Flood insurance can be complicated but it is also an absolute necessity if you live in a flood prone area. A standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover damage caused by flooding and in specific high-risk areas you are required to carry flood insurance.
One piece of the flood insurance puzzle is the flood elevation certificate. This measurement of your properties elevation above (or sometimes below) the local base flood elevation can have a severe impact on your flood insurance premium.
Here is everything you need to know about a flood elevation certificate and how it can help lower your flood insurance rates.
What is an elevation certificate?
A flood elevation certificate a document that is produced by a qualified engineer or surveyor on a specific property. It measures the following:
- Elevation of a home or commercial building relative to the base flood elevation (BFE) in your area
- Building type
- Location of the home or building on a flood map
- Any additional information that may be useful to an insurer to calculate the proper premium rate for a specific property
Basically, an elevation certificate measures the difference between the elevation of your home and the base food elevation in the area where the home is located. Insurers use this information to determine how likely it is that your home will flood and to set the correct premium for your specific risk factors.
An elevation certificate is required for any home that falls into a high-risk area on your local Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). High-risk areas on a flood map fall into these zones:
- A (with BFE)
- V (with BFE)
If your home falls into one of these categories you will be required to carry flood insurance and will need a flood elevation certificate in order to purchase a policy.
In many cases, if your home was built before a FIRM was done in your area, you may not need an elevation certificate, except to see if it will lower the cost of your flood insurance. The savings with a flood elevation certificate can be significant.
If your home is located in a moderate or low risk flood area, you will usually not be required to get an elevation certificate in order to purchase flood insurance.
How much is a Flood Elevation Certificate?
A typical Flood Elevation Certificate costs $400
What are the requirements for an elevation certificate?
An elevation certificate must be signed and certified by an engineer, architect or land surveyor that is certified and licensed in the state where the property is located.
How do I get an Elevation Certificate?
The first step is to check with your local government to see if there is elevation information or an existing elevation certificate on file for your property. If there is, in most situations you can use that certificate and avoid the cost of paying for a new one.
If there is not an existing certificate you will need to pay for one. Check in your local area for a state licensed engineer, surveyor or architect to produce an elevation certificate for you.
Costs can vary dramatically depending on the size of your property and the complexity of your specific job. Expect to pay anywhere between $500 and $2,000. It often pays to shop around, gather a number of quotes but remember that cheaper is not always better, use a professional that has excellent reviews and a great reputation in the industry.
The process can vary but in most cases they will:
- Locate a certified elevation marker near your property
- Measure the elevation of properties adjacent to your property
- Determine the lowest and highest grades that are adjacent to the property
- Measure your floor heights and note where HVAC and other mechanical systems are located
- This data is overlaid on flood maps to determine your flood risk and all gathered data is used to calculate a proper premium for your property.
Why you should get an elevation certificate
Despite the fact that an elevation certificate is often required for property owners there are other benefits to having one done.
It gives you an idea of the elevation of your property and steps you can take to help lower your flood insurance costs. There is a direct correlation between how high your property is compared to the BFE and the price of your policy. The higher your property is above the BFE the lower your rate will be and if your property is barely above, or below the BFE your property will cost more to insure.
According to data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), if you modify your property so it is at least 3 feet above the BFE you could save roughly $90,000 over a 10-year period on flood insurance premiums in a single-family home without a basement.
In addition, your annual rate hikes will be less drastic if you provide an elevation certificate. Properties without a elevation certificate will see their rates raised based on the worst possible scenarios but if a elevation certificate is provided the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which sets flood insurance rates, will take your elevation details into consideration when raising rates, often resulting in a lower premium.
Finally, an elevation certificate highlights exactly where your property falls on the elevation ladder so you can determine what steps to take to help mitigate flood damage. Modifying your property or home to raise it higher than the BFE can result in a significant decrease in flood insurance costs.
Am I in a Flood Zone?
If you are closing on a home, your Insurance provider and mortgage company will let you know if you are in Flood Zone. Generally, the mortgagee company will require you to have Flood Insurance if you are in a High Risk Flood Zone. You can check here by entering your address in the search box: https://msc.fema.gov/portal/se...