What is a FEMA elevation certificate?
If you need to buy flood insurance for your home or business, you’ll also likely need an elevation certificate, also known as a FEMA elevation certificate or flood elevation certificate. It may seem like just another arbitrary formality standing in the way of you and your dream home, but obtaining an elevation certificate is an important step in the process of insuring your property and guaranteeing that you comply with local laws.
It’s important to note that not all properties need an elevation certificate. Only those that lie in areas with a high potential of flooding need one, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). At the same time, any house or property can flood under certain circumstances. Therefore, purchasing flood insurance is a smart idea regardless of where your property is located. This blog will provide all the information you need to make an informed decision.
Do I need a flood elevation certificate?
Could the lowest floor of your house flood easily? Is your property in a flood zone? Does the land only contain original structures or have annexes or outbuildings been added? You must consider all of these questions when determining whether you need an elevation certificate for flood insurance.
A certificate is only required for flood insurance if:
- You are purchasing property through a mortgage from a federally insured and regulated lender.
- The property is in a Special Flood Hazard Area (designated “A” or “V” on the FIRM map)
- You are purchasing flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
If your situation does not meet one of those three criteria, you are not obligated to acquire a flood elevation certificate. However, you may still benefit from having a certificate, as it will provide you with details that could net you a lower flood insurance rate.
How do flood maps and flood zones work?
The Federal Emergency Management Agency gathers data on floodplains in each state to determine which areas are at the greatest risk of flooding. This data is used to draw flood maps – also called Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) – that create the basis for flood insurance requirements and costs in different areas.
Properties located in flood zones tend to have higher insurance rates. Securing a property elevation certificate in such cases is likely required before insurance is granted.
As weather patterns, water levels, and land development practices shift over time, flood risk also changes. FEMA’s flood maps are updated frequently to reflect such modifications. In turn, this may cause changes in flood insurance requirements and costs. An elevation survey analysis helps you cover all the bases to find out the level of flood risk you will assume upon buying the property so you can apply for the appropriate level of flood insurance.
Consulting the FIRM map for your area is a sensible first step for informing yourself about potential flood risks in the area you’re considering. Any location that has been labeled “A” or “V” on these maps is considered a Special Flood Hazard area. Property purchases in such areas should be handled with caution. Searching the address of your desired property on the FEMA website will help you learn right away if this designation applies to you. If it does, you will definitely need to get a flood elevation certificate before you will be granted insurance.
How can flood certification companies help me?
A flood certification company like Scalice Land Surveying can provide you with a FEMA flood elevation certificate: a formalized document that provides information about your home or business structure. This data is used to comply with local building codes and ordinances. It also determines the property’s susceptibility to flood damage. Insurance companies use your property’s flood elevation certificate to calculate your flood risk and, ultimately, your flood insurance costs.
Your insurance company uses the elevation certificate to determine the probability of rising floodwaters impacting the lowest floor of your property. The document is issued by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), an organization managed by FEMA.
The document includes important information about the structure of your home or business, such as:
- Location and Flood Zone – Each plot of land is in a designated ‘flood zone’ based on the level of flood risk, as determined by the NFIP.
- Building Characteristics – Special features of the structure such as annexes or attachments.
- Lowest Floor Elevation – This is the most important piece of information for calculating flood risk. The lowest level of any structure is always the most susceptible to flooding. In most residential buildings, this would be the basement (if the building has one) or the garage.
Should I get a FEMA elevation certificate document?
If you plan to purchase a flood insurance policy through the NFIP for a property with a high flood risk, then you will need an elevation certificate. The certificate will indicate where your property’s elevation compares to the baseline flood elevation on an official flood map.
According to FEMA, a home at the base flood elevation has around a 1% chance of flooding every year. Your property’s elevation dictates the likelihood of flooding and largely affects your insurance rates. If the certificate proves that the lowest floor of your property clears the Base Flood Elevation Level, you may qualify you for lower flood insurance rates.
Additionally, if you want to build additions onto your existing house or a separate structure nearby on your property, you will probably need a new elevation certificate. Renovations and new construction can alter your flood risk potential, so it’s best to stay on the safe side by contacting an elevation certificate surveyor.
Before ordering a flood insurance survey, however, make sure that an up-to-date survey does not already exist in the official database. Either the floodplain manager in your area, your current developer or builder, or the property seller may already have a current certificate.
Developers in particular are likely to requisition a survey before you identify the need for one as a homeowner, especially for properties in Special Flood Hazard Areas. It’s also common to file elevation certificates simultaneously with property deeds.
If an elevation certificate does already exist, always double-check that it’s current and reflects the present state of the property. If FEMA flood maps have changed or there has been significant construction on the property since the last survey, the certificate may no longer be valid.
How can I find the best flood elevation certificate surveyor?
When comparing elevation certificate companies, look for a certified and experienced team with a reputation for integrity. They should be willing and able to provide you with a free, in-depth consultation and quote along with a portfolio of past work for you to review.
Your surveying company should not talk you into a flood insurance survey if you don’t truly need one or if an up-to-date certificate may already be available.
If you know other property owners in the area where you’re looking to buy, check to see if they’ve already had their flood elevation surveyed. If they have, ask if they would recommend the company they used. Read reviews on sites such as Yelp, Google, and NextDoor to get a wide range of perspectives.
With licensed professionals working in Long Island, New York, North Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Connecticut, Scalice stays current with the latest flood maps and FEMA regulations for property in flood zones. Our family-owned and-operated land surveying company has completed over 6,000 land surveys to date. When you choose Scalice as your FEMA Elevation Certificate surveyor, you can rest assured that you’re working with the very best in the business.
Get a Free Quote on Your FEMA Elevation Certificate
Insuring your property against flood damage is an important precaution, particularly if you live in an area with a high risk for flooding. Since flooding isn’t unheard of in areas outside of flood zones, however, securing an elevation certificate for flood insurance will give you the peace of mind of knowing you’ll be protected in the event of a flooding disaster.
Contact us today at (855) 476-4111 to get a quote for your FEMA Elevation Certificate. We’ll review the process of securing the certificate during a free initial consultation. You can also contact us by submitting a survey query or quote request via our online contact form.
How much does an elevation survey and certificate cost?
If you have determined that a current FEMA flood elevation certificate does not already exist, you will need to order one if your property requires certification according to FEMA’s standards. Your elevation survey cost will depend on a number of factors, such as the size and location of the property, the type of construction on the property, and whether the property is commercial or residential.
According to some experts, the average price for certification is $600. However, costs can run lower or far higher, depending on the individual characteristics of your property. The team at Scalice Land Surveyors is always happy to provide you with a free consultation and quote, so there are never any surprises along the path to your certification.
The surveyors at Scalice Land Surveying are licensed experts in conducting flood elevation analysis. Our team has your best interests at heart. We leave no stone unturned when surveying your property for a flood elevation certificate. Learn more about our FEMA Elevation Certificate services by requesting a free estimate today.
What should I do with my FEMA elevation certificate once I have it?
To acquire flood insurance for a property in a high-risk area, you will need to submit a copy of your elevation certificate to your insurance provider for a quote.
Since 2013, Scalice Land Surveying has provided families and business owners with affordable land surveying and elevation certificate services. If you need quick and accurate land surveying with fair pricing, contact us today!