So you think you’ve found your dream home in Falls Church, Virginia; that is until you hear that said dream home is located smack dab in the middle of a floodplain and the stack of paperwork you have to fill out just got a bit higher. Don’t worry, you can still have your dream home despite the floodplains in Falls Church; you just need to know a few more things. For starters, what exactly a floodplain is, which is hard to find this information. Falls Church,VA is a great place to buy, but sellers are not required to disclose if they are in a flood plain in Virginia: they don’t teach you about floodplains and the insurance that comes with them Falls Church, just like the rest of Virginia real estate, is a “buyer beware” state so you and your agent will need to do due diligence.
Floodplains are areas of low-lying ground, composed of river sediments, and are prone to flooding. Floodplains typically consist of two main parts, the actual waterway is called the floodway, meaning the stream or river, in the case of Falls Church the main floodway is the Tripps Run Creek. The second part of floodplains is the flood fringe, this is the area to which the flood would extend to if the floodway swelled to a certain level. These two areas create what is known to city planners, developers, and realtors as a floodplain.
Now, hearing the word ‘flood’ usually sends up some red flags, but there is no need to start looking elsewhere for a home. All houses are at risk of flooding, since flooding doesn’t result from any one event. The City of Falls Church has taken special care to ensure that its residents are perfectly safe and have protection from some of the rarest tragedies. But despite these reassurances, you might have a few questions such as:
How do I find out if my house is in a floodplain zone?
Flood plains can extend for miles, even if your home is located 5 or more miles away from the floodway your house can still be at risk. So, before buying a home you should visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website and search your address. On their website, you can find out if you house is located in a floodplain zone in Falls Church, and the severity of the potential flooding in that zone. The closer your home is located to the floodway, the greater the risk is of your house experiencing flooding. These areas are then broken up into zones so as to understand the risk of that particular region. The City of Falls Church has also provided maps on their website, which are found here.
Where are the heaviest floodplain zones in Falls Church?
Tripps Run Creek lies west of Broad Street and is the largest floodplain zone in Falls Church. The area, in miles, of Tripps Run Creek is 2.24 as it extends out of Falls Church into Fairfax and empties out into Lake Barcroft. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has designed maps and created zones in and around the Falls Church floodplain to give a more detailed look at the risks and dangers around Tripps Run Creek.
In order to find out more about floodplains, employees of the city of Falls Church are extremely helpful, specifically Matthew Hansen, a civil engineer who works in the Department of Public Works for Falls Church. Mr. Hansen was kind enough to answer a few questions about floodplains in Falls Church.
What do I need to do if my property is on a floodplain zone?
All homeowners should know their flood risk. Elevation Certificates are an excellent way to do that, but reviewing the flood map is a good start. www.floodsmart.gov has lots of good general floodplain information.
What have the government officials in Falls Church, Virginia done in relation to floodplains?
The City participates in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Community Rating System (CRS) program as a Class 7 community, which entitles floodplain residents to a 15% discount on flood insurance premiums and non-floodplain residents a 5% discount if they purchase flood insurance.
Now you’re reading this wondering what all of these titles mean, and how they relate to you finding and buying a home in Falls Church, VA.
Elevation Certificates are a portion of the National Flood Insurance Program, these are used to certify building elevations which are then used to determine insurance premium rates for the constructed building in question. An Elevation Certificate is used by developers as well as local communities to ensure that all the buildings, residential and commercial alike, are in compliance with county, state, and federal ordinances. These premiums take into account; the year your home was built, occupancy, number of floors, the flood risk itself, the deductible you chose and the amount of building and contents coverage. It is important to know that if your home is located in a high risk flooding zone, which isn’t a guarantee of flooding, you are required to purchase a flood insurance policy if you have obtained a mortgage from a federally regulated or an insured lender and highly recommended to by the National Flood Insurance Program. Even more importantly, flood insurance is a separate entity and is not part of a standard homeowners insurance package.
Besides reviewing Elevation Certificates, the City of Falls Church also works with FEMA to locate the portion of Falls Church that falls into a Special Floodplain Hazard Area. This ordinance is the base plan for a 100-year flood. A 100-year flood is a term used to describe an area that has a 1% chance of flooding every year, therefore in the next one hundred years there is a significant chance of that specific area flooding. FEMA is constantly working to update these statistics and has determined some zones around the country as 500-year floods.
So, don’t shy away and settle for second best outside of Falls Church; the people are welcoming, and the culture and community are incredible to the point where you forget about all the work at home. Instead, you can focus on more important things such as the beautiful and local Farmers Market and the historical and cherished State Theater.
For more information on real estate in this area, please contact 703-655-5738.