The most frequently asked question a coastal real estate broker gets asked is, “Does this property flood?”
The short and most accurate answer is, “Yes!”
Now hold on. Before images of Hurricane Irene or Katrina start flooding into your mind just knows this; all points east of I-95 in North Carolina have been underwater at some point in time. It might have been 1,000,000 years ago but there isn’t a single location that hasn’t been submerged.
A better question to ask is how frequently a property floods. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expresses flood potential in terms of percent chance per year. There are 20 coastal counties in North Carolina that fall under the FEMA purview. This region is considered a high risk area. FEMA defines “High Risk” as “a 1% annual chance of flooding and a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage”. These areas are given a zone designation of usually an “A” or an “AE”
After the letter designation will be a number such as a 5, 6 or 7. This number shows the elevation of the property above sea level. So an AE 7 has a 1% chance of flooding in any given year and is 7 feet above sea level. The higher the number, the greater the elevation and the less likely it is to flood.
It is quite common for a property to have more than one flood zone designation. It is also common for several different flood zones to be in close proximity of each other. For example I can throw a baseball from my front porch in four different directions and have the ball land in four different flood zone designations.
The highest risk coastal areas are along the beaches. These areas have a “V” or “VE” designation. FEMA defines these as, “Coastal areas with a 1% or greater chance of flooding and an additional hazard associated with storm waves. These areas have a 26% chance of flooding over the life of a 30-year mortgage.”
One of the best FEMA flood zone designations is Shaded “X”. This area presents a “moderate flood hazard” and is usually “between the limits of the 100-year and 500-year floods.
Know what the flood zone designation and flood potential is for any property you are considering to purchase. The information is readily available. In fact every Realtor is required to make it known for each of their listed properties. (AE7 and Shaded X are highly sought after designations.)
Now that you think you’ve got a handle on the whole flood topic let me muddy the waters a bit. Proximity to water is not a good way to judge flood potential. Soil type can effect flood potential and believe it or not-Wind can be a factor too. But I’ll cover these topics and more in the follow edition of “Does this Property Flood?”