Second thoughts about buying - should a flood plane worry me?

(50 Posts)
NMO69 Mon 21-Jan-13 23:06:06

After a long time looking, we have found a house to buy - it is the 'forever' family home and suitably pricey. We discovered that previous buyers pulled out because the house is built on a flood plane. There is, it seems, an underground waterway in the street. Flood risk is low, but a risk nevertheless, and is concerning me. Added to that, to secure it we had to offer asking price and more than we felt it was worth. A visit last week revealed many more maintenance issues than we had first thought, and that's also made me nervous as we are buying at the top of what we can afford. Can't figure out if my nerves are 'just natural' at this stage of the process or whether I should re-consider the whole thing given the sleepless nights its given me. I don't want to make a costly mistake. I've almost convinced myself I don't want to move at all. Anyone else experienced the jitters like this?

wendybird77 Tue 22-Jan-13 08:52:26

If I recall correctly the government agreement with the insurance industry is due to end this year which will make flood insurance very expensive or impossible to get. Don't do it. With the weather getting worse you are setting yourself up to get trapped in a house which you can't afford to fix if flooded and will not be able to sell. Financial ruin.

guineapiglet Tue 22-Jan-13 10:50:40

Our house sale was held up some years ago because the house was on a flood plain..... the river in question was over a mile away from our house. It was a tributary river, and on a good day when it was flowing at its fastest, was about 7 feet wide. The river would have had to have flooded UPHILL for over a mile before it would have been any threat at all. Whilst I agree that flood risks have increased in many areas, sometimes common sense has to prevail. How far is the river from your house, what is the size of the river, has it flooded recently etc etc, are the questions you need to ask. Also ask your insurance company their opinion on whether they would insure you or not....

NMO69 Tue 22-Jan-13 14:51:52

Wow - thank you so much to all of you for taking the time to reply. It is certainly food for thought, and at the very least has given me a huge reality check - so many people clearly wouldn't ever consider buying on a flood plane so I'm now concerned about re-sell potential too.
The house is a 1930's build in a big city and there isn't a river close by - so no way of knowing the flood risk until we got involved in searches etc. Its the underground culvert that poses the risk - but that does run very close to the house albeit underground. Some of the neighbours didn't even know they were in a flood risk zone until I mentioned it while making enquiries.
The Environment Agency have told us the postcode flooded in 1968 (but the vendor swears the house wasn't affected). They have also told us the risk is low
(1 in 200). Trouble is - some people around us are saying its nothing to worry about, the EA actually uttered the immortal words 'there are flood plains, and there are flood plains' in his bid to convince me I was making a mountain out of a molehill. My DH is not that worried about it, but I really am.
Initial enquiries with insurance companies say we can get it insured and the premiums aren't nuts. But mortgage advisor is worried about getting a loan based on the available info to date.
Survey is being done this week in which we will check if its been tanked.
Thanks again.

TalkinPeace2 Tue 22-Jan-13 17:16:24

I did a geography degree.
All of my former classmates with whom I'm in contact live on hills.
As do I.
I would NEVER EVER buy a house on a floodplain or within the alluvial soil area of a river junction.
I will also not buy within half a mile of the coast or at below 50 metres above sea level.

Seriously.
The deal between insurers and the Government ran out at the start of this month. Flooding will be excluded from buildings insurance for hundreds of thousands of homes and will have to be bought separately at huge cost.

betterwhenthesunshines Tue 22-Jan-13 17:32:19

Almost the whole of London is on a flood plain. We are at least a mile from the river but it still came up as 'on a flood plain' in our survey.

My parents house in SE London was above an underground river like you describe. No problems in 30+ years.

We have also had "high radon gas" flagged in an area we have bought a house in. TBH I think you sometimes have to take surveys with a pinch of salt.

nocake Tue 22-Jan-13 18:32:48

Do you actually mean it's on a flood plain or is it just in a flood risk area? There is a huge difference. A flood plain is an area of flat land that floods to take up excess water from a river. A flood risk area doesn't have to be on a flood plain.

A postcode covers up to 100 properties and the risk for each will be different. Look at the Environment Agency flood map because although they give you information by postcode the map actually shows greater detail. They said our house is in the 1 in 1000 years risk area but if you look at the map we're outside the risk area.

tricot39 Tue 22-Jan-13 19:30:54

It is possible to live on a hill and be flooded so talkinpeace may not have taken all precautions (most maybe!)!

1in200 is a long return period - but then again climate change is making historical data rather irrelevant....

TalkinPeace2 Tue 22-Jan-13 19:39:58

grin
I study topographical and catchment maps for the fun of it (sad I know)
if my road floods, Southampton, Portsmouth, Bournemouth, London and Brighton will all be water parks.
And I'm on gravel - I soil test when I move house too!

BUT
what has gone before is not a good guide to what will follow
- aquifers and floodplains have had their subterranean flow patterns nadgered by modern development
- the jet stream of 5 day weather systems is not reliable any more
- excess heat in the polar sea systems is making weather more extreme - the average is moving up by a teeny bit each year but the chaos in the system is unpredictable.

For anybody struggling to understand why global warming leads to cold snaps ....
Think of a pan of water on a hob, with one side being heated to a boil.
Blobs of warm water from the base rise to the top as bubbles and blobs of cold water sink to the bottom ready to be heated (you can test this with food colouring). As the water warms the patterns become more chaotic, some bits cold, some really hot, as the average temperature of the pan rises.

Elegantlywasted Tue 22-Jan-13 19:51:01

The insurers had an agreement with the Govt that they would continue insuring properties with a 1 in 75 risk of flooding. This agreement is now running out. I'm not sure whether its your vendors or the environment agency that have stated that you have a 1 in 200 risk. I would check the environment agency website. Your solicitors should be doing an environment search which will include flood risk.
We pulled out of a property purchase last year as it came up as a 1 in 75 risk and when I tried to get a quote for buildings insurance was turned down by a couple of mainstream insurers. It was enough to put me off. If the property is a 1 in 200 risk you should still be able to get insurance but I think increasingly it will become more expensive. You should factor this in to the price you pay for the property, it will impact on resale value.

GuinevereOfTheRoyalCourt Tue 22-Jan-13 20:25:11

It's certainly true that much of London is built on flood plains. Flooding is definitely a risk. However, the powers-that-be will do everything they can to make sure that Henley and suchlike will get the brunt of any excess rainfall before it can flood the capital. So it really depends where your flood plain is. If it's somewhere important you have a better chance that there will be some man-made defences to help you.

townbuiltonahill Tue 22-Jan-13 20:57:28

1 in 200 is not low.

Please please tell us you've walked away .... we're all waiting in agony here!

Speedos Tue 22-Jan-13 21:04:49

Well it depend where it is, most of central London is on a flood plain. We used to live near Tower Bridge and that was a 1 in 100 year risk!

Oblomov Tue 22-Jan-13 21:09:20

op, I would not buy on a floodplain. We live in a town which is high risk. As are the 3 nearest towns. Plus loafs of others locally in surrey, where decisions are made re which place has to flood and then the rivers are diverted
Strange because we are nowhere near a river and this house had never been flooded in 50 years. But we are still struggle to get insurance and hardly anyone will insure us.
and it will get worse. Surrey refuse to do anything. Plus with all the weather and general flooding, all our insurances are going to go up and up and up.

Badvoc Tue 22-Jan-13 21:12:20

I wouldn't.
There will be another house

specialsubject Tue 22-Jan-13 21:27:40

1968 was a very bad year.

you need to become your own expert. Questions to ask:

- what has actually been done to reduce risk of flooding (local alleviation works, works specific to the property)
- talk to insurance brokers and find out what is ACTUALLY insured.
- find out actual risk (Environment agency maps)
- look up 'Glasdir Ruthin' for the value of guarantees.
- look at maps and contours.

...and you should ask for a price reduction because of the risk.

or (and I feel for the vendors) just walk.

NMO69 Tue 22-Jan-13 22:25:43

Again - thanks for all your advice.
SPECIALSUBJECT - particular thanks as this is really helpful.
NOCAKE - the Environment Agency confirm the property is in Flood Zone 2 on the Flood Map. We've examined the map and the house is inside the flood zone.
TOWBUILTONAHILL - Alas, it is not as simple as making a decision to 'walk away' as my husband and I disagree on this one! He thinks the risk is small enough so as not to be an issue. I disagree. Its an ongoing heated discussion. In the meantime the survey is going ahead and we will check if the property has been tanked. We have also been advised today that we might want to get a specialist flood risk surveyor involved who will give us the risk for the specific property.
I'm really grateful for everyone who has taken the trouble to input - its made me realise I'm not just being neurotic.
I will keep you informed!

MoreBeta Tue 22-Jan-13 22:34:27

Sadly flooding on flood plains is becoming more prevalent. It is because of urbans development meaning quicker run off or rain water. I really wouldn't do it. Insurers are pulling out of providing cover and drying a house out that has flooded takes 6 months.

I used to live near York which flood often and now live on the very edge of a flood plain but on a small hill. The flood leaves a stinking brown mud full of rotting vegetable matter and sewage. Imagine that in your house.

Badvoc Wed 23-Jan-13 07:59:38

My sis and her husband bought a new build house on a flood plain in 2007.
They have had to have their back lawn re laid 4 times now, it's like a quagmire and last week water came up through their study floor. Will cost ££££ to sort out.
Their house cost £340k and there are others exactly the same for sale that have been on the market for months and months for £240k that haven't sold.
Please do consider very carefully.
Good luck x

FogClearing Wed 23-Jan-13 08:12:50

How do you know before survey its a flood risk?

OneHundredSecondsofSolitude Wed 23-Jan-13 08:27:38

Don't build your house on the sandy land
Don't build it to near the shore
Well it might look kind of nice
But you'll have to build it twice
Yes you'll have to build your house once more

MoreBeta Wed 23-Jan-13 12:12:33

FogClearing - go on the environment agency website here and put in your post code at the top left box.

Also if you go and download the Land Registry title record for a house here you can order a copy of the flood risk indicator. It costs a little to do it but if you are serious about buying a particular house it is worth doing and only takes a few minutes.

alexrider Wed 23-Jan-13 12:30:51

I live on a flood plain, and I'm regularly flooded in winter. I live in fear from November to March. In the last 10 years I've had water in my house three times. This year, we had to move out the week before Christmas because the flood waters started to rise, they literally stopped at the front door before receding but the feeling you have when you see water coming towards your house makes you feel sick. This time of year I'm constantly checking river levels and weather forecasts, it's an obsession.

The first time we were flooded we had to be rescued by boat at 3.00 am, DC2 was only three years old, he's eight now and as soon as it starts raining in winter he starts to panic about flooding.

I have tiled floors downstairs, from the end of October I have breeze blocks outside my back door so that I can move them into the house to lift furniture quickly and I can make my downstairs flood ready in less than an hour, but it's a horrible feeling and I always say the next house I buy will be on top of a hill.

My only consolation is it's beautiful here in the summer and this house only cost £20,000 (10 years ago) so I live with you get what you pay for.

I would never buy in a flood zone again.

TalkinPeace2 Wed 23-Jan-13 12:45:23

According to the Environment agency website my flood risk is diddly squat. How it should be.

LegodOut Wed 23-Jan-13 13:21:05

I have a friend who lives in a flood zone, and his recent facebook status made it clear why I would never buy a house at risk from flooding

"I hate the knot that appears in my stomach when I see the forecast is for rain".

Those who have such a house already have no choice but do you really want to live with that, when you have the chance to pull out now?

Tell your husband - 'the day you buy is the day you sell' - anything that worries you when you come to purchase a property will worry others, And the overwhelming response from people here is that we wouldn't touch that house with a bargepole. And things are only going one way, so even more people will be aware of the risks in the future, so the money you will lose on the house due to this blight will increase year on year. Getting a few grand off now will not insulate you against the future losses in value.

Don't touch it. We sold our house last year, it was marked on the EA map as being in a low risk area and we never had trouble with insurance. It put two possible buyers off, but luckily we found someone who was prepared to take the risk. It has never flooded, not even in 2007 when we had that extreme weather, however with the new problems on insuring I think it would be a nightmare now.

The insurers look no further than the map and no matter how much protesting you do will take no notice of anything else. I notice that the EA has now revised the map of our previous area and increased the risk - yet there has been no flooding....... I have no idea on what evidence they have based their new map, probably some computer programme, but it's what the insurers see so it will make a difference.

We are looking to buy and wouldn't touch anything on the EA flood map with a bargepole, even if it were perfect in every other way.

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