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Flood Risk Areas: What to Think About When Buying

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Did you know that your home is more likely to suffer a flood than a burglary?

It’s just one of the surprising facts that the government has revealed to highlight the problem of living in flood risk areas.

Are you considering buying in one? Here are some considerations to think about beforehand.

How big is the problem?

It’s an increasing challenge. The UK’s increasingly extreme weather means the number of floods taking place every year has been increasing over the past ten years.

This includes tidal surges, rivers bursting their banks and huge deluges overcoming local drains, all of which can flood thousands of houses at any one time.

Five million of us live in areas of flood risk and one in six homes are at risk.

What does this mean for those buying?

This makes buying a home tricky. How do you know if you’re future home is going to be flooded? Often an area will look safe and serene and not show the scars of recent flooding, but may have been under ten foot of water only a few months or years ago.

These are all things to consider when completing your pre exchange checklist. But here are some more in-depth questions to ask if you’re worried about buying a property in a high flood risk area.

What’s an official flood risk area?

There are different types each of which are broken down into high, medium, low and very low risk areas. A high-risk area runs a 1% to 3% chance of being flooded every year while a very low risk area has a chance of being affected of less than 0.1%.

Flood risk areas also come in a surprisingly different set of types including those at risk from sea or rivers, surface water, groundwater and reservoirs. So just because a house may be a long way from a river, or the seashore, doesn’t meant it’s safe.

You can use flood map for planning to find out what zone a location is in.

How do I find out if a property is within one?

The government has an online service for checking whether a property is at risk. This can be found at its flood warning information service and can be searched using a postcode, and also via a map search that shows risks in the area.

Also, if you go ahead with a purchase then a mortgage valuation should flag up if the property is in a flood risk zone, and you may even be turned down for a loan consequently.

It’s also why it’s a good idea to carry out a more detailed survey on a property before proceeding.

Find a surveyor with experience with the type of property you’re buying. Get a survey quote below.

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Are there any flood defences in the area?

The Environment Agency offers an online service that enables house hunters to look at the streets they may wish to live on and see if they are protected by flood defences, where flood defences are located and ‘flood storage’ areas used to take up the slack when there’s a deluge.

The Flood Warning Information Service also has a website where you can check for flood warnings in an area, and sign up for alerts. Or you can call its helpline on 0345 988 1188.

How many times has it flooded recently?

There isn’t a publicly available register of historic flooding information so the best thing to do is search online for an area’s name plus ‘flooding’ and local media reports and social media posts will give you a good guide to recent flooding events.

Will I be able to get home and contents insurance?

Yes, home and contents insurance for properties in flood risk areas is available and most of the best-known insurers offer policies, but in the past some people have struggled to renew their insurance following a flood.

To tackle this, and the extra cost of insurance policies for homes in these areas, the government has set up an industry-backed scheme that underwrites these extra costs and can bring your insurance premiums down. Check if a property you’re considering buying is eligible.

Can I modify the property to defend against floods?

There is now a significant industry that has sprung up to help homeowners both prevent water entering their homes and surface water flooding. This ensures their properties can survive a flood.

Recommended flood plan for your home

Experts recommend you create a flood plan for your home, which can include:

  • Installing concrete flooring – one of the biggest expenses following a flood is replacing the wooden flooring and joists
  • Repositioning power lines and sockets – these are moved to above worst-case flood level lines so that the electricity system isn’t damaged during a flood
  • Capping or blocking up air and heat ducting to prevent water coming in.
  • Avoiding certain building materials that soaks up water (like MDF)
  • Installing floor doors or boards – these are removable plastic or wooden doors that can be installed when a flood is expected on garden gates and front doors
  • Creating a water garden – having a garden with water features helps soak up incoming floods before they reach your home
  • Buying caps for toilets – during floods the local sewage system can become inundated and as water levels rise raw sewage can rise up through your ground-floor toilets; a cap can help prevent this but needs to be installed as a flood happens
  • Getting airbrick covers – airbricks are the honeycombed bricks you see at foot level around a house, which also will need to be blocked up when a flood is imminent

Does living in a flood risk area affect my chances of getting a mortgage?

No, as long as you can obtain buildings insurance for the property with flood cover, then there will be no problem obtaining a mortgage.

If the insurance is very expensive then it might affect the affordability calculations lenders must now complete before granting a mortgage. But as we have outlined above, there is a scheme run by the government to keep building insurance in high risk areas affordable.

Why are more floods happening?

According to scientists including those at the Environment Agency, global climate changes are raising sea levels across the globe, leading to greater storm surges and flooding around Britain’s coasts.
Climate change is also creating more extreme weather, so when there are storms, they bring more rain with them and last longer.

To find out more location-specific information before making an offer, get one of Phil Spencer’s property reports. It collects everything from crime rate stats to purchase prices for other properties in the area. Get yours below.

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Last Updated: January 3rd, 2024