Topographical survey in flood plain?

michael_in_chicagoJuly 13, 2010

A house I'm interested in is in flood plain. The seller's agent (yes, seller's) recommended at the open house that we get a topographical survey, or that we ask for one as part of the offer. It's a house being sold by executors of a woman who passed away.

I understand that it would show what part of the property might flood or not, but why else would I want this? I've lived on sand near a lake for years and this is new to me. Anyone hear of it before?


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We had to do it when we went to get insurance on our house. The insurance company claimed the house was in a floodplain. Most of the property is BUT not where the house sits. The house sits on high ground (if it ever floods the whole area will be under water)only the fields around it are in the flood plain. Topographical map proved our claim and we did not have to get flood insurance.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 7:28PM
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Get a perc. test done - maybe they'll let you use that (but ask first).

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 7:36PM
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A topographical survey is not needed for flood insurance purposes. For that you need a flood elevation certificate, which costs much, much less than a full blown topographical survey.

You should only need to get the certificate if some part of the property lies in the flood zone (aka, Zone A).

Talk to your insurance agent and/or lender.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 9:57PM
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We were considering new construction a few years ago and found a lovely lot that backed up to a creek. We asked the developer of the sub division to provide the topographical survey to us and he did. Turns out the lot was on a flood plain. We ended up buying an existing home instead of building, but the developer was more then happy to provide the topographical survey to us. If you put in an offer, ask for the topographical survey as part of the offer.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 10:28PM
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"Get a perc. test done - maybe they'll let you use that (but ask first)."

A perc test has nothing to do with flooding determination for insurance.

How well the soil drains will not affect what happens when flooding occurs.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 8:38AM
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Alexina Properties

Just remember to look at the other side of the coin about flood insurance, it can be a good thing. We bought a home in 1986 that was built in 1949. It was in a flood plain, the house itself not, but back area of property. The house had never flooded. When we bought the house we were given the option to sign off and not get flood insurance, we decided to get it, even though it was an additional $400 a year or something like that. The neighbors house was sold shortly after and they chose no flood insurance as the houses had sat there 34 years and never flooded. Well, guess what, we got a week or two of rains, and the 100 year flood happened. The water went right over the 6 foot wooden stockade fence, the crawl space was full, the garage and back part of house had about a foot of water in them. One year later and lots of wrangling, the insurance totalled the house out. Just saying that jsut because it has not happened, does not mean it might not happen. In our case, I was very glad for the flood insurance. By the way, we fixed that house up, sold it (with 48 pages of full disclosure) and it has not flooded since, 23 years later...

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 10:04AM
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I can see why the Seller's agent would suggest that, it's called CYA! The agent wants to make sure that any potential buyer is advised to do their due diligence, so that they can't come back on him later complaining that he misrepresented the property.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 12:54PM
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Perc test doesn't prove anything about flood plains..Having done hundreds of Flood elevation certificates, this is what you want done to prove the home is or isn't in the flood plain..Sometimes a full blown topographic survey is done to prove parts of your "property "aren't in the flood plain, but this is a rarity..

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 1:38PM
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even if the home is built on a flood plain, that alone is not a reason to forego the purchase. You can get an insurance quote for flood insurance from an agent. Often the insurance is a couple hundred dollars per year. there are different types of flood zones and some are cheaper to insure (and less risky) than others. FEMA's web site has information on the types of flood zones.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2010 at 7:03PM
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Buying property in a flood plain is risky. Even if the house is not currently located in the flood zone, upstream development later will increase the runoff so that the house may now flood. Even when developers properly direct the runoff away from adjacent properties, the creeks and rivers are still affected by the increased volume from now-covered ground that no longer absorbs rain. You'll want the house to be on high ground-not just out of the flood zone based on years past.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 6:54AM
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Newbie to this forum.

No, a perc test will not give you an answer.

We live on a 3 acre property which is surrounded by wet lands and abuts a creek about 500 ft from our home. Over the years we have been ordered by the mortgage lender to buy the flood policy, then a letter will come and say, nope, you're no longer in the flood plain. Drives me crazy.

If I were you, I would buy the policy as they are super cheap. The only caveat is that the language of the FEMA policy is very ambiguous. Read it carefully. You can access the language online.

I keep the coverage despite being told by our lender I am no longer required to do so.

As far as buying near or on a flood plain. We love our environment. All four seasons are completely awesome to watch. I wouldn't trade it for a mcmansion in a neighborhood.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 10:10AM
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"Often the insurance is a couple hundred dollars per year."

I spoke to an owner last night. House value approx. $185,000, flood insurance a little over $100 p/month. This area NEVER had a flood as far as I know.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 2:36PM
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Can verify that my friend's flood insurance is ONLY 100 bucks per month AFTER he hired a surveyor to determine his home and most of his property are above the flood elevation..If he didn't do this, his flood insurance was close to 3k per year

    Bookmark   July 21, 2010 at 2:56PM
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The house we live in now is in a flood plain and when we bought it in 1998 we had to have flood insurance to get a mortgage. After the closing we had an elevation survey done and it showed that the bottom boards of our home are 6.1 feet above the flood plain, so we were able to get a "LOMA" (letter of map ammendment) and able to cancel the flood insurance!
Do your homework!
Kathy G in MI

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 12:09AM
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The topo maps used to draw the flood plain borders are not that accurate.

In many cases they have not been updated in years, and heavy tree cover can make them less accurate.
The stereo photo pairs cannot see the actual ground and so the accuracy suffers.

The LOMA process is used after a detailed survey of the land is performed, usually using the nearest benchmark as a reference and GPS.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2010 at 8:48AM
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berniek & qdwag - can you post which states these homes are in? Of course, the premium is dependent upon the amount of coverage you choose. All flood insurance is obtained through one source: National Flood Insurance Program through FEMA. We formerly paid our premium via the escrow account on our mortgage, then directly to our independent insurance agent. We have been notified that as of October, 2010, we will pay directly to the federal government.

I know of NO one who pays $100 per month for flood insurance. Seems that these owners may be completely over-insured.

As far as carrying flood insurance, I think it is a good idea regardless of whether your live in a marked flood zone. Many lenders require homeowners to carry it regardless of their proximity to water likely to cause a problem. Floods happen in places where you would least expect it. I watch the news and often see homeowners who are out of luck because their homeowner's insurance coverage will not pay for damage due to flooding.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2010 at 5:59PM
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PA, and 100 bucks per month, as property is inside the 50 yr flood zone, also(i believe) known as A Zone S?....House is worth 400k, so contents and home coverage is only 100 per month as the house is above the flood elevations,but in the plain...

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 3:51PM
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"As far as carrying flood insurance, I think it is a good idea regardless of whether your live in a marked flood zone."

I live over 100 feet above the nearest creek.
Flood insurance would be a joke.

Like all insurance, the premium is based on risk.

Higher risk, higher premium.

Lower risk, lower premium.

I have also lived in communities that do not even participate in the flood insurance program.
It is not available.

If the insurance is really cheap it means you probably do not need it.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 5:26PM
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It's not just rising water that floods houses. Water running down slopes during torrential downpours can flood below grade levels of homes, too.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2010 at 10:45AM
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We bought home more than 20 yrs ago in town close to DFW airport in TX. The back portion of the lot ran to the middle of a rain-over-flow creek. There was a slope of about 4 ft down into the bed and then the lot entended another 10 ft or so to the middle of the creek...

We liked the lot because it was on a corner and we had easy access into the drivway/garage and there was more privacy with the house behind us at more of a distance--across the creek.

We made sure the house was NOT in the flood plain and bought it. Were never required to get flood insurance.
Lived there for 23+ years and never had any water come into our back yard inside the fence from the rising waters in the creek bed.

We had initially constructed a railroad tie wall at the back of the yard--where the slope really dropped--that was about 4 ft tall across the back line of our property.Our fence ran just inside that wall.

Some people with similar lots along the creek did the same thing, or let theirs go natural with a slope and landscaping. One guy had a large concrete pad poured across the creek property outside his fence which gave him no ground--just the sloping concrete--so he had no erosion and no grass to mow.

After 20+ years, FEMA got into hot water because there was terrible rain in our area in 2007. We basically met the standards for the 100 yr flood in our local counties. Our lot still never took water over the top of our wall--which we had changed to a concrete wall when the rr tie one started to fail...and all the flooding never came close to getting into our house. But there were homes/areas where there was flooding from creeks and streets that overflowed. Several people drowned...and some homes had such erosion from the flood waters that they almost fell into the creeks.

There was a lot of outcry about the "unknown flooding danger".
So FEMA decided to "revamp" their flood maps. Took no new surveys--did not new flyovers for topographical information--did no boots-on-the-ground inspections.
They just "guestimated" that flooding was more likely to occur because of the growth of the cities in our area which brought more concrete and more flood control problems.

They raised the flood line from what had been the middle of the creek bed to the middle of our attached garage. Some magic number that no one with FEMA could/would tell me when I called trying to discover how they made that determination.

Our bank sent letter saying we had to get flood insurance.
We took out the flood insurance but also got a survey company to do a survey of our property and submit a LOMA--letter of map amendment to FEMA. It cost about $150.

We eventually got clearance from FEMA for all but small portion of property inside the fence--a corner at the far side of the backyard.

We sent that letter to the bank and they agreed we did not need to have flood insurance since house was outside the zone.

Whether we will have trouble when we go to sell I don't know. People who are familiar with our neighborhood know that the creek does get high but water stays inside...

Anyway--we are considering getting policy for the house now that it is OUTSIDE the flood plain because the rate will be less expensive...we were goning to have to pay 2400 a year for the 250K max insurance...
even though I don't think the water from the creek would rise high enough to come into the house....

the problem would come from two street rain drains -- one on the front corner of our property and one at the back corner where our driveway is close to the bridge going across the creek into the second part of our development...
if those two intakes were ever blocked by debris then water MIGHT come into the house...

our house physically sits at the bottom of a hill and there is lot of street/overflow water coming along the street in front...
so I am practically more concerned about water from the street spilling into our yard/house from flash flooding than actually from the creek behind the house...
never say never about flooding...

    Bookmark   August 1, 2010 at 6:34PM
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