Real Estate Question - How well documented are floodplains and levies?

Timely question.

When people are buying homes how much disclosure is there about flooding potential? Do they have to disclose it’s within a floodplain area?

How about areas managed by the Corps of Engineers? They decide sometimes to flood one area in order to save another. How does a potential buyer know if a house falls within that area?

Finally how does a potential buyer know if a house is protected by a levee, berm, or dam?

Years ago, in 1989 I nearly bought a house that I liked. The Realtor mentioned it was in a hundred year floodplain and required flood insurance. :eek: I lost interest very quickly. Did the Realtor have to disclose this?

The house I bought is on a hill. Talking with older neighbors I learned in 1977 a small levy or berm burst and part of this neighborhood flooded. It got all the way to the stop sign at the end of my street. Thankfully that’s at the base of our hill. I’m at least 12 feet higher.

No one disclosed that this neighborhood is protected by a levy. Not even at closing. Had that levy not burst in 1977 no one in this neighborhood would know there was any flood risk. Is that normal? Were they required to disclose it?

IANARA, but the fact that you need flood insurance is obviously going to be disclosed since you need it. The fact that “there is a flood here every 100 years” probably isn’t.

I think the best bet is to look around town for dams, levees, flood walls, etc. Also look at the nearest bodies of water and their elevation compared to the house, and/or ask neighbors.

We were house hunting and noticed a house we liked didn’t have a basement (most in my area do). The realtor said it was because it was in a floodplain. Next house please!

There are such things a designated flood plains. Flood insurance is required in them if you have to finance the home. Designated flood plains are public record.

some areas not only are in a flood plane but the Corps of Engineers has a flood easement on it. this is a right for them to use that for overflow. this easement is listed on the legal documents for your property. a property owner either sold the easement to the government or sells the land with the easement as part of it.

Ok, Flood Easement. That explains some of the flooding in Missouri where the Corps breached a Levee to ease pressure on the entire system.

I feel for those people in Mississippi, Missouri and my own state. My mom doesn’t have any family photos or other items from her early childhood. The oil camp she was raised in flooded when she was six and my grandparents lost nearly everything.

I know for most people any hint of a house in a floodplain is a deal breaker. I’m not sure how so many got caught this time. Parts of Mississippi are just floating away. It’s already one of the poorest states and recovery will be nearly impossible.

it was a snowy winter with a cool spring leaving a lot of water to drain down the Mississippi River suddenly. this spring has had a huge amount of storms through the central and south as well. heard on the radio today that it is a 500 hundred year event.

The last 500 year event occurred in 1993. Just sayin.

i’m sure the regional USGS office can tell you that. but regional disaster mapping is a rather tricky thing and is best done over a wide scale, as a support to other government services (an expert-to-expert thing if you’ll forgive me.) dont count on them to tell you exactly what could happen to the piece of land you are buying.

your safest course is what you mentioned: get the worst experience that place had in living history. by selection, you found a spot safe evan from that worst event. good. then you go slightly deeper. talk to municipal officers and other gov. units as regards certain geohazards and engineering considerations. and while you’re at it, you might as well ask about things like ground water quality, waste disposal, disaster preparations, etc.

Slightly less snarky than my last response, you can go here: fema flood central. I would look at the firmettes for your area. We have been looking at places near the Atlantic coast recently and have found them very helpful, but surprisingly obscure. Such is governmental information.

I used to rent a house in Las Cruces, NM. It was technically inside the 500-year floodplain for the Rio Grande. Considering the amount of controls (not to mention all the drought) on the river, I wasn’t exactly worried.

From the buyer’s standpoint, it’s always advised to get additional information yourself. Just as you talk with the neighbours to find out about problems in the area (and if they are crazy assholes or nice), you go to the town house and look at the records, and look at newspaper records of past events.

I don’t know if the whole of the US has been surveyed with regards to disaster potential (they’re just starting to do a map for all of Bavaria), so if you want to be on the safe side because you want to live in this house for the rest of your life*, you get a professional geologist or similar to do a thorough survey on all risk factors: flooding, mudslide, rocks breaking off …

  • standard for German buyers, probably less common in the US

The entire United States is mapped for flood hazard zones by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), as sinjin described. Designated floodway and stormwater drainage easements and the like will usually be on the recorded plat for a property, as well as a subdivision plat. but typically not the flood hazard zone.

I’m selling my father’s old house in a suburb of Buffalo. I had to research the flood hazard areas for a disclosure statement about the property condition. The very front of the front yard is in the 100 year flood zone, and a little bit more of the yard in the 500 year zone. I had to disclose the presence of the flood zones; I could be sued by a later property owner if a damaging flood took place.