After more than 30 years, and using the latest technology available, FEMA has finally updated and released their highly anticipated preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) for Beaufort County showing how a 100-year flood event is likely to impact your property. As a result, big changes are in the making for flood insurance requirements on a number of properties around Hilton Head Island, including Sea Pines Plantation. Homes that are presently required to carry flood insurance for mortgage purposes will no longer have that requirement if they're located in FEMA's newly created Zone X (Shaded and Unshaded).
Homes in Zone X (Shaded and Unshaded) are being reclassified onto higher ground with a moderate to minimal risk of flooding. This creates enormous benefits to these homeowners that will arrive when the proposed changes to the base flood elevation (BFE) are adopted and implemented by the Town sometime in 2019. All homes, including those that are built slab on grade or below the Town's current BFE of 14 feet will see significant cost savings on their flood insurance premiums as those policies become optional.
The results of FEMA's preliminary FIRM map is so surprising that the Town of Hilton Head Island is in discussions over reducing the current BFE of 14 feet, in place since 1986, down to the BFE of 7-9 feet as reflected on the preliminary FIRM maps. For issuance of new construction permits, the town is debating whether to require new properties to be built at an additional 1-3 feet above the building sites BFE.
There's even good news for older homes built below 14 feet in Zone AE, providing your home is elevated above the new BFE on your lot. If so, it's likely you should see a reduction of some kind in your flood insurance premiums. It's the relationship between the BFE and the structure's elevation that determines the flood insurance premium.
Another positive development to come from lowering the BFE in Zone AE will arise for homes that have issues with non-conforming space. This is usually found with homes that have converted their garages into habitable living space. The Town has the right to force homeowners to be compliant, by remodifing to code, and frequently does so. With the adoption of the new FIRM map in 2019, if your non-conforming space is above your lot's BFE, no worries, you'll be complaint with the Town.
It's expected to take 18 months for the preliminary FIRM map to go through the full review process, including the Town's input, before being approved and adopted in 2019. Please consult with your flood insurance agent or the Town of Hilton Head Island to learn how FEMA's new preliminary FIRM map will affect you in 2019. The Town of Hilton Head Island is happy to take your questions on how FEMA's new FIRM Zones and BFE will apply to your property -- you can call them at 843-341-4757. The Town's website provides great information on Flood Hazards and How to Stay Safe.
FEMA's preliminary FIRM map for Sea Pines has most properties falling into one of three Zones:
Zone AE - This carries the highest risk for flooding and properties located in this Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) are required to have flood insurance with a mortgage. The risk of flooding is 1% in any given year. This area appears in dark grey on the maps and the BFE for each property is shown.
Zone X - is subdivided into Shaded and Unshaded:
- Zone X Shaded -- This area falls within the SFHA, but flood insurance is not required. It's highly recommended though and should be very affordable. There's a 0.2% chance of a flood event in any given year or once every 100 - 500 years. This area is shown in light grey on the maps.
- Zone X Unshaded -- This shows as white on the maps and represents the highest ground. These locations are outside the SFHA and flood insurance is not required but still advised. Expect a flood event once every 500 years.
Zone VE - Is actually part of Zone A and is reserved for waterfront homes that face flooding with the added risk of wind and wave action. This area is also marked in dark grey on the maps.
To view all six of FEMA's preliminary FIRM maps that comprise Sea Pines Plantation, please click on the attachment below -- the maps, which are in PDF format are detailed (i.e. 13.4 MB File), so allow up 30 seconds for full resolution to appear:
It's hard to believe, but the new preliminary FIRM maps show several oceanfront homes in Sea Pines Plantation that are now comfortably sitting in Zone X.
DAVID LOVE | REALTOR®
Sea Pines Real Estate at The Beach Club