What is BFE and How Do I Read An Elevation Certificate?

***Flood Insurance Increases Come April- read more here.***

According to FEMA.org,” Base Flood Elevation, or BFE, is the computed elevation to which floodwater is anticipated to rise during the base flood. BFEs are shown on Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and on the flood profiles. The BFE is the regulatory requirement for the elevation or floodproofing of structures. The relationship between the BFE and a structure’s elevation determines the flood insurance premium.” To see what zone you were in and what your proposed zone is, click here.

Elevation Certificates have become the “make or break” for many when looking at a house to buy, especially if the Buyers plan on obtaining a mortgage (they require you to have flood insurance on your property). Those of you looking to sell your home, find your Elevation Certificate, or follow along with the blank copy below. This is just as important for you to properly list your home and set expectations for buyers.

The first question out of  buyers’ mouths 99% of the time is: “What is the elevation of this home?” as well it should be.

Here are the important sections you need to be looking at: (click here for a blank elevation certificate to follow along with).

A8/A9 states the square footage of the footprint of your home as well as the square footage of your flood openings. The rule of thumb is  1 square inch of flood opening to 1 square foot of crawlspace, but it depends on what kind of flood vents you have, ask your flood insurer.

B8/B9 is your current flood zone and Base Flood Height (not taking into account what is in the works).

B11 tells you what datum they are working off of; 1988  is the most recent, if it is the 1929 data, add approx 1.2 to 1.3 ft to below numbers. The 1929 datum were pre-firm numbers. The “imaginary” line that they measured from in 1929 is lower than the “line” they use now, so a home’s elevation differs when using these different benchmarks. (A home’s elevation can differ between surveyors as well. Different companies use different monuments and benchmarks, which through the geometry used to survey, can make 1 degree off turn into a few inches.)

Section CThis section reiterates the year of data this is being worked from. b)  is the most important number to look at, that is the number your flood insurance is based on the majority of the time, unless you are in a V Zone, that will be based on c).

The above is just a guide, it is by no means the be all end all of Elevation Certificates, but it should help you make the basic decisions about your home or moving forward with an offer on a home. If you would like to see what zone a home is in, enter the address here. Be sure to check back every month or so because we have been seeing these elevation heights change over the past year.

For more on this topic check out “Understanding Vertical Datums“.

***This is only general information, it is by no means definitive, please consult a zoning officer/flood insurer/mortgage rep/etc. I am by no means an expert in any of these aspects***