California Real Estate: 5 Signs the Home You're Considering Is a Severe Flooding Liability

Written by Will Caldwell

Searching for a home can be both exciting and overwhelming. You’ll likely see over a dozen properties—each with its own unique personalities and features. Initially, it might be easy to get carried away with your excitement. But buying a home is a huge commitment, and you want to make sure you’re aware of every little detail before going through with a purchase. 

That last thing any homebuyer wants is to be blind-sighted. If you’re buying a property in California, carefully reviewing your natural hazard disclosure, or NHD report is of vital importance.

Oftentimes, California homebuyers aren’t fully aware of how an NHD report can affect their decision. If a home is located in a natural hazard area, California Civil Code legally requires real estate sellers and brokers to provide prospective buyers with a natural hazard disclosure.

For many California homeowners, flooding is one of the biggest natural hazard risks. No one can predict when and where a flood will occur, but the results can be devastating. Before purchasing a home, NHD reports aim to inform buyers whether or not their home is located in an area where such natural disasters might occur.

While the chances of your home succumbing to a total disaster are relatively low, it’s still important to consider how much risk is involved. If you’re considering buying a home in California, here are five signs that your home might be a severe flooding liability. 

1) High Insurance Rates 

In California, there are five main natural hazard zone categories. If you’re considering a home located in one of these five major areas, you’ll want to look into purchasing an insurance plan that covers the designated risk of the area. In many cases, this means paying higher insurance rates.

For example, wildfires are another major hazard that affects millions of California homeowners each year. Most homeowner insurance policies cover wildfires, but properties that reside within a wildfire hazard zone might demand an additional policy to receive full coverage.

The same principle applies to other homes located within natural disaster zones, including flooding. To fully cover that risk, any type of property built near or within a flood zone is required to purchase additional insurance.

This information once again emphasizes the importance of an NHD report. Your natural hazard disclosure will tell you what type of hazards might affect your area. Carefully looking over this document can help you take the necessary steps to protect your home and avoid financial devastation. 

2) Cracks In the Foundation

In general, cracks in your foundation are never a good sign. Any sort of nook or crevice in the foundation can act as a channel that allows water to flow into your basement and cause further damage to your home.

Reviewing your NHD report should provide you with any information regarding such damages. If you decide to go through with the purchase of the home, it’s crucial to be active about sealing cracks and taking the necessary precautions to keep water from flooding into your basement.

Coasting the wall with a sealant can also keep water from infiltrating your home. Depending on the severity of the foundational damage, you may want to contact a contractor.

3) Poor Drainage or Signs of Water Damage

When house-hunting in flood hazard zones, look for existing water damage or signs of a poor drainage system. For example, if water pools near or around the perimeter of the home, that’s a big sign the house has drainage issues. 

As you walk through the house, notice if there are any water stains on the wall or strange odors inside or outside the home. If there’s been any water damage, unpleasant odors could be an indication of mold or plumbing issues. 

If you do happen to notice any of these signs, don’t be overwhelmed. Whether it's cleaning out your gutters, leveling landscaping, fixing your spigots, or repositioning your downspouts, these fixes are relatively easy.

4) House Is Being Sold at a Bargain Price

For any buyer, the selling price of a home is one of the key considerations when house-hunting. If you’re hiring a real estate agent, make sure to tell them your budget, and only look at homes that reside within your specified price range.

But what if you find a house selling at a bargain price?

While these bargain prices might seem like a good deal, they’re generally too good to be true. If a house is priced significantly lower than its market value, there’s portably some sort of damage to the property.

Whether it’s the house itself, the surrounding property, or the location, there could be issues that demand extensive repairs, which would ultimately put you in a position of paying more than you intended. It’s important to talk to your real estate agent about the listing price and go over your natural hazard disclosure, so you can avoid digging yourself a financial grave.

5) Long-Term Threats

While natural disasters have immediate repercussions, you should also be aware of the potential for long-term threats. With thousands of miles of rivers, streams, lakes, and extensive coastline, California becomes a problem as both sea levels and the flood risks rise.

Over the past century, sea levels have been rising at a steady rate, but over the most recent decades, that rate is increasing. According to the National Ocean Service, sea levels rise at an approximate rate of one-eighth of an inch per year.

While this might not sound like a large number, the long-term threat has the potential to be disastrous. When buying a home in California, reviewing your NHD report cause give you a better idea of the potential hazards and their long-term effects. 

Taking the time to go over the Special Flood Hazard Area section of your natural hazard disclosure will include information regarding the immediate and long-term risks of flooding, as well as the estimated level of risk for future decades.

Always Check Your NHD Report

From fantastic weather to beautiful beaches and hundreds of opportunities, California homebuyers have a lot to look forward to. A lot of the information we’ve given you in this article might seem scary at first. But by carefully reviewing your NHD report, you can prevent living in a constant state of paranoia.

To ensure the safety of you, your family, and your home, California state law requires real estate agents and brokers to provide sellers with this disclosure.

Your natural hazard disclosure can help you better prepare for natural disasters by determining what kind of insurance policy you need to purchase, or deciding what measures to take to ensure the protection of your property.