If you’re thinking about buying a home, one of the things you need to know up front is whether the house you’re considering is in a flood zone.
In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about FloodFactor.com, a free online tool that shows you the likelihood of a flood at your home or one you’re thinking about buying.
Money expert Clark Howard says this kind of information can empower homebuyers and potentially save them a lot of money.
This Free Tool Shows You Whether Your Home Is a Flood Risk
For years, the insurance industry has relied mainly on flood maps created by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) to assess risk, but Flood Factor uses more recent data.
“The reality is that the FEMA flood maps are not up to date, and a lot of us live in areas where we have a greater and greater danger of facing floods,” Clark says. “And our mortgage company does not require us to have flood insurance because FEMA has said we’re not in a flood zone.”
How Does Flood Factor Work?
Flood Factor works like this: Once you type in an address, the website produces a score on a 10-point scale (the greater the number, the greater the risk) to analyze the likelihood of a flood hitting your property.
“Seeing your predictive likelihood of flooding is really, really useful,” Clark says.
Flood Factor was created by the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research firm that aims to make up-to-date flood risk information available to private citizens — homebuyers — rather than commercial interests.
The First Street Foundation says its flood model comes from years of peer-reviewed research that gauges the likelihood of storm surges, high tides and other water events in your area.
FloodFactor.com shows you several flood-related data points about each house including:
- Whether the residence is in a flood zone map
- The proportion of homes in the area at risk of flooding
- Projected flood risk this year, in 15 years and 30 years
Should You Buy Flood Insurance if You’re Not in a Flood Zone?
Clark says he has flood insurance on his home even though he’s not in a federally designated flood zone.
“Even though we have never experienced flooding, we have a creek that runs through our property, and we worry that it could cause a problem in our basement,” he says. “So even though we’re not required to, we have federal flood insurance.”
Clark says the key to buying flood insurance is whether it makes financial sense for you.
“For me, it’s relatively inexpensive at a few hundred dollars a year for $25,000 in coverage,” Clark says. “But if you are in a flood zone, it can be extremely expensive, although a policy can cover a quarter-million dollars in damage to your home.”
As for Flood Factor, Clark says this free tool is very helpful, but you should read its methodology to make sure you agree with it. If you do, Clark says the site can be a great way to educate yourself about your property or one you’re considering buying.
“You can do this and figure out if you should buy the flood insurance. Because remember, if you don’t have this and your home floods, your homeowners’ insurance does not cover you,” Clark says. “They will wash their hands of you and tell you that you are on your own.”
Use this guide to learn more about flood insurance before you start shopping.