What to Know About Buying a Home Near Water

Blog posted On March 04, 2020

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Many Americans dream of owning a home near water. Whether this home borders an ocean, a bay, or a lake, waterfront houses have a special charm. As alluring as this charm may be, there are several factors that home buyers may not consider. As sea levels rise each year and hurricanes get stronger, purchasing a coastal home may not be in your best interest. Make sure you consider these factors when buying a home near water:

  1. The home’s flood zone may be outdated.

Many people assume that flood maps are updated with each major storm or flooding event. Unfortunately, flood maps are often outdated or even nonexistent in some areas. This is largely due to lack of funding and staffing of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Even if new flood maps have been recently released in your area, they still may not account for the latest flooding events.  The research used to create the maps is often outdated before they are even released. Keep in mind that the assigned flood zones may vary with time, as will the cost of your flood insurance.

  1. It may be difficult to determine past flooding.

In many states, the seller is legally required to disclose any major issues they experienced with the home to potential buyers—including flooding. However, this disclaimer is not foolproof. It’s not legally required in every state, so it’s possible that the sellers can keep this information buried. Also, this principle only requires the sellers to disclose issues they faced when owning the home—so any problems that previous owners experienced may stay hidden.

  1. There may be a disconnect between the home’s assigned flood zone and its chances of flooding.

The FEMA flood zones may not be accurate because the FEMA flood maps are constructed using historical data to assign flood zones to each home.  Newer resources like, use predictions based on research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA.) 

NOAA utilizes the predicted effects of climate change by home addresses and allows users to see various flood and storm scenarios.

  1. It’s hard to determine how high above sea level a home really sits.

As sea levels are consistently rising, you may not get an accurate report of the home’s elevation above sea level.

Scientists at Climate Central conducted research using advanced elevation technology, revealing that prior estimates for ground elevation above sea level were highly overstated. In coastal regions, the ground elevation above sea level was exaggerated by a level of 6 feet, and up to 13 feet in densely populated areas. While the property listing may not provide accurate elevation data, you can get a clearer idea of the rising sea levels and accurate ground elevations by entering your city in the search box in the Climate Central Risk Finder.

A home near the water can be a valuable investment, but it’s good to know the risks. Properties located near oceans, lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water are especially prone to flooding. Make sure you know the house’s accurate flood zone, the history of the home, and how high it really sits above sea level. If you are interested in purchasing a home or have questions about buying a home near water, let us know.

Sources: MarketWatch, FloodIQ, Climate Central