You love the view, the location and have just about settled on the price; but, have you considered whether the property is located in a flood zone?

Whenever you are considering purchasing property, especially if it is near a body of water, it is important that you investigate whether the property is located in an area designated as a floodplain. Owning within a floodplain can make a significant difference in the cost of insuring the property and in the likelihood of a flood damaging your property.

What are the odds of a certain property being flooded? Property located in a 500-year floodplain have a 0.2 percent chance of being flooded in a given year, while those in a 100-year floodplain have a 1 percent chance. If the property is located in a 10-year floodplain, the likelihood of a flood occurring in that area is 10 percent annually.

“People don’t understand just how risky the floodplain can be,” the Texas Floodplain Management Association notes. “There is a 26 percent chance that a non-elevated home in the floodplain will be damaged during a 30-year mortgage period. The chance that a major fire will occur during the same period is less than 5 percent.”


So how can you find out whether the property is in a designated floodplain? Each Texas county has a floodplain manager, which is often designated as the county engineer’s office. Many city engineering offices also deal with floodplain concerns. People building in floodplain areas must comply with city or county regulations.

Many communities involved in regulating development in floodplains participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. The Federal Emergency Management Agency notes that when communities do not participate in the program, property owners cannot buy insurance through the NFIP, significantly limiting disaster assistance available to them. When communities do participate in the program, they agree to regulate floodplain development according to FEMA standards.

FEMA is responsible for designating flood zones. Sometimes, a property that was not previously designated as a flood zone is reclassified by FEMA. When an area is designated to be in a flood zone, special insurance must be purchased to cover a property and its contents. There are Special Flood Hazard Areas designated by FEMA, and the higher the likelihood of flooding, the more insurance will cost in a specific area.

The Texas Floodplain Management Association reports that as of 2015, floods have caused more than $156 billion in damage, and much of the property located within flood zones is not insured. That means when flooding occurs, property owners are usually responsible for the total cost of repairing the damage. The TFMA notes that so far, 12 percent of the land in Texas has been designated as a floodplain.

One thing to keep in mind: Just because an area is not located in a designated flood zone does not mean flooding cannot occur there. The TFMA notes that about 25 percent of flooding incidents occur in areas designated as low-risk zones. Sometimes, the cause of home flooding can be clogged drains or burst pipes, rather than water coming in from outside a house.

The community where you live also makes a difference. Some communities are more involved in floodplain management than others. Community rating systems, which are part of the NFIP, give extra credit to communities, which do the following, according to TFMA:

  • Preserve open space in floodplains.
  • Enforce higher standards for safer development through zoning, as well as ordinances related to stormwater and flood damage protection.
  • Develop hazard mitigation plans.
  • Undertake engineering studies and prepare flood maps.
  • Obtain grants to buy out or elevate flood-prone houses or to help floodproof businesses.
  • Maintain drainage systems.
  • Closely monitor flood conditions and issue warnings.
  • Inform people about flood hazards, flood insurance options and ways to reduce flood damage.

People who live in places which participate in the rating system can receive discounts on flood insurance.

More information on risks within floodplains – and options available from the Texas Water Development Board here or from FEMA here