract.