Why Build Elevated in the Go Zone

Real Estate Agent with Cushman & Wakefield - Commercial Property SW Florida
Over the last several months, I had dozens of people ask me the same question. "Why do you raise your home on piers rather than build closer or on the ground?"

My answer is simple. If you are reading this article and wondering the same thing, put yourself in the shoes of the local community that was impacted by Hurricane Katrina, look at this map and continue reading:

Do you see the Interstate 10? It runs east and west a few miles north of the coast. Everything south of that line was flooded with at least a couple feet of water if not over a dozen feet of water. We are not that north of the interstate didn't flood because it did; but 90% of the real estate growth is transpiring south of the highway. After reviewing the flooding, FEMA revised the coastal flood maps. They offered a suggested elevation for all new construction. By taking the county's topographic maps, they determined how high the land was above sea level. After sea level elevation was established, they took into consideration the flooding of arguably the worst storm in history, Katrina, and created a flood map designating how high the base floor of new construction should be. This became known as the Advised Base Flood Elevation (ABFE). History states that anything suggested by FEMA or the Fed's is adopted into local new CODE eventually. It is imperative to take proactive measures for the sake of your future exit strategy. To read about the ABFE, please visit the following link:

In over 90% of the areas south of the intestate, the ABFE states that you should build new construction no less than 4 ft. above the ground. You can truly determine your own property by going to the link above and graphing your property. You must be quite accurate, but find your parcel on the Topographic Map and the Recovery Map. Take the elevated suggestion on the recovery map and subtract it from your topographic elevation. That is what your ABFE is.

Now, you may be asking, "Why should we be concerned when this is just a suggested elevation?" Rumor has it, that the coastal counties are going to be adopting this in the very near future. By the time you read this, they may already have. I have a very good example. The Mississippi Development Authority has an incentive program which is the Small Rental Assistance Program. Without getting into detail about the program, there is over $260 million allocated for this. Guess where the money came from? That's right. The federal government has surplus money for certain areas of coastal recovery. You may not apply for this program if you do not build your home to the ABFE. Why? Because if Federal Money is issued on behalf of this program, you must comply with all federal assessments and rules, including the Advised Base Flood Elevation.

Additionally, we are making insurance underwriters very happy with this as this does not jeapordize the integrity of the structure at all and allows for us to have insurance breaks on the flood policy. Our policies are typically 25% less than homes built on the ground. Locals love the raised foundation. In fact, they use it for an outdoor recreation room. On a single family home you can park 2 cars comfortably under the house and still have room for a picnic table, BBQ, and storage for any bicycles or any other items. On a duplex, you can comfortably park 4 cars underneath and still have room for all that I mentioned on a single family.

Your builder should be using pressure treated wood piers or masonry block for the foundation. This is code, so I am sure that you will be getting the wood piers as standard. You will have an option for masonry though which we have found to be almost $4500 more expensive.

In conclusion, locals went thru some major trauma during and after Katrina. We are seeing a major demand in tenants wanting homes raised above the ground. It offers them security. If this was not demanded, we wouldn't do it. From a builder's perspective it is a little more expensive than a concrete slab, but the long term potential with insurance and resale is superior to anything.

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