Why Everyone Should Consider Getting Flood Insurance—Even If Your Home’s in a Low Flood-Risk Area
A huge storm has struck your house, leaving a pile of waterlogged wreckage in its wake. You probably think you're financially covered because you have homeowner's insurance, but that's not necessarily true. Although most home and rental insurance policies reimburse you for damage caused by wind or fire, these policies generally exclude losses from floods, even those caused by extremely devastating storms. Here's how to know if you should you invest in flood insurance, in addition to home, business, or renter's insurance.
How to Know if You Need Flood Insurance
Anyone with a federally backed mortgage who buys a home in a government-designated flood zone must obtain flood insurance. (Lenders should tell you if your home falls into that category.) Not sure whether your area is flood-prone? Go to the FEMA Flood Map Service Center, type in your address, and immediately find out whether your home is at low, moderate, or high risk of flooding.
But even if you're not legally required to get flood insurance—which is typically provided by the federal government and sold by local agents—it may be a good idea to buy it anyway. According to the website for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), more than 20 percent of flood claims come from properties outside high-risk flood zones.
Amy Bach, the executive director of United Policyholders, a nonprofit consumer-advocacy group based in San Francisco, recommends getting flood insurance if you live within a mile or two of a body of water, even a small lake. If you're hit by a flood, Bach says, you could be out thousands of dollars. Just one inch of water could inflict up to $25,000 of damages, according to the NFIP.
How Much Does a Flood Insurance Plan Cost?
Like any insurance policy, what you pay for flood insurance will depend on several factors, including what state you live in, how old your home is, how high-risk the area is, how large your home is, and what type of coverage you choose. Currently, the average yearly premium for a flood insurance policy costs $699 per year, according to the NFIP. However, you could be paying up to $1,300 per year in Connecticut or as low as $550 per year in Florida, for example.
What Does Flood Insurance Cover?
A flood insurance policy will help reimburse you for flood damage to both building property (the structure itself, heating and AC, plumbing, and large appliances like a fridge), and personal property (clothing, furniture, food)—up to your policy's limit.
Federally backed insurance policies max out at $250,000 for home and $100,000 for personal property, with no reimbursement offered for decks, porches, or anything else outside. If your home is or contains items potentially more valuable than these federal policy maximums, look into purchasing flood insurance from a private provider, which can often offer higher maximums and different coverage flexibility. All that said, imperfect coverage is better than none if disaster strikes and you find yourself underwater in more ways than one.
How to Get Flood Insurance
Federal flood coverage can be obtained from local insurance agents (you can find one at floodsmart.gov.) The agent from whom you buy home insurance will often be able to help you buy flood insurance too.
Another option is to purchase private flood insurance (not backed by the government), which often covers a higher dollar amount and can offer more affordable premiums in some areas (though not always). However, not all states have access to private flood insurance and not all lenders accept it. To find the right policy for you, it's smart to compare quotes from both federal and private options.