There’s really no reason not to buy in a flood zone – as long as you know what you’re in for.
Anyone who lived through Queensland’s 2011 floods will be unlikely to forget the devastating impact the inundation had on homeowners and their communities. Despite this, the predicted price plummets in flood-prone areas never eventuated. Instead, Brisbane’s riverside suburbs have been among the city’s strongest performers since then, and that trajectory looks likely to continue.
What’s the level of risk?
The level of awareness around flooding is significantly higher than it was when flooding hit Brisbane in 2011, and the tools to predict which areas could be affected again are becoming more sophisticated by the year. Flooding occurs about every 30 years in Brisbane; the last significant flooding to hit the city was in 1974.
Advances in flood modelling have allowed Brisbane City Council to pinpoint the level of risk for individual houses across the region. Start your research by taking a good look at Council’s Flood Awareness Map. This allows you to look up a specific address, assess the impact in 2011 versus 1974, and get a big-picture look at the region.
Most buyers are undeterred by a home’s location in a flood zone because of what is generally accepted as having exacerbated the Brisbane floods. Extensive rain didn’t help, of course, but hydrologists also concluded that water was released too quickly from Wivenhoe Dam, causing Brisbane River levels to rise by up to 10 metres.
The chance of that happening again may be minimal but Mother Nature is unpredictable, so accepting that flooding may well affect the home you buy is always a wise approach to take.
Inspect for flood damage
If you’re interested in buying a house located in or near a flood zone, get a building inspection done early on. Once-sodden wall cavities can still be problematic years after the event, causing unhealthy mold build-up and even structural damage.
Up to 60 per cent of flood-affected houses weren’t covered for flood damage in 2011, so don’t assume the owners had the insurance funds available to conduct a full renovation before selling.
Look into insurance premiums
If a house has been flooded once, it may well happen again in the decades to come. It makes sense that homeowners who’ve bought in flood-susceptible areas should pay a little more when it comes to insurance – but just how much more is worth investigating.
Almost 100 Brisbane suburbs were affected during the 2011 floods, and insurance companies aren’t taking any chances when it comes to covering their costs. Get an insurance quote in writing before making an offer on a home – the premiums can be prohibitive.
Find out about renovation rules
If you’re planning to extend or otherwise improve a house in a flood zone, a flood overlay will come into play. In an effort to minimise damage during future floods, planning provisions have been put in place for new builds and renovations.
There are five Flood Planning Area ratings, ranging from FPA1 (flooding is very likely) to FPA5 (there’s no recent history of flooding but there is potential for flooding). Minimum floor heights may be mandated in your area, and only non-habitable spaces such as laundries and garages may be allowed on the ground floor.
Wet-proofing design strategies may also be required, such as openings or breakaway walls that allow water to escape, the use of flood-resistant materials, and properly anchoring the structure (no one wants to see their house floating away, after all!). Find out more about flood-resilient building guidelines here.
The benefits of buying near the water usually outweigh any concerns homebuyers have about flood hazards, but it pays to do your homework before signing on the dotted line.
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