What's a Flood Zone? (and Why All Californians Need to Know the Answer)

Written by Will Caldwell

Becoming a homeowner is a big undertaking, especially if you plan on living in California. There's a lot to consider. The unpredictable weather and ever-changing climate are sure to keep everyone homeowner on their toes, which is why it's essential to have a natural hazard disclosure report. Today, one of the biggest things to be aware of when buying a home in California is flooding. 

In California, flooding occurs annually; yet no one knows when or where to predict it. Over the years, every county in California has been declared a flood disaster. One in five Californians and more than $580 billion worth of structures (including contents) are at risk.

Wherever you choose to live, it's important not to be ignorant of the potential consequences of flooding. Even if you're not necessarily located near a body of water, it's still something to be aware of. The best way to determine if you're in a flood zone is by checking your natural hazard disclosure.

As of 1998, California state law requires sellers of real estate are provide a natural hazard disclosure, or NHD report, before officially selling any property. The report will generally include any potential hazards you may encounter while living on that property — Special Flood Hazard, Dam Inundation, Very High Fire, Wild-land Fire, Earthquake Fault Zone, and Seismic Hazard areas.

Using an NHD report to be can help you precisely determine what a flood zone is, contributing factors that could increase risk, and what steps you can take to ensure the safety of your home and your family.  

Why Does It Matter?  

Firstly, we must consider what a flood zone is. According to FEMA, a special flood hazard area has been defined as, “The area that will be inundated by the flood event having a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year.”

In other words, if you choose to buy a house in a designated special flood hazard area, your house has a one percent chance of being subject to significant flooding every year.

While this may not sound like something overly threatening, it’s still important to consider if you’re looking to become an owner longterm. This indicates that a given property has a one in four chance of experiencing significant flooding during a typical 30-year mortgage, which is why its important to consider how this will impact the value of your home. 

That’s why NHD report’s are required in the transaction between buyers and sellers. If you’re selling, disclosing any possible hazards gives you financial protection and limits liability. When buying a house, being aware of all the potential risks gives you the ability to determine whether or not it is the right house for you.

The worst thing a buyer can face is being blind-sighted by a hazard they didn’t know existed, leaving you with an expensive  So be sure to check your NHD report for more detailed information on being in a special flood hazard area. 

Contributing Factors of a Flood Zone

If you plan on buying a home, checking the NHD report can help prepare you for any possible hazards. But there are also some contributing factors that you can look for, as well.

Generally, the first noticeable sign of a potential flood is extreme weather changes. Even though California is known for its droughts and dry seasons, the wet seasons are becoming more hazardous. Rising sea levels and outdated levees have caused many Californians to be aware of the dangers of living in a flood zone. Being located near reservoirs and dams could also pose a risk of flooding. In addition, there's been an increasing number of floodplains that have been developed in major cities.

It's also important to be aware of the other hazards that might be designated in your area. Earthquake hazards or seismic threats have been known to increase the danger of flooding. The uneven surface of land can increase any potential damage from a flood.

Flooding by an earthquake can cause mudslides, which could cause significant more destruction to your property. Checking your NDH report to see how close you are to similar hazards can help you be prepared.

Be Proactive In Protecting Your Home 

As a potential homebuyer, your NHD report is an important tool in determining what measures to take to protect your home, or more importantly, what kind of insurance policy you will need.

The state requires homes located in a designated special flood hazard area to obtain additional insurance coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program. Why get additional coverage? Because if your home encounters significant flooding, any flood damage will most likely not be covered by your standard home insurance policies. 

If you plan on buying a house in a high-risk flooding area, you might want to invest in some waterproofing options. For example, installing flood prevention devices or raising your house on stilts can help you be prepared for the worst. Waterproofing the basement can help ensure the protection of any personal possessions.

Your NHD Report will include any additional hazards that could pose a threat to your property. Ensuring those hazards are addressed in addition to flooding will help ensure the protection of your property in the event of a flood.

Take Advantage of Your NHD Report

Whether you're buying or selling a home, you cannot overlook the NHD report. Not only does it provide a detailed list of the potential hazards your property could be subject to, but it also lets a potential buyer rest easy. You don't have to worry about unexpected disasters coming your way.  

The information contained in your NHD report will give you a full understanding of what you’re getting into and allow for plenty of time to prepare.

The NHD report can give both the buyer and seller peace of mind. Closely reviewing the report will ensure both parties are well informed of any risks involved. Regardless of whether you're a first-time homebuyer or making a quick sell, use the NHD report to evaluate any hazards …

It could potentially save your home.