Guide to Making the Call on Elevating Your Property

A post-Sandy Q&A session helped answer some (but not all) questions about what will be required of shore property owners.

Recent public forums have helped answer questions about repairing and rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.

The question-and-answer sessions typically feature local residents, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives and representatives of the local insurance and real estate industries.

Even the panelists usually acknowledged a fair amount of uncertainty about the full ramifications of the unprecedented level of damage for the region and the process for rebuilding and recovering costs.

Here's our best shot at summarizing the considerations for property owners as they rebuild after the Oct. 29 storm. But because of the considerable amount of confusion surrounding the whole process, feel free to share information, questions and observations in the comments section of this story.

  • Find the elevation of your home. 
  • Find the elevation required for your home under the new FEMA flood map.  Search for your Advisory Base Flood Elevation by address.
  • See how your advisory elevation compares to Hurricane Sandy flood levels. Make sure the flood elevation on your certificate uses the same NAVD 1988 scale as the ABFE maps (or see how the scales compare).
  • What if your home remains below the required elevation? One thing appears certain: Your flood insurance premium will increase (because federal taxpayers will no longer subsidize the flood insurance program).

The following are projected National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) annual flood insurance premiums for V Zone properties with $250,000 residential building coverage:

Lowest Floor Elevation No Contents Covered $100,000 Contents Covered 3 Feet Above $2,403 $2,923 2 Feet Above $3,278 $4,048 1 Feet Above $4,728 $5,918 At BFE $6,803 $8,603 1 Foot Below $9,003 $11,583 2 Feet Below $12,074 $15,764 3 Feet Below $15,524 $20,474 4 Feet Below $17,334 $23,304 6 Feet Below $23,449 $32,019

The following are projected annual flood insurance premiums for A Zone properties with $250,000 residential building coverage:

Lowest Floor Elevation No Contents Covered $100,000 Contents Covered 3 Feet Above $376 $561 2 Feet Above $448 $633 1 Feet Above $660 $845 At BFE $1,359 $1,724 1 Foot Below $4,527 $5,255 2 Feet Below $5,924 $8,308 3 Feet Below $7,204 $10,554 4 Feet Below $9,551 $14,370 6 Feet Below $18,830 $28,535
  • Consider the resale value of homes that remain below base flood elevation. Buyers would potentially assume dramatically higher flood insurance premiums or the cost of elevating homes.
  • What resources are available to elevate homes? Flood insurance policy holders should be able to take advantage of "Increased Cost of Compliance" (ICC) funding that can pay up to $30,000 to elevate homes. In a much longer process, property owners also can apply for hazard mitigation grants. Interested owners must contact the city's Emergency Management Department, which will submit a letter to the county by Feb. 8 (the city currently has a list of about 100 owners). The county will apply to the state, which will apply to the federal government. Also: Low-interest loans (1.68 percent) of up to $200,000 (for homeowners) and $2 million (for businesses) are available through the Small Business Administration.
  • Will the Advisory Base Flood Elevation maps change? According to Gov. Chris Christie's executive order on Thursday (Jan. 24), the advisory maps are adopted and nobody is "grandfathered" for the purposes of flood insurance or building codes. The final maps are expected to be complete by late summer and will likely include lower elevations and smaller "V Zones" as mitigating factors are taken into consideration. An appeals process will also be in effect when the final maps are released. Challenges from shore municipalities and from lawsuits are likely in the works.



bernie February 01, 2013 at 12:58 PM
craig verran February 01, 2013 at 02:13 PM
This is a major scam in the making to think the majority of people can afford to elevate is not reality and the government knows it . the real estate market of the entire Shore area will be detroyed and we need to object to this scam Craig manasquan
Patricia Young February 01, 2013 at 02:46 PM
My home is 4ft above grade level. We are now in flood zone v what level does my home need to be at now? I also have a non finished basement at 6ft. How will this effect me ?
KB February 01, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Unfortunately that is correct. This is something that is not even related to Sandy. Obama signed a new law back in July (Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act) that phases out subsidized flood insurance. The new law removed part of the "grandfather" clause which protected homeowners who built to the FEMA maps that were in place at the time of construction. Under the old law, your rates were locked in as long as you complied with the maps that were in place when you built/raised your house. Now, if the flood elevations on the maps change, your rates change too. This article gives a decent summary of the removal of the two grandfather clauses. http://www.jdnews.com/news/local/homeowners-could-see-insurance-increase-1.75189
Squandered Youth February 01, 2013 at 05:11 PM
The premium projections may be "worst-case" illustrations for a single-story slab home, the most expensive form of construction to insure because the entire structure and contents are exposed to flooding. Premiums for multi-story homes and homes built on enclosures are lower. Can anyone get projections for these scenarios? Accurate data on premium increases are important. With just the worst-case example to go on, EVERYONE would raise their homes. For the vast majority of homes whose premiums will increase to some extent due to the coming increase in BFE, ICC funds will NOT be available since their homes weren't damaged to the extent of 50% of their value. Even where ICC funds are available, they will not cover the full cost of raising a house in NJ, and a thousand or more homeowners in each oceanfront town competing to raise their homes ahead of the rising flood of increased premiums will only drive up costs. Ironically, being raised to ABFE would not have spared many homes from Sandy or been needed to spare them from Irene. A one-size-fits-all "raise every house" plan may not be cost-effective for an individual home or even good public policy in light of the practical difficulties of raising thousands of homes and the risk of changing the character of the shore by pricing out homeowners caught between increased premiums and unreimbursed compliance costs. Has anyone priced the alternate "common defense" of raising the dunes?


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