Living on the coast has its benefits. The saltwater creeks, marshes, the Sunday drive to the beach to go soak away the sun and leave your troubles behind… All of these things make living in Charleston desirable. There is no pleasure without pain. While certainly that statement may be a little excessive, it can still be a bit of a pain to deal with flood elevation certificates when purchasing a property.
The first step is to evaluate the seller disclosure form. There is a question that asks if the property is in a flood zone. Eight times out of 10 the answer is yes. Some of the time, the seller disclosure form indicates how much flood insurance costs each year. The path of least resistance leads us to asking the seller more questions at this point. One being, do they have a copy of the flood elevation certificate?
If the answer is yes, then it’s fairly smooth sailing from this point. Taking that elevation certificate to an insurance agent will generally lead to an easy quote which will help fill in the blanks regarding how much the property will cost on a monthly basis. We have to be a bit careful at times though, as the flood elevation certificate may be old and the insurance agent will likely verify that the flood maps haven’t changed since that point. There is a 50 – 50 shot that you may have to get a new flood elevation certificate.
If the seller does not have a flood elevation certificate, it is best to simply call the insurance company that works in the area. They will be a loaded term in by looking at the flood maps if the property is in a flood zone. If it is not, then you lucked out. They will be up to provide insurance without having to add on additional flood coverage. Keep in mind, we are on the coast and even if the property does not require flood insurance in order to obtain a mortgage, it’s never a bad idea to have a policy in place.
If the insurance company does note that the property is in a flood zone, then the next step is to order a flood elevation certificate. These are performed by surveyors. They will plot the property out and measure the bottom of the first floor above sea level. Sometimes the house is in a condition that will make the premium rise. For example, if a property is on a crawlspace foundation, then it will have crawlspace vents installed. The insurance company requires the same amount of square inches of ventilated crawlspace equal to the square footage footprint of the entire house. This information is determined on the flood elevation certificate, and in some cases the house may need to be modified by adding more events in order to keep a premium low.
Flood insurance is just a part of living in the Charleston South Carolina area. It does not mean that it floods year-over-year. It simply means that there is a risk, and this is all based on a 100 year flood map. I live on the water with a view of the Ashley River. Fortunately, I am not required to have flood insurance. I live on a bluff and apparently the bottom of my first floors high enough above sea level where it is not necessary in order for me to maintain my mortgage. My neighbors live across the street and are just 75 feet away from me. They are not of the water, however, they are required to have flood insurance. It doesn’t make much sense, but that is just the fact of life. As a note, I do have flood insurance. The premium is roughly $300 per year. This is good peace of mind, as you never know what will happen in the future.