If you have purchased a home with a mortgage, you have had your house located on a FEMA flood insurance rate map (FIRM). These maps tell your mortgage company whether you are required to carry flood insurance, and tell the insurance company what type of hazards you should be insured for. The flood insurance company will then reference the FIRM and an Elevation Certificate (supplied by a surveyor) to determine your insurance premium, based on the elevation of your home and the elevation of expected flood waters.
Over the last 30 years in South Florida, the real estate and housing development market has boomed, faltered, and boomed again. Physical infrastructure has been updated and improved in many areas, and as a result, the shapes of flood plains have changed drastically. However, in Palm Beach County, we are still locating properties in flood zones that were mapped in the late 70’s to early 80’s. But that is about to change. In the next few months, for the first time in over 30 years, FEMA will be releasing the new flood maps for Palm Beach County.
This can be good or bad news: In the updated maps, even older homes can change flood zones, and therefore flood insurance rates, even though they have not physically changed elevation or location! Some areas that are currently considered to be in a flood zone soon will not be, meaning that a homeowner may no longer be required to carry flood insurance. Of course, there will be some areas that are not in a flood zone on the current FIRM, but will be once the maps are updated.
Note the figure comparing the flood maps near the intersection of Glades road and the Florida Turnpike, and see how different the flood zones are. The older map (on the right) is dated 1982, and the newer one (left) is dated 2013 is slated to go into effect sometime in late 2014.
Of course, you want to know what is in store for your property once the maps are updated. Every survey and elevation certificate must have flood zone information on it for the CURRENT flood maps. When ordering a survey from anyone, make sure to ask about the new FEMA flood maps, because updating your elevation certificate once the new maps are released might save you a good bit of money on flood insurance.
As a surveyor and mapper in Palm Beach County, I am well equipped to help you understand what the new FEMA flood maps mean for you. Please feel free contact me, and let me help you be prepared!
William Wright, PSM