Duane Duggan

Duane Duggan, Realtor and Author RE/MAX of Boulder

When the sun came out and the flood waters receded, many predicted it would take at least 10 years to recover. Now, at the 10-year mark, it is safe to say they were right. Five years ago, if you drove up Boulder Canyon, a sign proclaimed, “Temporary Road Open, Governor Hickenlooper”. Now, a decade post-flood, the sign is gone, and there is a new and improved highway. 

During the last 10 years, new and higher bridges have been built, new roads with flood-resistant construction completed, and floodways reconstructed, all with the intent of surviving the next flood of the same proportion. The question remains, will it be enough to prevent the same level of devastation? We will never know until it actually happens. However, one thing you can do to be better prepared for the next time it happens is to check your insurance coverage.

The typical homeowners’ policy won’t include coverage for flood damage. Some policies will cover damage due to sump pump failure or sewer backup. Often those coverages are additional items added to a policy, so be sure to check with your insurance agent.

Most any home insurance agent is set up to offer you flood insurance through the Federal government. In fact, 2023 marks the 55th anniversary of the National Flood Insurance Act of 1968. The Act came about because of the enormous loss of life and property when Hurricane Betsy made landfall in 1965. Since that time, the program has assisted property owners, renters, and businesses in recovering from major flooding disasters. In addition, the program has encouraged communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations.

It seems as if during my 45-year real estate career, we have always argued over the boundaries of the floodplain. As new construction takes place upstream, drainage patterns can change. The Great Flood of 2013 answered many of those questions about where the flood waters will go. We learned a great deal from that flood and have made many improvements to help when a flood of that size happens again. You can review information about the current floodplain here: bouldercounty.org/transportation/floodplain-mapping.  

Be sure to contact the city and/or county for the most up-to-date information.   

In the 10 years since our Great Flood, not much has changed relative to residential real estate and flood insurance. The amount of available coverage was at $250,000 in 2013 and it still is. During that same period of time, the average price of a home in Boulder has escalated to over $1,000,000. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that good coverage can fall short of the need. What if you have a total loss due to the flood? I had clients whose homes were swept down the river. 

Today, coverage is available for up to $250,000 for residential and $100,000 for personal property within the home. If you don’t have a loan on the property, there won’t be a lender mandating the type and amount of coverage you need. It will be up to the homeowner to decide. After the flood, many homeowners didn’t understand that their homeowner’s policy didn’t cover flooding. Many learned about damage from seepage, sewer backup, and sump pump failures not being covered under their policy. Be sure to review your policy to make sure it has the coverage you want.

Additional flood coverage is available from private insurance companies. Additional coverage beyond the $250,000 can be very pricey. In many cases, the lender will only require you to have $250,000 in coverage. However, on a large property in the flood plain, the lender may require additional coverage. Policies should be reviewed with your insurance agent to make sure you have the coverage you need and/or want. When you are buying a property in the flood plain, the lender will require you to have flood insurance in order to close the loan. Flood insurance is also available even if the property is not in the flood plain and it is considerably cheaper than when you are in the flood plain. Many homeowners in 2013 who were not in the flood plain, wish they had coverage and most likely now do have the coverage.

Many condos and townhomes were also affected by the 2013 flood. If the whole complex was in the flood plain, the HOA usually would be required to have a master policy. In some complexes, like Park East Square in Boulder, only the corner of the complex is in the flood plain. In those cases, individual homeowners need to have their own flood policy to satisfy their lender.

Congress must periodically renew the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) statutory authority to operate, which is the case in September 2023. The Realtors Political Action Committee always stands ready to push Congress into action each time this occurs. The National Association of Realtors estimates that 40,000 home closings a month would be in jeopardy without the NFIP.

Flood insurance rates have increased dramatically across the country due to the major disasters across the country and since the 2013 flood. Even with the rate increases the National Flood Insurance program only can make ends meet with the help of Congress. It is likely that there will be changes coming to the National Flood Insurance Program in the future. You can keep updated at floodsmart.gov.

By Duane Duggan. Duane graduated with a business degree and a major in real estate from the University of Colorado in 1978. He has been a Realtor® in Boulder since that time. He joined RE/MAX of Boulder in 1982 and has facilitated over 2,500 transactions over his career, the vast majority from repeat and referred clients. Living the life of a Realtor and being immersed in real estate led to the inception of his book, Realtor for Life. For questions, e-mail [email protected], call 303.441.5611 or visit boulderco.com.