How to Buy Flood Insurance

Three Methods:Determining Your NeedsWorking with An AgentUnderstanding Your Policy

Basic homeowner's insurance does not protect from water damage or flooding. Flood insurance is typically offered through the federal government. You can purchase it through the private market as well, but it may be more expensive. If you live in a high risk flood area, flood insurance is mandatory. If you live in a moderate to low risk flood area, flood insurance is optional but recommended.

Method 1
Determining Your Needs

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    Determine your home's risk of flooding. You may live in a high risk flood area or a moderate to low risk flood area. If you live in a high-risk area, you are required to have flood insurance. If you live in a lower risk area, you do not have to buy flood insurance, but it is recommended. [1] Visit the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIM) website and type in your address to see your risk profile.[2]
    • Your risk profile will tell you the level of risk, the average flood insurance claim in your state, the average insurance premium, and whether you are required to purchase flood insurance.
    • Flood maps are available online and at local Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offices.[3]
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    Calculate the amount of coverage you will need. You will want to estimate the value of your property and all personal belongings. The value of your property includes your home, electrical and plumbing systems, appliances, permanently installed carpeting, central air conditioning and heaters, window blinds. Personal belongings include clothing, furniture, electronics, portable air conditioners, portable microwave ovens, washers, dryers, and items such as original artwork and furs.[4]
    • Flood insurance will not cover cars, other motorized vehicles, belongings and property on your home's exterior, cash, living expenses, decks, patios, fences, bonds or precious metals that may be lost in a flood.
    • Basement coverage is limited. Be sure to ask your agent about the specific details of the policy before you purchase it.
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    See if you are a member of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP is managed by the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA). If your community is a member of the NFIP, you can purchase flood insurance through this program. If your community is not part of the NFIP, you may have to purchase flood insurance through the private market.
    • Visit the FEMA website to determine if your community is part of the NFIP.[5]
    • Over 22,000 communities have joined the NFIP. If you are in a high risk community, you are probably already a member. FEMA sends a notice to all of these communities and sanctions the community if they do not join within one year.
    • If your community is not part of it, you can contact your respective State Coordinating Agency for the NFIP or your FEMA Regional Office to get your community to join.[6] Visit the FEMA website to find a list of the offices and agencies.[7]

Method 2
Working with An Agent

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    Contact an insurance agent. You cannot purchase flood insurance on your own. You must work with an agent. Visit the NFIP website to find an agent in your area. Once you enter your zip code, you will receive a list of agents in your area. Your agent will help you purchase a policy that meets all of your needs.[8]
    • All of the agents listed have agreed to participate in the federal FloodSmart Referral Program.
    • You may want to check with the agency handling your homeowner's insurance, because you may get a discount for having more than one policy with the company.
    • You may also call 1-888-379-9531 to find an agent.[9]
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    Ask your agent questions. You and your agent are a team. Take an active role in the process by asking the right questions. Here are some questions that you need to ask before you buy (you can download this list here):[10]
    • Will the federal government back my policy?
    • How do I pay for my policy?
    • What is my flood risk?
    • Does my community participate in the NFIP?
    • What is and is not covered by my policy?
    • Is flood insurance mandatory for my property?
    • How much coverage should I get?
    • Am I required to pay any other fees?
    • Am I eligible for any discounts on my premium?
    • How do I renew my policy?
    • Does my community participate in the Community Rating System (CRS)?
    • Will my policy offer Replacement Cost Value or Actual Cost Value? What is the difference between these two values?
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    Get your elevation certificate. Your agent may ask you for an elevation certificate. The certificate confirms the elevation of the lowest floor of your house in relation to the ground. This certificate is particularly important if you live in a high risk area.
    • Ask your agent if your home was built before or after your community’s initial Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). If your home was built before the FIRM, you do not need to purchase the elevation certificate.[11][12]
    • If your community participates in the CRS, your elevation certificate should already be on file with your local officials. You will not need to purchase one in this case.
    • Having an elevation certificate could lower the cost of your premium. Talk to your agent and see if you need to purchase the certificate. If you need to purchase it, your agent can help with the process.
    • The cost of purchasing an elevation certificate depends on the location of your home and the difficulty of doing the measurement. It can range from $500 to over $2,000.[13] Be sure you need the certificate before you spend the money.
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    Complete your application and pay your fee. Flood insurance is different than other types of insurance. Your payment is due when you sign the application with agent. You can pay with a credit card, cash, check, or money order.
    • If you have an escrow account with your mortgage lender, your lender may allow you to pay through that account.
    • If your lender already escrows your other taxes and insurances and flood insurance is mandatory, your premium will automatically be escrowed as well.
    • Talk to your agent about how you will pay before you complete the application.
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    Get private insurance. If your community is not a part of the NFIP, you can get insurance through a private company. Because many private companies do not offer flood insurance, you may have to pay a higher premium. [14]
    • Check with your current homeowner’s insurance agent to see if they offer non-federal flood insurance. If they do not, the Flood Insurance Agency is a company that provides flood insurance in 20 states.
    • Check with your mortgage lender to make sure they accept non-federal flood insurance policies.

Method 3
Understanding Your Policy

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    Know you have a 30-day waiting period. It usually takes 30 days from the date of purchase before your policy is effective. If something happens within that 30 day period, you may not have coverage. There are a few exceptions to the 30 day rule.[15]
    • If your home has recently been added to Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) and you purchased your insurance within 13 months of this change, you will only have a one day waiting period.
    • If your property was flooded due to a wildfire containment or on burned Federal Land and you purchase the policy within 60 days of the containment date, you will not have a waiting period.
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    Renew your policy. You must renew your policy every year. Your insurance company and FEMA will send you a reminder when it is time to renew. Always go over your deductible and the amount of coverage you are paying for when you renew. You may need to make some adjustments.[16]
    • You must work with your agent to renew your policy. If you cannot find your agent’s contact information, you can call the National Flood Insurance Program's Help Center at 1-800-427-4661.
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    Be clear about your deductible. Your deductible as an out of pocket cost. It is the amount you must pay before your insurance kicks in. There is a separate deductible for your building and the contents of your building.[17]
    • The higher your deductible, the lower your premium.
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    Know the limits of coverage. Your insurance will not cover all of your expenses. There are limits for the building and limits for the contents. Standard policies have the following limits:[18]
    • Contents of a one to four family home: $100,000
    • Building of a one to four family home: $250,000
    • Building of other residential structures $500,000
    • Contents of other residential structures: $100,000
    • Contents for a rented property: $100,000


  • Renters may want to purchase flood insurance to cover their belongings. The landlord's flood policy will not usually cover a renter's personal effects.

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