Floods happen everywhere, and to stay protected from floods, you need flood insurance. But to make sure you aren’t overpaying for flood insurance, you need to get an elevation certificate.
Let’s start by explaining what is an elevation certificate.
An elevation certificate is an official form that determines how high your home is above base flood elevation. Base flood elevation is the height that flood waters are reasonably expected to rise during a set period of time – say 100 years.
If your home is below that base flood elevation, you will pay more for your flood insurance. If your home is above base flood elevation, you will likely pay less for your flood insurance. Understanding where your home falls is where the flood certificate comes in.
Why you need a flood elevation certificate
Homeowners insurance never covers floods, so getting flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program is essential wherever you live.
There is a slew of flood zones ranging from A to AE to X. Depending on the flood zone you live in, which is determined by your flood certificate and maps generated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and your local government, your lender may require you to purchase flood insurance.
And even if you aren’t strictly required to buy flood insurance, absolutely everyone should purchase it. Floods can happen anywhere, and unless your home sits on the peak of a mountain, floods can happen to you.
Flash floods have been reported in all 50 states over the past five years. Flooding is the number one natural disaster in the United States. The average flood claim was $42,000, and claims top $3.5 billion each year.
So, don’t underestimate the importance of getting flood insurance, and if you get flood insurance, it only makes sense to get a flood elevation certificate.
How long does it take to get a flood elevation certificate?
If time is of the essence, say if you are closing on a loan or you want the elevation certificate quickly, you may be asking yourself how long does it take to get a flood elevation certificate. And that really depends on the avenue you use to find your elevation certificate.
In many cases, especially in the case of a new development or subdivision, the developer who built the homes will likely have an elevation certificate on file. So, all you need to do to get an elevation certificate in that case is ask.
Often, you were given a copy of the flood elevation certificate at closing and you didn’t even realize it.
Another place to get your flood elevation certificate would be your municipality’s zoning or planning office. If they have one on file, again, a simple request can get it to you. Do know that you may need to go to the office in person, and you will likely have to pay a nominal fee.
But keep in mind, the flood elevation certificate and elevation map on file may not strictly represent your true elevation – was your home built up on a hill, for example, or maybe the developer backfilled your lot before laying the foundation.
So, trusting the elevation certificate and map on file could end up costing you more in flood insurance than it needs to.
If you find that you are running in circles looking for your elevation certificate for flood insurance, hiring a licensed surveyor is a good option.
Surveyors use state-of-the-art equipment, such as GPS-enabled sensors to get the specific elevation of your property so you can ensure that you are paying no more for flood insurance than is required.
In the case of a surveyor, you are going to have to pay for an elevation certificate, which brings up elevation certificate cost, which can range from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars, depending on where you live and the details of your property.
But, considering that getting a properly rated flood policy through an accurate flood elevation certificate could end up saving you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars each year, the flood elevation certificate cost pales by comparison.
Floods are a fact of life. And flood insurance is the only way to protect you from that natural menace. In order to make sure you are paying the proper amount for your flood insurance, take the extra step to get an accurate flood elevation certificate. Your home, and your pocketbook will thank you.