What’s The Deal With Flood Insurance In Coastal Georgia?

4 Mar

flood-insuranceIf you live in or are considering a purchase in our beautiful, coastal Georgia area of Savannah and surrounding Islands, chances are that you will be required to have a separate flood insurance policy. Even if you are not required to have one, I definitely recommend that you add it. The determination of flood policy requirement is based on the flood zone your property lies in, detailed in a  document known as a Flood Elevation Certificate. Hopefully, your agent or the current homeowner can get or has one available, because otherwise you will have to hire a land surveyor to come out and measure. You can bet that if you live near a marsh, creek, beach or other type of waterway that your lender will require this additional policy. More recently, I have seen lenders require flood policies in Pooler, Effingham and Bryan County.

It is important to realize that your homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover flooding! A separate policy is necessary to cover structural and content damage that occurs from flooding. Here are some things that you should know and review with your Realtor and Insurance Agent:

  • Flood Zones: There are basically three categories of flood risk determined by FEMA; Moderate to to Low Risk Areas (B, X & C), High Risk Areas ( all A categories) and High Risk Coastal Areas (any V category). The High Risk and High Risk Coastal Areas carry a mandatory requirement for flood insurance.
  • Transfer of Flood Policy: Some policies may be transferred when buying a property, contingent on new lenders approval. Depending on the length left on the existing policy may determine whether or not new lender will accept.
  • Preferred Risk Policy: The flood maps are being updated regularly, and while Effingham and Bryan County were in an X zone prior to 2008, they are now in A and AE zones in some cases. What that means is that some properties will be grandfathered in, and keep the lower policy premiums for 2 more years, but after that rates are expected to double or triple.
  • Pre-Firm or Post-Firm? Elevated vs. Non Elevated : If you are considering a property on Tybee Island for instance, there is the question of pre-firm or post-firm?  This is simply if a property was built before 1971 (in this example), when the flood maps were drawn. Anything before this time can be insured however it was built, but anything after must adhere to current building codes to guarantee insurability. (Think about those properties with closed in lower levels..are they vented? are there piles, piers, posts or is it on a crawlspace? What year was it closed-in? Was it permitted? Be very careful when considering properties like this!) I’ve seen listing agents count it in square footage and valuation of the property, but how much is worth when only up to about 30% might be covered?
  • Primary Residence vs. Non Primary Residence: Primary residence is defined by a property you spend 80% of your time in. You will start to see variation in flood policies and coverage if a claim is made if it is determined that your property is not your primary residence.
  • Rate changes are coming: This year X zones increased 8% since October of 2012, V zones are up from 6-8%, AE post firm are up 3-4%, and so forth. Any home that is a secondary property, built pre-firm will be removed from any subsidized program. The product of that measure is a 25% rate increase annually until the average risk premium is equal to actuarially rated properties. Translation: be sure you can afford that property, especially if rated VE!
  • Venting: If your property is in an AE or riskier zone it must be elevated. If it is elevated, it must meet building material requirements and venting requirements. Some examples of approved building methods are piles, piers, posts, concrete shear walls,and full story foundation walls.  At a minimum, vents must start within 12 inches of adjacent grade, there must be one square inch of vent for each square foot of enclosure, vents can not all be on the same wall, and they must be on an exterior wall.

The bottom line is insurance is serious. If you live somewhere it rains, it could flood. Now is a great time to pull-up with your insurance agent and go over these items and make sure you are protected. Not all insurance agents are created equal, so make sure your agent knows their stuff! If you have questions or need recommendation, feel free to contact me.

*Information for this article was sourced from Jeff Brady Allstate, Realtor.com, Biggert-Waters Act 2012, and Realtor.org

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