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Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Unregistered-1427815803, Jan 15, 2004.
What is a flood plain and why should I be concerned when looking for property?
Thats areas on property which arent suitable for buildings.Tends to be wet or prone to flooding,wet lands,streams,etcNew laws with wetlands.
Flood plain is an area prone to flooding, usually adjacent to nearby creeks, rivers, etc.. Agencies such as FEMA provide maps to show which areas are in the flood plain and which aren't. You usually can't build a house or other structure in the flood plain. If your house already is in a floodplain, you usually have to purchase flood insurance if you have a mortgage. There are different "levels" of flood plain - 100 yr., 500 yr., etc. Do a google search for flood plain, FEMA, etc. Your local city, county, etc., can also help.
In my area we can build in a flood plain. We just have to build the livable floor level 12" (or 18"?) above the projected high water level.
The property should be cheap and may be difficult to get permits. I buy alot of rental property in flood zones because no one else wants them and a 100k home will go for30k. It's income property for me. Where mine are you generally have a week warning of flooding. Last had water in the yards in 86'. You will need special flood insurance from the gov.
In my area, the FFE (finished floor elevation), must be 3 feet over the elevation of the 100 year floodplain. That means that if your homesite is 3 ft. below the level of the 100 year floodplain, it needs to be built up 6 ft. Not too easily done. And if even the edge of your homesite (usually 1 acre or less and not just the house itself) touches the 100 year floodplain, then you must have flood insurance for a mortgage.
Here in WV there have been serious floods several times a year in the past few years. You wouldn't catch me buying any property in the flood plain for so many reasons.
Flood insurance is very expensive and doesn't pay off well--read the fine print. Everything, including hardwood flooring is depreciated-regardless of the antique tongue-in-groove quality. Friends were recently flooded (November) and they learned that the coverage they had, though for the amount they paid for their house, was not enough to allow for 100% replacement. That kind of insurance would have cost them 2 times what they paid for their premium, which already amounted to about $60 a month for the flood insurance alone (not including the additional cost of regular homeowners).
Worrying about where/when the next storm is coming and where the river level is, etc. can be very frightening.
Not everything in flood plains is cheap--lots of people choose to live on the coast, on riverbanks, and so forth. John Stossel (ABC--not sure if I spelled his name correctly) did a segment on flood insurance a while back, and commented on what a waste of money it was to regular taxpayers, because if the flood insurance wasn't available, you wouldn't have so many multi-million dollar homes deliberately built and re-built in harm's way. And that doesn't include all the money spent rescuing people who won't leave, even after being warned.
I think flood plains might be okay to buy in if the house built is either a vacation home (where it isn't going to have much stuff in it and you're not using it very often), or you are the type who lives a very "stuff-free" lifestyle, and I mean sentimental stuff as well regular stuff, so that you can leave in a hurry, or if you just own property and have hookups for when you drive up in a trailer every so often.
It cannot be much fun to have to pack up all you can carry in a vehicle while you're waiting to see if you have to evacuate or not. Insurance will pay for some stuff, but as BCR mentioned, everything will be depreciated. And stuff with sentimental value can't be replaced anyway. So do an informal inventory of what percentage of your stuff is really sentimental--you might find that you don't need as much insurance as you think.
Before you buy property make sure to check if it is considered to be in the flood plain.
At our previous residence we were considered to be in the flood plain even though the main floor of the house was at least 20 ft above the small creek behind the house. The maps were drawn in 1973 and have never been revised. The way they figured it was anything within about 60 feet of the stream was flood plain, without regard for elevation.
A friend of mine who had an auto repair business near us, near (150 ft) a different stream, was told he was in the flood plain even though he was over 50 feet above the stream.
We both tried to fight the determinations but got absolutely no where with the bureaucrats. They told us the only way we could change our status was to get a surveyor to run an elevation for us. Then if they were satisfied they would change our status. Since we were almost four miles from the benchmark they said we must use we could no afford the estimated $8-10 thousand dollars that the survey would have cost.
When we bought the house over 25 years ago, the banks didn't worry about being in the flood plain as they currently do. In fact the only reason I found out about us being in the floodpalin was that we needed to put on a new roof and install a new septic. We went to get a home equity loan and the man told us we would need flood insurance at a cost of about $450/yr if we wanted to get the loan from them. Well that never happened, we financed a different way.
The part that I find the most interesting is when we had the septic put in, both the tank and the drainfield both lie in the supposed flood plain, a thing which is illegal in this state. However, when the county inspector looked at the property he said, "This property will never flood, the lay of the land won't allow it to.
Like usual one bureaucrat fighting another.
Wow, how long ago was that? It seems to me that now with GPS systems being so accurate, you shouldn't have to have a full blown traditional type of survey. Just take a GPS elevation reading at the creek, take another at the property line, and that's it.
John, it was about 5 years ago. I was not aware of that technology at the time, and the surveyors I spoke with either didn't know, or didn't want to do it that way. I am not sure. Maybe they needed the extra cash to do it the old fashioned way, or perhaps they didn't have the equipment to do it with GPS.
The only location that the government would accept as a legitimate bench mark elevation was a bridge that was about 4 miles from my house. I suppose GPS would have worked there also.
I will suggest this to my friend who still has his shop in the area. Maybe he could get it done for much less and save on insurance.
Thanks for the post John.
I learn something new every day.
If you plan to raise the actual level of the whole building site you will also need a landfill permit and the gov't will give you the required elevations.
Most builders just raise the concrete or other finish floor elevations to the required elevations. Also if the area requires a septic system that could be a problem also.
Best to have it all printed out in an offer agreement first.
The reason the gov't need to know is they reinburse the insurance companies for losses due to construction in floodplains so they want to be sure that the elevations are high enough to prevent a lot of losses.
In montgomery and Liberty county and some of Harris county were hit with tremendous floods a few years back that wiped a lot of subdivisions out. I rented to a family whose original home was 15' on stilts and had water up to the attic rafters in that flood.
When I was in college, as a freshman I had to park my car in the farthest parking lot out which happened to be located in a 100 yr flood plain. The parking lot flooded at least once a year.
That's when I learned that the 500yr, 100yr, 10yr, 5yr estimates on flood plains aren't really accurate anymore. (Not that they ever really were.) As more communities build levies upstream to prevent flooding, downstream areas get flooded more, build more levies, etc, etc. Also, as more roads, parking lots, buildings and other impervious, non absorbant surfaces spring up, less storm water is getting absorbed into the ground and more is going into streams and rivers through stormwater drains. Alot of water is being pumped out of the ground, into our drains and flushed into streams and rivers. It all adds up to alot more flooding than occurred when most of those estimations were made.
You're right, the floodplain system isn't accurate with so much building and pavement being laid down. We had 3 100yr floods back to back.
Picture your source of water being at the bottom of a bowl. During previous floods, the river has cut several tiers into the 'bowl'. Each tier is a seperate floodplain. Depending on how high the tiers are and how much volume is in the water source, they label each tier. For example, the lowest tier my flood once a year. The next tier is likely to flood once every ten years.
Flood Plains need to be taken seriously. Call them hundred year old storms. They seem to come quicker then that. Land that all the old timers had never seen water on was under up to 20 foot of water during Hurricane Floyd. We had three hurricanes here within a month Dennis hit us twice. I am 19 ft. above sea level. My house was not flooded. A two foot wide by 4 ft. deep ditch was 100 ft. wide and 8 ft out of its banks. I had fast running water on three sides, within 30 ft. of my foundation. Out of 17 acres my animals stood on less than 2. Here the funny part. We left with our animals and came back 2 days later. The following day our road went under water and staid that way for two weeks. All that water came to the coast that was already saturated. I put my john boat in my front yard and went about ten miles to the waccamaw river. We have no connections or streams to that river from my home just prime flooded golf cources where there still building homes and there at least 10 ft. lower than I am. My neighboro is 80 and has lived here all of his life and said the road had never gone under water. Well that year it did three times. Look very close about moving into a flood plain and if you do build on the highest point on the place and have good drainage and that still may not be enough. It was a awful site to see all that livestock dead flooting down the river. Some towns where under water for months. Get a topographic map of the area and pay close attention where the water flows and check elavation close. Arnold Southeastern North Carolinia
This is from the FEMA site is regards to the term "100-year flood" (I didn't know this either).
"The term "100-year flood" is often incorrectly used and can be misleading. It does not mean that only one flood of that size will occur every 100 years. The term is a statement of probability that scientists and engineers use to describe how one flood compares to others that are likely to occur. Today, we use the phrase "1% annual chance flood." What it means is that there is a 1% chance of a flood of that size happening in any year. Over a 100-year period, it has a 63.5% chance of occurring. Even more surprising is that over a 30-year period (typical mortgage period) the 1% annual chance flood has a 26% chance of occurring. This means a home in the mapped flood hazard area is five times more likely to be damaged by flood than to have a major fire!"
If you go here, they have lots of info on how to go about changing the rating.
Floodplains and all the regulations confuse people. FEMA does have a procedure that you can use to ask for an exception from flood insurance. For example the FEMA floodplain maps show the floodplain as a blacked in area. Everything in the blacked in area is considered to be in the floodplain even if you happen to live on a knoll that's higher than any recorded flood.
That's where getting a surveyor to produce an elevation certificate pays off. With that you have a basis for getting an exception. Once you're submitted the documents and received the exception from FEMA you can take that to the mortgage lender and get the "flood insurance required" conditon lifted. Another point is that the FEMA maps may be inaccurate especially for rural areas. I recently saw proof of that on my own property. I had a surveyor set a stake marking the 100 year flood elevation several years ago. During the last flood that stake was underwater. According to the FEMA map the areas that should have been under water during a 100 year flood weren't. The surveyor set that stake based on the elvation shown on the FEMA map and a nearby USGS benchmark.
As mentioned the 100 year flood is a statistical calculation. In this area since 1929 there have been three floods over the 100 year mark. The one in '85 was way beyond a 500 year flood. While doing research for the local watershed group I found a 30 year old Army report that calculated the Standard Project Flood. That is the flood that is possible given the potential rain events that can happen. That flood will make the '85 flood look like a puddle.
Keep in mind that the 100 year flood was picked as a benchmark for political reasons. No one in Congress wanted to vote for a benchmark that put far greater numbers of structures at risk. FWIW, the flood insurance program is self financing. While they can borrow money from the treasury if needed, and they have in the past, the money has to be repaid. At this point the flood insurance program owes no debt. The average taxpayer as long as they don't have flood insurance, isn't contributing anything to the program.
If I was purchasing property anywhere near a floodplain, I'd be more concerned with finding out if the Standard Project Flood had been calculated rather than accept the 100 year flood for making a decision. For those of you that think a Standard Projct Flood is something of Biblical proportions, it isn't. The National Weather Service on one of their websites lists the rainfalls associated with statistical probabilities. On that page there's a link to the maximum probable rainfall. As the Standard Project Flood makes a 500 year flood look like a pipsqueak, so does the maximum probable rainfall make the rainfall used to calculate the Satndard Project Flood look like a heavy dew.
Don't be fooled by that 100 year flood stuff. It's like being worried about the danger of firecrackers when a nuclear bomb has a chance of being detonated.