A Guide to Flood Elevation Certificates, Part 2

In my last article on Thursday, I went over the basics of how to read flood elevation certificates and used a recent real-life example of a listing on piers.  At the end of the article, it seemed as if the home was unable to financed with a 100% RD loan because the “first floor”, i.e. the crawlspace was below the BFE.  Today, I will describe the importance of two other parts of the certificate – the building diagram and the net area of flood openings.  In our example we were able to work these numbers to get the home approved for financing and more importantly, a lower flood insurance rate for the buyer.  Truly a win-win for everyone!

Flood Elevation Cert Example, part 2

  1. Section A7 – The Building Diagram.  The first thing a surveyor does is determine which type of building their assessments will be based on.  FEMA has created rules for different types of buildings and this first step goes a long way to determine a home’s loan eligibility and insurance rate.  You can see the different building diagrams here.  In the example, this home was described as building diagram 8 – a home with a crawlspace and flood openings.
  2. Section A8.a and A8.b – This home had 1,500 sqft of crawlspace underneath it and has 9 flood openings.  These openings were rectangular holes cut into the concreted enclosure to allow water to flow freely beneath the home.  This is important when combined with the below item.
  3. Section A8.c – For a home with a crawlspace, FEMA recommends in most cases there should be at LEAST 1″ of flood opening per 1 sqft of crawlspace in Section A8.a. In Here, there is only 1,200 sq inches of openings for 1,500 sq ft.
So let’s review for a moment: we have a home on piers in flood zone AE, FEMA determines the crawlspace to be the true first floor of the home, it sits 1.3′ below the BFE, and there are not enough square inches of openings in the crawlspace.  This sounds like a stacked deck against this home, but there are things we can do to change it!
Based on FEMA’s rules, if a home has enough net square inches of flood openings (Section A8.c) then the home’s actual first floor (Section C2.b) can be used to calculate the real flood elevation.  We already know we are 300″ to meet the minimum of 1,500″.
The solution: cut more openings in the concrete crawlspace.
Yes, by physically altering the property’s crawlspace we were able to add additional net square inches of flood openings to meet FEMA’s requirements.  In fact, my client added an extra 384″ for a total of 1,584″ of flood openings, 84″ more than the recommended “1 inch -per-1 foot” of crawlspace.

The end result:  When we had the flood elevation certificate re-done, the extra crawlspace openings were reflected in Section A8.c.  This in turn overrode the height of the crawlspace in Section C2.a, thus allowing the REAL calculation of the home’s flood risk to be accurate using Section C2.b.  With the BFE being 92.6′, and Section C2.b being at 93.6′ the home was now calculated as being 1′ above the BFE.  This allowed the RD loan to be approved and the buyer received a preferable flood insurance rate for a home in flood Zone AE!

In conclusion,  I hope you now have a basic understanding of how to read Flood Elevation Certificates.   I hope my experience and truly “on-the-job” training will give you the impression that there may be ways to alter a property to gain beneficial insurance rates or approve a buyer for a loan.  I always approach things with the idea that, more times than not, there are ways to work things out and in this case FEMA actually did have rules in place to help us do that.  FEMA’s full documentation on flood risk and determination are massive, but this is a good place to start learning about flood elevations and how they can affect you, your home and your money.

If you need help finding a licensed surveyor to get a flood certification for your home, please call me at my number below and I’d be glad to help.


David R. Madaffari, Realtor
Keller Williams Realty – First Choice
Office: 225.744.0044
Cell: 225.772.3283 (DAVE)
37325 Market Place Dr. Ste D
Prairieville, LA 70769
Each office independently owned and operated


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