I hope that all of you in the Atlanta metro area are safe and dry right now. I’d also like to take this chance to correct a common misconception, which is often promoted by the media every time a flood occurs. As just one example, take this CNN article:
He hustled out of bed and rushed to the door. There were his neighbors, surrounded by floodwaters the neighborhood is supposed to experience only once every 100 years.
The highlighted sentence is not accurate, and gets people thinking strange thoughts like “Oh the last flood was in 1969, I should be good until 2069 or so”. The fact is there is a reason we hear about such floods all the time. Let’s look at what FEMA has to say:
The term “100-year flood” is misleading. It is not the flood that will occur once every 100 years. Rather, it is the flood elevation that has a 1-percent chance of being equaled or exceeded each year. Thus, the 100-year flood could occur more than once in a relatively short period of time.
Again, if you live in a 100-year floodplain, you have 1 percent chance of being flooded every year. Think of how concerned you’d be if you were told there was a 1-in-100 chance of your house burning down every year. The way the math works out, this means that over a 30-year mortgage, there is a 26% chance you’ll have a 100-year flood during that time period (1 – (0.99)30). This is also why most people with home loans in such areas are required to buy flood insurance.
Many people are in 500-year flood plains, which gets people even less worried. “The last flood was in 1909, we’re good for another 400 years!” Actually, having a 0.2% chance of a flood each and every year works out to a 6% chance of occurring at least once over a span of 30 years, or 1-in-17.
If you haven’t already, take some time and check if you are in a flood plain here. Some may consider buying flood insurance even if you are not required to by your mortgage lender. We ended up buying a modest amount of building coverage from the NFIP.
By Jonathan Ping | Real Estate | 9/22/09, 3:38am