What is an Elevation Certificate?

Buying a home anywhere can be stressful, but that stress can be doubled if you think your potential property might be in a flood zone. The good news? We can help you with the first step you need to take when you buy low-laying property: your elevation certificate. 

What is an elevation certificate?

You need your elevation certificate in order to get flood insurance--and your flood insurance will likely be required by your mortgage company if your property is in a flood zone.

The certificate will show your property's elevation compared to the base flood elevation--or the height where water will reach during a "100-year flood."

In other words, if your property is on the base flood elevation level, then it has a 1 percent chance of flooding every year. 

How do I know if I need one?

The good news is that not everyone needs an elevation certificate. You should look into getting one if: 

  • Your home loan is insured or financed by a federally regulated entity, like the FHA
  • Your flood insurance (or the flood insurance you want to buy) is backed by the National Flood Insurance Program
  • Your property is n a Special Flood Hazard Area

When you're buying a new home it's a good idea to check out Realtor.com because the site has started including flood risk metrics in each of their home listings. 

You can also look at the FEMA flood map tool to determine if you're in a risk area.

How do I get an elevation certificate?

There are a few ways to get an elevation certificate and most of them will depend on what type of house you have and what the sale is like. 

  • If you're buying an existing home, you can ask that the seller provide it. 
  • If you're building a home, you can ask that the builder provide it. 
  • If neither option works, you can see if your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program. If they do, then you can ask the floodplain manager for it. 
  • If all else fails, you'll need to hire a professional surveyor to complete the certificate. ​ 

How much does an elevation certificate cost?

Like most things having to do with homes, the cost will fluctuate based on where you live, what type of home you have, and how difficult it is to get the certificate.

However, we can tell you that the national average is around $600. You may be able to get it at no additional cost if it's being transferred to you in the sale of an older home, but you may end up paying more than $600 if you need to hire a surveyor. 

Buying a home in a flood zone has some risks. But getting your elevation certificate is a great first step to help insure and protect your property.