Is my house in a flood zone?

You can quickly determine whether your home is in a flood zone by consulting a Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA flood zone map. You can also discover if your house is at risk of flooding, and which flood zones require flood insurance. It's essential to know if you need flood insurance because traditional homeowners insurance policies don't cover flood-related damage.

5 min to read

What is a flood?

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) defines a flood as “a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or of two or more properties (at least one of which is your property)." The NFIP is a federal program managed by FEMA, and provides flood insurance by selling policies that are delivered to the public directly through more than 50 insurance companies throughout the U.S.

Flooding is the most common type of natural hazard according to the World Health Organization, WHO. If it rains where you live, you could experience a flood. The average number of flood events per year has progressively accelerated across decades since 1950, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

What is a flood zone?

Am I in a flood zone? A flood zone is a geographic area that FEMA has defined which maps the varying levels of flood risk. You can find the flood zone of a specific property on that community's Flood Insurance Rate Map, FIRM, or the Flood Hazard Boundary Map.

Is my house in a flood zone?

To check which flood zone your property or a place you're considering buying is in, type the address into FEMA's flood zone map. Your zone determines your potential risk of flood.

Knowing what flood zone your home is in can guide you towards managing your risk and protecting yourself financially against the increasing risk of flood damage as a result of climate change.

What are the NFIP's flood zones and which flood zones require flood insurance?

The flood zones for the NFIP include:

  • A zones including AE and AO: Special Flood Hazard Area, SFHA, with a 1% chance of flooding every year and will likely be required to purchase flood insurance if you have a mortgage from a federally backed or federally regulated lender.
  • VE zones: SFHA, coastal areas, which can also face damage from waves and flooding. The "V" stands for "velocity." Property owners in V zones will likely be required to purchase flood insurance if receiving federal disaster assistance or a government backed mortgage.
  • X zones: Medium-risk flood zone with a 0.2% chance of flooding each year. It's outside the 500-year flood plain and protected by a levee or dam. X zone property owners will not likely be required to purchase flood insurance unless they have received federal disaster assistance. (NYC Flood Map Glossary)

While consulting the FEMA flood zone map, your question, "Is my house in a flood zone?" will get an answer. You can also determine your property's base flood elevation, BFE, which is an estimate of the number of feet that water might rise during a 100-year flood.

What if my house is in a flood zone?

If your property is in a flood zone, you might consider buying flood insurance, or your lender might require you to get it. If you're buying property, ask your real estate agent if the seller is aware if their home is in a flood zone. If so, ask if it impacts the home's value or could impact your initial offer.

If you're a homeowner and FEMA recently changed your home's flood zone status, there are some things you'll want to do.

You may be required to purchase flood insurance if you haven't already. But before you can get a quote for flood insurance, you may need to obtain a FEMA flood elevation certificate. You'll have to hire a site surveying company to create a site elevation plan if any previous plan is more than two years old. Visit Floods.org to get all the details about how to obtain an elevation certificate.

Consider how your property's flood zone designation may impact the home's value

Certain flood zones can impact the resale value of a house. A Stanford University study found that homes in floodplains are overvalued by about $11,536 per house on average – especially in areas where buyers are less informed about flood risk.

When shopping for a home, pay attention to the real estate disclosures that report whether the property is located in a flood zone, and if it has experienced flooding in the past. You can ask your real estate agent or real estate attorney about your state's disclosure rules.

What to do if you're in a low-risk flood zone

Even if your property is in a low-risk flood area, it does not mean that you won't get flooded. The NFIP reports that about 25% of flood insurance claims come from moderate to low-risk zones.

Weather patterns change over time, but FEMA flood zone maps are only updated every five to ten years. You can consult FEMA's preliminary flood hazard data map to inquire about your community's projected flood risk, and whether your local flood map has been revised recently.

Consider steps to help limit flood damage

There are several things you can do to mitigate some of the risk of flooding to your property such as:

  • Keep your gutters and downspouts and drainage ditches clear of debris and functioning properly
  • Ensure that stormwater drains away from your house
  • Consider creating a rain garden around your home to reduce stormwater runoff
  • Use a rain barrel connected to downspouts to collect rainwater
  • Raise air conditioners, heat pumps, water meters and other equipment to at least one foot above the potential flood elevation
  • Anchor outdoor fuel tanks to concrete slabs above the flood risk zone

Flood insurance helps to protect the life you've built. Homeowners and renters insurance do not typically cover flood damage. If you've experienced damage from flooding, you can learn more about whether homeowners insurance covers water damage or storm damage.

Get a flood insurance quote to protect your home

Learn more about flood insurance policies.

Please note: The above is meant as general information to help you understand the different aspects of insurance. Read our editorial standards for Answers content. This information is not an insurance policy, does not refer to any specific insurance policy, and does not modify any provisions, limitations, or exclusions expressly stated in any insurance policy. Descriptions of all coverages and other features are necessarily brief; in order to fully understand the coverages and other features of a specific insurance policy, we encourage you to read the applicable policy and/or speak to an insurance representative. Coverages and other features vary between insurers, vary by state, and are not available in all states. Whether an accident or other loss is covered is subject to the terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in the claim. References to average or typical premiums, amounts of losses, deductibles, costs of coverages/repair, etc., are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. We are not responsible for the content of any third-party sites linked from this page.