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Residents of residential areas that are at risk of flooding are required to obtain flood insurance. Though anyone has the option to buy flood insurance, homeowners living in high-risk areas must purchase flood protection as a term of their loan, as homeowners insurance does not protect against flood damage. Learning more about flood zones and rate maps can help you understand your risk of flooding and whether you need flood insurance.
What is a Flood Insurance Rate Map?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) uses a variety of analysis and weather-tracking tools to help communities across the country protect themselves from natural disasters and stay informed on weather issues in their area. Flood maps are one of these tools. Flood maps tell you how likely a flood is to occur in any given area. FEMA is able to maintain flood-risk data through flood maps.
How to Read a Flood Insurance Rate Map
A flood map depicts communities and areas by zoning them. Each zone is categorized by letters based on the risk of a flood in the area. Those that have the highest risk are in zones A and V. Within both the A and V zoning categories, there are subcategories that tell you more about where the water from potential flooding is likely to originate.
High-Risk Flood Zones
A zones are high-risk areas and V zones are coastal high-risk areas. Homes located in Zone A and Zone V have a 1% chance of flooding annually and a 26% chance of flooding at least once over the course of a 30-year mortgage. If your home is located in an area with an A or V designation, you’ll need to purchase flood insurance under most circumstances.
Moderate-Risk Flood Zones
Areas that carry a moderate to low risk of flooding are designated zones B, C and X. Homes in Zone B are considered base floodplains of lesser hazards, meaning they are protected by levees or areas with small drainage areas.
Zones B and X (shaded) are between the 100-year and 500-year flood limit. Zones C and X (unshaded) are areas of minimal flood risk. If a flood does occur in these zones, it’s usually because of ponding or local drainage problems.
It’s important to note that while some zones do not require insurance, that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a risk. There are no no-risk zones, only zones with lower to moderate risk of flooding. You can use flood maps to find how close you are to a high-risk flood zone in order to stay educated and prepared.
Is Flood Insurance Required?
If your home is located in a high-risk area and your home is mortgaged through a lender that is federally regulated or insured, such as through a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan or a VA loan, you will be required to purchase flood insurance. In addition, if the federal government is giving you disaster assistance, you are also required to invest in flood insurance to prevent future incidents. This includes FEMA grants or Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans.
Some mortgage lenders will require you to get flood insurance even if you aren’t in a high-risk zone. Even if your mortgage lender doesn’t require it and you don’t live in a high-risk zone, you might want to still consider flood insurance. This is especially true for homeowners who live near a body of water like a lake or pond. Insurance rates are much cheaper for those who live in low-to-moderate-risk areas, so it might be worth the time to at least explore costs and options.
In the event that you do purchase flood insurance, you will need to maintain enough coverage to cover the costs to rebuild your home entirely in the case of a flood disaster. This includes the inside and actual structure of the home as well as all your belongings inside.
Where to Buy Flood Insurance
There are a few options to choose from for flood insurance. Most homeowners choose the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) insurance policy that is offered through private insurance companies authorized by the federal government. You can also add excess flood coverage, which extends the coverage maximum on your NFIP base policy.
Though rare, you can also choose to buy flood insurance through a private insurance provider. Private flood insurance providers offer more expensive policies when compared to FEMA-backed flood insurance, but they also offer a higher coverage limit. For example, while FEMA’s standard NFIP policy covers your home with $250,000 worth of coverage, it’s possible to find a flood insurance policy from a private flood insurance provider valued at up to $1 million in coverage.
How Much Does Flood Insurance Cost?
The amount you pay for flood insurance is dependent on a number of factors, particularly the flood zone your home is located in. If you live in a high-risk flood zone (Zone A or Zone V), you’ll pay the highest rates for your flood insurance. If you live in a moderate-risk or low-risk zone, you’ll find more affordable flood insurance options because you’re less likely to need to file a claim in the future.
How Do You Read Flood Insurance Rate Maps?
Though flood maps can look intimidating, the truth is that you can read a flood insurance rate map the same way you would read any map. When you visit the Flood Map Service Center and enter your address, you’ll see both the map itself and the key. The key allows you to see where high-risk areas and low-risk areas are, among other environmental details that contribute to flooding risk. The map shows the Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHAs) and the Base Flood Elevations (BFEs) where this data is available as well.
When you search for your address on the map, you’ll notice a number of special features, including SHFAs with and without BFEs, areas of hazard with 0.2% and 1% annual chance of flood, areas with reduced risk because of levees and areas that are an undetermined flood hazard. The map also shows general structures and features such as where channels, water surface elevations and hydrographic features are.
It’s a good idea to check out the map even if you know you don’t live in a high-risk area. If you feel that the information on the map about your area may be outdated, you can call an insurance agent to determine whether flood insurance is common in your area and is a good idea. You can also contact FEMA if you feel your area is zoned incorrectly.
Benzinga’s Best Flood Insurance Carriers
If you’re considering whether or not you need flood insurance, it’s a good idea to connect with an insurance agent familiar with your area. Consider starting your search with a few of our favorite homeowners insurance providers below.
The Importance of Flood Insurance
If you’re shopping for a new home, one of the first things you should research is each home’s flood zone. While your flood zone tells you how high of a risk you are of suffering a flood, zoning isn’t the only thing you should think about when you decide whether or not you need flood insurance. You should also consider whether the home is in a newly developed area that may not absorb water well, an area that has a risk of wildfires with water-resistant soil or a place that commonly has water runoff or mudslides at the base of a mountain or hill.
Many additional factors may put a home at a greater risk of flooding — even if it isn’t labeled a high-risk zone on the flood map. Do your research before buying a new home — for your own safety and the safety of your family.
Frequently Asked Questions
Flood insurance is calculated using factors like your flood zone, the age of your home, the cost to replace your home and many additional factors.
You can search for your address using FEMA’s Flood Map Service Center. While shopping online, most listings will specify whether a home is located in zone A, V or X. However, you may want to double-check the flood zone of any home you’re considering purchasing just to be sure.