Flood insurance can be a costly purchase for homeowners. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is consistently on the chopping block in Congress, as insurers lobby to be able to raise prices...and the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) lobbies tirelessly to keep premiums affordable for homeowners and homebuyers in flood-prone areas.
However, there are several tools that a homebuyer can use to assess the likelihood of a property to be prone to flooding before purchasing. Of course, flood zones can change over time, and no singular tool is foolproof for assessing or predicting the likelihood of a future flooding event (no one can predict the weather, right?), but these tools to assess flood risk (in addition to other tools, such as school scoring websites and crime statistics maps) can help you to do your due diligence and gather a little more information about the property you may be considering buying.
GEORGIA FLOOD MAP PROGRAM
The Georgia Flood Map Program allows users to enter a property address and then view a Flood Risk Snapshot of the property, generating a detailed report showing the current flood zone and detailed location information. With the (obvious) disclaimer that "nature doesn't read flood maps" as a general warning, the site is a useful tool for assessing current flood risk.
In terms of further disclaimer, the site reads "Many people don't understand just how risky the floodplain can be. There is a greater than 26% chance that a non-elevated home in the SFHA (Special Flood Hazard Area) will be flooded during a 30-year mortgage period. The chance that a major fire will occur during the same period is less than 10%!"
Flood Factor is a relatively new website and described itself as a "free online tool created by the nonprofit First Street Foundation that makes it easy for Americans to find their property’s risk of flooding and understand how flood risks are changing because of a changing environment." Similar to the Georgia Flood Map Program site, above, users can enter a home address and bring up a detailed report with information about the property's current flood risk. Taking it a step further, Flood Factor also uses flood data and a proprietary algorithm to project possible future flood risk. The site assigns a "flood factor" -- a number on a scale of 1 to 10, including a likelihood (in percentage chance) of the property flooding within the next 15 years. (NOTE: As with any site that uses an algorithm to calculate any value -- such as Zillow's Zestimates or a school scoring website, take the information with a grain of salt and always cross-reference with other sites; using one calculation for every home in the country means this approach is very generalized and consumers should always consult with experts before taking this information as "gospel.")
CONCLUSION: As with any sites aimed at providing statistical information about a property, use these sites as additional tools in your toolbox -- as ways to gather pieces of information to consider when making home purchase decisions. No one site can be the singular source of information about a home, and homebuyers should use a variety of sources -- including professionals, such as a REALTOR®, home inspector, mortgage lender, and insurance specialist -- for advisement when considering a home purchase.