When we bought our house, the lender said we weren’t in a flood zone so we didn’t need to buy flood insurance on top of our homeowner’s insurance. I figured if the bank isn’t worried about it, then I shouldn’t be either. Apparently this might not be the best idea.
Virtually every home is in a flood zone
Unless you live on the top of a mountain, just about any area is susceptible to flooding. Heavy rains can make instant rivers where there wasn’t even a trickle before. All it takes is for a big storm to come after the ground is already saturated. Or you could simply ask some of the people who experienced Hurricane Katrina. Dams and levees fail. Just a few inches of water can cost tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage. In fact, 25% of flood claims come from low and moderate risk areas (areas not required to have insurance by lenders). Check out your local flood map here.
Where do I buy flood insurance?
Flood damage is not covered under homeowner insurance policies. You must buy it separately through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is run and backed by the US government. However, nearly everyone is eligible to buy flood insurance regardless of risk level (although the premiums will vary).
The policies are available through private insurance companies and agents. You can find agents here for a free quote. Some insurance companies hint that they can offer discounted quotes, but this is not true. The price should be the same no matter who you go through. I actually tested this by asking 5 different agents both local and nationwide for quotes, and they were all exactly the same once adjusted for the same coverage and deductible. Therefore, I would simply get a quote from the same insurer I have for homeowner’s insurance.
How Much Will It Cost?
Chances are if your lender didn’t make you buy it for your mortgage, then your premiums won’t be too bad. You can estimate your flood risk and premium here. Remember, you have a few choices: Your building coverage amount (up to $250,000), your contents coverage amount (up to $100,000), and the deductibles for each (from $500 to $50,000). If you are in a moderate-to-low risk area, you might get coverage for $200-$500 per year.
With a few exceptions, there is a 30-day wait before the policy takes effect, so don’t be thinking you can just buy it at the last minute. Even if you aren’t a homeowner, flood insurance is available to renters who want to cover their contents.
So, it would seem that almost all homeowners should at least consider getting flood insurance even they are not required to. It can’t hurt to get a quote and research your flood exposure.
By Jonathan Ping | Insurance | 3/12/08, 6:23am