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January 21, 2019

City Introduces 100-Year Storm Flood Risk Map

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has a new map available that shows the parcels that are likely to experience serious flooding during a 100-year storm—one that would bring enough rainfall to drench more than half a city block with at least six inches of water. And as reported by Dominic Fracassa at the SF Chronicle, the PUC is hoping to get the Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance that would require property owners to notify buyers when the building for sale lies in one of these flood zones.

Having this map available is helpful to prospective buyers. Once information on this level is out there, it shouldn’t be up to buyers and their agents to hunt it down. 

Will the new disclosure harm property values for owners in flood zones? I think there might be a few buyers who may drop off once they hear that a property is in a flood zone. Others may be more nonchalant, moving ahead and counting on the fact that there’s statistically a one percent chance of a 100-year storm happening in a given year. (San Francisco has experienced two such storms since 2000, reports The Chronicle.)

In the end, a homeowner with a property in one of these flood zones may end up with fewer offers than a property that isn’t in a zone. Less competition tends to dampen overbidding. So there’s that.

But the financial impact the disclosure might have on a home sale is nothing compared to the potential law suit brought against the former property owner by the new buyers after a big storm hits and their garage floods. Did the owners at the time know about the flooding potential? Did the garage ever flood before? Why did the neighbors two doors down have sandbags across their garage door? The disclosure and map availability heads off these issues.

The Realtor Association’s legal team should be drafting a new disclosure now, referring prospective buyers to the SF PUC flood zone map so buyers can make informed decisions. But until then, you can find the flood map information here. The PUC also includes a list of neighborhoods on which you can click to view the flood zones by area.

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