As is the case in many places, potential homeowners looking to purchasing Big Island properties have to be vigilant about protecting themselves, their homes, and their possessions from flood damage.
Hawaii records an average of 8 flash flood events per year, with the peak flood season occurring in October through April. Rainfall, hurricanes, tsunamis, tropical storm surges and surface runoff all contribute.
Hawaii’s eight yearly flood events seem insignificant compared to larger states, like Texas, which records an average of over 500 flood events a year. But that doesn’t mean you can go without flood insurance, as every part of the Big Island has the potential to be a flood zone.
And contrary to what many people believe, homeowner’s insurance does not cover flood damage.
Ask About Flooding When Purchasing a Big Island Property
If you’re considering purchasing Big Island Hawaii real estate, check multiple sources to assess the risk for flood damage in the area.
- Ask your real estate agent whether the property is in a floodplain, has ever been flooded, or if it’s prone to other hazards (like sewer backup or subsistence).
- Ask the seller—individually or through your real estate agent—if they have experienced any flood events. Talk to the neighbors, too; ask them how long they’ve lived there and whether they’ve ever been flooded or know of floods or other hazards in the area.
- Consult Flood Buddy, or FloodSmart.gov for information about your Flood Zone classification and potential insurance costs.
- Get in touch with the County of Hawaii Engineering Division at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask if the property is in a floodplain, if it has ever been flooded—and if so, what the flood depth, velocity, and warning time were—and what building or zoning regulations are in place.
Where you are determines what insurance will cost you. Doing your research ahead of time ensures you’ll know what to expect before you buy.
What the Changes to Flood Insurance Could Mean For You
If you live in or plan to purchase a Big Island property in a Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA) you’ll be eligible for federally subsidized flood insurance. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides up to $250,000 coverage for single-family residential buildings, and up to $100,000 coverage for their contents.
However, recent FEMA budgetary changes (in the aftermath of costly Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina) mean many Hawaii homeowners in high-risk flood areas will see a rate hike in their flood insurance. Also, FEMA is updating its flood maps to include expand flood zones, which also might affect the cost of your coverage.
This information should not sway you in your decision to purchase Big Island real estate—the perks well exceed the risks! Just be sure to stay informed about these upcoming changes, and talk to your real estate agent for more information about what the changes to the NFIP could mean for you when it comes to buying your dream home on the Big Island.
I always say, an informed homebuyer is a happy homebuyer. And it’s my job to make sure you’re a Hawaii real estate expert before you jump into the dream of Big Island homeownership.