ROBIN GOULD

Jazmin Atkins
Flood risk - is it worth it?
31 March 2015


The clocks have gone forward and another winter is officially over. There have been some collective sighs of relief that the last winter has not been as wet as most this decade, especially 2010 and 2013 when many people were flooded out of their homes, sometimes for the second or third time.

It is an old saw in the property world that water views and/or frontage add a significant premium over houses which don’t have these. Is this still true? The answer is ‘possibly’.

Water in its many forms is still a tremendous pull for buyers, not just for the views a house might have over it but also for its amenity. For fishermen it is of course the ultimate to be able to live beside your own bit of water and for many of these the risk of flooding is worth taking, but most buyers are now very cautious, especially if a house has a history of flooding. And they would be right to be. A history of flooding or even the risk of it without it ever happening in the past can make a property difficult or impossible to insure and without insurance un-mortgageable. So, even if you are prepared to take the risk yourself your bank might not!

You don’t of course have to live beside water to be at risk – many houses have been built on flood plains and rising groundwater/springs can mean that you find several inches of water in your kitchen even if you are several miles from a watercourse.

But I digress – I am talking about waterside houses. As a buyer’s advisor who operates in a part of the world criss-crossed by beautiful rivers and streams I am frequently presented with the question ‘ I like this waterside house but am concerned about possible flood risk – what should I do’? The answer is firstly look at its history – has it flooded in the past and if so how often and when? Was it flood water from a watercourse or run-off/rising groundwater? If it was an isolated event has work been carried out to prevent it happening in the future or can work be done to minimise the risk? What has changed locally to make it happen?

Some people I know bought a mill in Wiltshire which had flooded several times in the previous ten years and as a result was languishing on the market. Research suggested this was because the mill leet – the water by-pass – had been allowed to silt up and was then filled in by a previous owner restricting the amount of volume or flood water the river could take at that point and giving it nowhere else to go. They took a punt, bought the house at a good price, spent the difference digging out the leet and, fingers crossed, five years later have not been flooded. They were lucky that they did not need to borrow to buy but even if they did, by using a specialist broker who could present a good case to a lender they had a good relationship with, may well have meant funding were possible providing a high loan to value was not required. Buildings insurance is usually, if you will forgive the pun, soluble as well although sometimes without flood cover, initially at least.

The answer is therefore take a balanced view and weigh risk against benefit. Pay a premium for that dream riverside house? – if its worth it to you, yes, but do the research first!

 

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