We are looking to buy a house in Gulf Breeze. Talk to me about flood zones and how risky it might be to live near a canal.

Asked by Kelley Williams, Atlanta, GA Sat Apr 5, 2014

How stressed do we need to be about staying away from living on the water?

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Diane Christ…, Agent, Sarasota, FL
Tue Dec 1, 2015
Flood zone designations A, AE or V are considered flood zones. A does not have a base flood elevation completed, AE has base flood elevation information available. V zones are coastal high velocity zones.

Base Flood Elevations (BFE) are the key to the new flood insurance rates. Homes built before your area's flood insurance maps were created (called PreFIRM) are the ones that have been receiving subsidized flood insurance rates for decades. Generally those would be homes built sometime in the mid 70's or earlier. Those are the ones most impacted by the revised flood insurance program.

Congress did pass legislation that would cap the annual rate increases to 15% per year for primary residence owners & 25% per year on non-primary residences, but insurance rates will keep increasing on an annual basis for those properties until the owners are paying non-subsidized rates. To cover the cost of the changes to the flood insurance program, all flood insurance policy holders will pay a $25/year surcharge on residential policies and $250/year surcharge on all non-primary residences and commercial properties.

So when looking at canal front lots, ask if the owner has a Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for the property, even if it is an older one. Then share that BFE with your insurance agent to get an idea as to what flood insurance rates will run you on the property. If you pay cash you are not required to carry flood insurance, but keep in mind if you decide to sell later on, all potential buyers that are doing financing will need to carry flood insurance for the life of the loan. So if the property comes with a hefty flood insurance rate, you could limit the number of potential buyers later on.

Another thing buyers don't always consider if the other aspect of buying in a flood zone -- remodeling. Basically the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) requires that if the cost of reconstruction, rehabilitation, addition or improvements to a building equals or exceeds 50% of the building's market value (building, not the lot and the building), then the building must meet the same construction and elevation requirements as a NEW building under FEMA guidelines.

The 50% rule can cause all sorts of issues for a home buyer in a flood zone if the property needs extensive renovation.

Remember, a home doesn't have to be located on a canal to be located within a designated flood zone, so be sure to find out the designated flood zone of any home you are thinking of purchasing.
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Jena C. Robe…, Home Buyer, Gulf Breeze, FL
Tue Dec 1, 2015

The above is a link to Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser's website, property mapping option shows you if it's in a flood zone. You can search by property address or parcel ID. I used my house as the example in the link above. I can tell you that you will have to have flood insurance by law if you have a mortgage on your house and live in a flood zone. Flood insurance is more expensive when you live in a flood zone. Flooding is common in this area whenever there are hurricanes or tropical storms if you live in coastal flood plane. Canal front homes would vary depending on how close the canal is to a larger body of water and if the home is elevated or ground level. I would not recommend to anyone looking to live in this area to live on the water, including on a canal, unless you have a lot of money and don't mind spending it on home repairs and/or insurance deductibles whenever we have storm events. It is best to find something not in a flood zone. Also, my house is for sale! :)
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burkhardhnag…, Home Seller, Gulf Breeze, FL
Sat Jan 17, 2015
Get in touch with Escambia and Santa Rosa County officials. There you will get the appropriate information about flood zones.
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krisandmike, Home Buyer, Gulf Breeze, FL
Mon Apr 28, 2014
I've lived on a canal for 13 years and my house has never flooded.
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