M any home buyers may be unaware that official geologic and flood
hazard maps have been developed by local, state, and federal agencies
to delineate areas which may be subject to floods or geologic hazards.
Real estate brokers and agents in Florida have undertaken part of
the responsibility of informing buyers about potential geologic
hazards. This geologic disclosure is just one of the many services
provided for buyers and sellers by their agent. As a result, buyers
are able to make informed property decisions.
What Kind of Geologic Information is Available?
Your agent may provide information regarding faults, flooding or
slope stability. In many cases, the terminology used to describe
such hazards may appear to make them sound worse than they are.
The following may help put some of this information in perspective.
Using topography and other data, the Federal government has delineated
certain areas on special maps which may be subject to flooding from
an extremely heavy storm or series of storms. Flooding this severe
only occurs on the average of once every 100 years, therefore, these
delineated areas are often called "100 year flood zones."
Nature doesn't keep a timetable, however, and flooding may not occur
for 500 or 5,000 years. Flood control measures also help reduce
flood potential. The Federal Flood Insurance Administration requires
that homes located partially or wholly within a delineated "100
Year Flood Zone" area be insured against flood damage. Lenders
will require this insurance be purchased as a loan requirement.
Potential Landslide Areas
If your broker or agent discloses that your property is within a
"potential landslide area", it does not necessarily mean
that specific landslides exist or even that landsliding is imminent
or probable. It does mean that home in hillside areas have a greater
chance of slippage problems than homes on flat valley floor areas
and this is just common sense. Homes in hillside areas may experience
slippage problems if they were not properly designed or located
relative to existing slope or other conditions on the property.
Even if a problem does exist, many landslides can
be mitigated, The most desirable mitigation approach is to eliminate
the landslide by removing the sliding soil and replacing it with
properly engineered fill. Another approach is to use retaining walls
or other structures. A licensed soils engineer should be retained
in any case. Such potential geologic hazards may seem to paint a
grim picture of life for the homeowner in Florida, however, you
don't have to move away to minimize hazards!
How Does Geologic Disclosure Help the Homebuyer?
Accurate geologic information is an important investment and provides
the opportunity to investigate solutions. Insurance or other mitigation
measures may be the answer. For example, property in a "100
year flood zone" may be able to have the flood insurance requirement
waived or modified if the lowest grade around the house is above
the anticipated flood depth for that area. This may be due to a
local high point or fill. A licensed surveyor can determine if this
is the case and complete an elevation certificate and other requirements
for you to provide your lending institution. Discuss your options
with your broker or agent, they are professionals and can help.
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