Will Your Home Flood
Dated: August 4 2017
We all know Houston is pretty flat. That brings about flash flooding which we have experienced or seen in the news. Tropical weather raises the risk of flooding. I remember when I first moved to Houston in the 70's and experienced a high water event the first week. At that time a long time Houstonian advised me to not drive into the water because you can't really tell how deep it is or even if you are driving into a gigantic hole. His advice was to seek high ground, a parking lot or parking building and wait for the water to go down. I found that it usually goes down as quickly as it rises.
That advice is great for your car, but what about your house? Too bad you can't move your house to higher ground. Fortunately, we have some good resources from statisticians who collected and now give us helpful data. The information gathered is from past floods and the monitoring of creeks and bayous. This data is also used by insurance companies to evaluate risk and helps lenders know which properties should require flood insurance. Here are some resources:
The Houston Chronicle explains why we flood in Houston and covers the history of it.
Texas A&M just launched in July 2017 the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores
It did rate the risk of Hurricanes, floods, wildfire, air pollution and earthquake for my property. The address search did not work for me so I found my property on the map.
The Harris County Flood Education Mapping Tool is created by the Flood Control District. This tool rates your risk of flood and it keeps getting better year after year.
The USGS or United States Geological Survey also chronicles groundwater decline and subsidence. This tool has been used by developers to determine the risk of new building projects.
Covering the risk
Standard homeowners insurance in Texas covers Wind and Fire risks, not rising water. For many years The US government through FEMA was your only choice for flood policies. If a lender required flood insurance you had to turn to FEMA. The cost of the policy is based on the value of the asset and the risk of flooding.
Here is some good news ... there are now several insurance carriers writing private flood policies. My experience is that these private policies cost much less than FEMA. Do your research and please read the policies before purchasing.
In addition, if the home is in the flood plain and has never flooded. Obtain an elevation certificate showing the elevation of your slab (most homes in Houston are on a slab). If it shows you home elevation is above the flood plain, your lender may not require it.
Note: All of this risk assessment could be wrong. Many people carry a flood policy even if the lender does not require it. If your elevation and data show your risk is low, a flood policy could be less than a few hundred dollars a year. If you flood it can easily cost you thousands. You decide.
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