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Homebuyer Climate Change Concerns: Inland Flooding

Homebuyer Climate Change Concerns: Inland Flooding

Most homebuyers consider the size, location, and layout of a home. But it’s increasingly important to assess how climate change will impact the home you purchase. As the effects of the climate crisis intensify, some areas are experiencing increased rainfall and storm events, which can cause inland flooding. Sadly, this can wreak havoc on communities and make homes unlivable.

Most cities are covered largely by impermeable surfaces like roads and buildings and have drainage systems equipped to handle excess water from precipitation. Underground pipes carry water and discharge it into the water system. However, these stormwater management systems can get overwhelmed, causing inland flooding or flash floods. Let’s explore the implications of flooding on home shoppers.

What Causes Inland Flooding?

When the quantity of water on land exceeds its natural or constructed drainage capacity, flooding occurs. Prolonged rainfall for many days, intense but brief precipitation events, failed dams and levees, and rapidly melting snowpack are all common causes. Inland flooding is different from coastal flooding, which involves seawater.

Although precipitation is certainly a natural occurrence, humans have contributed to inland flooding by constructing homes and businesses without proper attention to stormwater management. Urbanization commonly leads to more paved surfaces and alters natural drainage systems. Developers build homes in flood plains. These factors make an area more prone to inland flooding. In areas where climate change is causing more intense storm events, the risk increases.

How Does Inland Flooding Impact Home Shoppers?

Although it can be nice to live with water nearby, it definitely isn’t nice for this water to find its way into your new home. According to FEMA, just one inch of floodwater can lead to $25,000 in home damage.

Before purchasing a home, determine the flood risk of the property. FEMA has three main classifications related to flooding and designates zones as high-risk, moderate-risk, and low-risk. Look up the property address using the FEMA Flood Map Service Center to determine the risk level of various homes. Also, learn the flood history of the property if you can obtain this information.

Knowing the home’s flood risk level helps you make an informed purchasing decision. Also, the construction of the home makes a difference, as some properties have an inherently more resilient design. Also, if you live in a high-risk area, you might not be able to get a mortgage without purchasing flood insurance.

Flooded residential neighborhood in Tennessee
Image courtesy of FEMA/David Fine, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Should I Buy a House in an Area Prone to Inland Flooding?

It is critical to weigh the pros and cons thoroughly before purchasing a new home. If you decide to buy a home in a flood-prone area, make sure you have the proper insurance coverage. Just an inch or two of floodwater can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Many homeowner insurance policies don’t cover flood damage. In these cases, it is essential to have a separate policy to protect yourself from flood damage. The same is true for renter policies, so advise your tenants accordingly if you rent out the property.

The average annual cost of flood insurance is $771, but this is likely to increase and is probably higher in flood-prone areas. It’s a good idea to price out policies before buying a home so you can include the premiums in your budget. Also, remember that being in a flood-prone area might make it harder to sell your home, so it can have long-term financial implications.

How Can I Protect My Home From Flood Losses?

While insurance protects you financially, it won’t prevent the havoc and destruction of experiencing a flood. It’s important to be prepared to minimize flood losses. A sump pump can help remove water from a basement or crawlspace but can fail if there is a power outage. Having a backup battery for your sump pump is a good way to help protect your home.

Have a plan for how you can block floodwaters from reaching the home’s foundation. Regularly clear debris from gutters and downspouts so they are in proper working order. Consider extending the downspouts so water exits further from the house. If water naturally flows towards the house, it’s important to redirect it away from your foundation. In addition, there are landscaping practices that can help, such as constructing a berm with a swale or rain garden.

FEMA recommends elevating and anchoring your critical utilities, including your electrical panel, propane tank, sockets, wiring, appliances, and heating systems. If flooding is inevitable, move valuables to an attic or second floor and elevate furniture to prevent water damage. Take photos or videos of all major household items so you have documentation if you need to file an insurance claim.

Of course, safety is the number one priority. If there is a flood, make sure you, your loved ones, and your pets are safe. Monitor the local news and weather alerts to stay informed.

Purchasing a home is a big decision, so it’s crucial to examine various environmental factors that could shape your life. If you buy a house prone to inland flooding, take steps to protect your home and promote safety. You’ll need to take many of these steps in advance, not when a major storm is on its way, so proper planning is essential.

Feature image courtesy of Don Becker, USGS, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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