Are there alligators here? What about hurricanes? What’s the deal with flood insurance?

These are all very common questions we get about Charleston. Alligators do live here. You don’t normally see them every day in your front yard, nor will you see them driving along the highway, but they do exist. My closest interaction was when I was shooting photographs of a backyard in Mount Pleasant. This was back in 1999 and it was an estate sized house in a community on the marsh. The lots are large which meant for more space and for more wildlife to coexist with the neighborhood inhabitants.

I was minding his own business, shooting nice pictures of the view and in my left side periphery I saw this giant log. Did this log just move? slowly I turned to my left and about 40 feet away was the largest alligator I had ever seen. It was thick. Probably 12 feet long, and essentially looked like a dinosaur. Needless to say, I quickly retreated broke out my zoom lens and finished my photo shoot. To this day, I always scan my surroundings. I was startled. That is my alligator story.

Hurricanes are even less common. We do live on the coast, and there is a hurricane season each year that can have an effect on our lives. The counterbalances that we did to go to the beach whenever we want. Hurricane Hugo hit
Charleston head on in 1989. I was a kid, I stayed for the storm with my family in Mount Pleasant and it was pretty scary. I literally walked out in the eye and there was a dead calm. In the distance I could hear the other side of the storm coming. It was like a freight train stop My family retreated back inside and rode out the rest of the storm. Fortunately we sustained little damage, and we were not affected with the flooding. That is my hurricane story. The next time a hurricane comes, I will leave town.

So that brings us to the flood zone and flood insurance question. Charleston is in the low country. We enjoy its many spoils, and with those conveniences and benefits come some necessities. Flood insurance is one of them. There are a few different levels of flood zones as delineated on a map, and some require flood insurance should you have a mortgage and other zones do not. This is all fairly common knowledge.

What is not common knowledge but certainly important to know is how flood zones may or may not affect an older home. Flood maps were developed in 1979. Any of the houses built prior to that, and there are plenty, may not of been built to current flood codes. These codes dictate the height of a property built above sea level.

I’m sure you can imagine that there are many 1960s style ranch homes on James Island that existed prior to 1979. The same is also true for West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, and other areas as well. For years and years these properties have been grandfathered in. They have not been required to pay high flood insurance based on the fact that they were built prior to the flood maps existing. There was a recent legal change that created quite a bit of debate that has been since repealed. For a short time homeowners were devastated with the fact that they are flood insurance rates could increase 10 fold. A person once paying $400 a year could be facing $4000 per year with this simple change in law. I even heard of some cases where ranch-style homes valued at 200,000 would have been required to pay $30,000 in flood insurance each year.

During our initial consultation with prospective purchasers, this is a detail that we discuss heavily. I live in an older home and love a more established neighborhood. Generally the older homes are in better locations because they are closer to town. So please, don’t be scared out of buying an older home. Just know going into it that there are several steps we as your agents will take to help you fully evaluate and determine the risks if any.

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