Do You Know Your Home’s True Flood Risk?

Homeowners who live outside of flood zones still get flooded but can lack the insurance they need

For decades, homebuyers have turned to flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to see if their potential property has a flood risk.

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Credit: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

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Communities like Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, NC, Denver, CO, and Bartholomew County, IN have adopted better maps that accurately communicate flood hazards to property owners and developers. Your county can too - demand better maps from your local government.

The problem: Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) might seem like a logical place to start, but these frequently used resources are often wrong.

  • They’re incomplete, only showing flooding along coasts and rivers while ignoring flooding from regular rainfall and missing 6 million Americans at substantial risk…

  • Outdated, based on decades-old flood data, not the worsening trends we’re seeing today…

  • And imprecise, averaging risks across thousands of properties in every census tract, with no way to gauge individual homes or even neighborhoods.

Yet bright lines make the maps look binary: You’re either “at-risk” in a 100-year Special Flood Hazard Zone with a 1% annual chance of flooding (26% chance over the life of a mortgage), or you’re outside of the SFHA and “safe.” But flood risk isn’t that simple.

Go deeper: Check the true risk of the home you’re in or want to buy with FloodFactor, which — unlike FEMA — combines past and present flood data with the latest projections.

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