If you’re worried about the impact of severe weather on your home, you’re not alone. As of April, Georgia has already experienced two tornadoes so far in 2019. This could put the state on track to exceed last year’s total of five severe weather events.
With weather patterns continually changing, Georgia homebuyers need to factor storm readiness into their decision-making. Here are four things that you can look for when shopping for a home that will help keep you and your property safe in the event of a hurricane, tornado or flood.
Check the property’s flood risk
As you begin to look at homes, you’ll likely start developing a list of must-haves. Perhaps you’re looking for a property that’s protected from street noise, or a plot that has plenty of acreage. You’ll likely want to add the lot’s flood risk to your list of determining factors.
Fortunately, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has created an easy way for homeowners — and potential buyers — to check on a property’s risk level with their interactive flood map service center. It allows you to search by address to see if the home sits in a flood plain. It also provides a rating system to help you assess the property’s flood risk.
It’s worth noting that the flood map data has been changing rapidly. In an effort to provide the most accurate information possible, FEMA has been offering viewers access to preliminary map data in areas where the flood maps have been recently updated. You’ll want to check there, too, to get the most complete assessment of your flood risk.
Ask if a property has earned a FORTIFIED Home designation
To help combat home damage during natural disasters, the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) has developed what’s known as their “FORTIFIED Home” program. This is a set of construction standards stricter than most statewide building codes and meant to ensure that a home is fit to withstand strong weather patterns like hurricanes, hailstorms and small-scale tornadoes.
Both new and existing homes can receive a FORTIFIED Home designation. It’s given in one of three levels, depending on the scale of the work that has been done. They are:
Bronze: These homes have an upgraded roof to prevent water coming through.
Silver: In addition to the roof, the silver designation also addresses windows, doors, and attached structures.
Gold: The gold level addresses all of the above, plus ensures that all of the major components of the house are securely attached so the house acts as one unit during a storm.
In addition to being a comforting safety feature, looking for a home that’s received a FORTIFIED designation may have the added benefit of saving you money on your home insurance. The Georgia Underwriting Association has adopted a mitigation program that allows homeowners to save 5% to 10% on their policies, which on average cost homeowners $1,522 annually, depending on the level of their designation.
Check if the property has been flooded before
In some states, sellers are legally obligated to disclose whether or not the home has previously flooded. Unfortunately, Georgia is not one of them. However, research done by the National Association of Realtors concluded that, while there is no specific law pertaining to flood disclosures, “the law does require a seller to inform a buyer about any known material (important) defects in the condition of the home.”
It’s in your best interest to take the initiative to check and see if the property has flooded before. Start by having your agent ask the seller’s agent. They’ll likely disclose to you if there has been an issue. You can also try to discreetly ask the neighbors or even try to get a flood insurance quote before you buy.
Look for a home with a garage
Drivers in Georgia spend on average $1,335 annually on auto insurance to protect their cars. Another way to protect your car? Though it may sound simple, if you’re looking for full coverage from natural disasters, make sure that a home with a garage is on your must-have list. When natural disasters strike, one of the best ways to protect your vehicle and other expensive belongings is to make sure that they’re as protected from the environment as possible. A garage will provide extra coverage and hopefully save you from having to submit an auto insurance claim and prevent damage from occurring in the first place.