Should you buy in the flood plain?

While flooding from hurricanes and tropical storms may seem like a far away thing, Atlanta experienced catastrophic flooding not too long ago. In September 2009, the Atlanta area had what the U.S. Geological Survey called a “once in 500 years flood.” More than 20 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period and 20,000 homes, businesses and other buildings sustained damage. The cost to homeowners and insurers was estimated at $500 million.

Four years after the 2009 floods, FEMA issued new flood maps for metro Atlanta. Many areas that weren’t even affected by the 2009 floods became part of the flood plain often unbeknownst to the homeowners affected. FEMA’s justification, about 25 percent of flood insurance claims occur in lower risk flood zones. By law, federally regulated or insured mortgage lenders require flood insurance on properties that are located in areas at high risk of flooding. Some homes may avoid flood insurance requirements if an elevation survey shows the lowest living level of the home is at least three feet off the ground.

In some jurisdictions such as the City of Atlanta, homeowners cannot build in the flood plain without a variance. Typically, homeowners must use the footprint of an existing structure when re-building (though variances are possible).

For those who have lived near a coast however, the thought that property in a flood plain would be worth less than property that is not is counterintuitive since coastal homeowners typically pay more to be in the flood plain. Homes in Atlanta that are in the flood plain often have desirable walk-out backyards and come with lots of land that can provide privacy or space for recreation.

Should you buy in the flood plain? The answer is as it is with all things real estate related; ask your Realtor.

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Beacham & Company, REALTORS is Atlanta’s top-selling luxury real estate office. The firm was founded in 2006 by Glennis Beacham, one of Atlanta’s most celebrated real estate agents. The company sells nearly $1 billion in real estate annually among its 100 agents who are the most productive in the state by dollar volume sold.