Changing Flood Zones: How It Impacts YOU

Posted on ethea Lai, R(S).
I attended a meeting in Kona on July 10, 2017, by the County and FEMA, and wanted to share with the community, the very important information I learned.

51586283 - an underwater view in the flooding interior. 3d concept

The process of getting your house ready to sell can feel long and arduous, even without having to worry about things like what flood zone your house is in.  I have been assisting a client in this process, and we have spent a lot of time picking out new carpets and deciding what color paint will be most appealing.  While he started on the remodel process to bring the home up to date, I started pulling up all the background information on his home that most people don’t even know about or think about.  These include the Wastewater Plan, Flood Zone Determination, Preliminary Title Report, as well as checking all permits with the County to ensure that everything looks legal and there are no unpleasant surprises lurking in the background.

This client’s home is located on the dry side of Waimea, just off Kawaihae Road.  When I pulled up his flood zone information it became evident that his home was going to be subject to a change from the lowest risk zone, X, to the highest risk zone, A.  Some careful research revealed that the entire area around his home in Waimea was changing from X to A.  I discussed this with my client, but neither of us were entirely sure what this meant for the upcoming sale of his home.  I knew that flood insurance could be very costly, so I wanted to learn more.


Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 10.12.11 AMI attended the meeting for realtors in Kona about the changes to our Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM).  According to the FEMA representative, these changes are effective September 29, 2017.  The County adopted these new maps so they can be eligible for federal disaster aid in the event of a federally declared natural disaster.  So, you can see why the County needed to adopt them!  While at the meeting, I learned some VERY important news for many current property owners…and even for future buyers!

There are many areas that were previously in low-risk zones that are going to change to high risk, these include many areas near streams and on the coast.  The understanding is if you live in a zone that is changing from low risk to high risk you will be required to get flood insurance if you have a federally backed mortgage.  Please note that it was brought up at the meeting that the County is not notifying individual property owners of these changes in flood zones.  We were informed that if you do not adopt and put into place flood insurance before the maps are adopted and your zone has changed to high risk, you will be required to purchase flood insurance and your premium will be at full price.  It can cost you thousands of dollars!!!  Property owners are going to be notified by their lenders after September 29, 2017, and could get some very unpleasant news.  However, they said if you purchase flood insurance before the maps go into effect, you are grandfathered in and eligible for lower rates through government subsidized programs that were developed to reduce the hardship on property owners.


19698951 - flood warning concept

There are some more important points to know.  If you maintain continuous flood insurance coverage and secure the lower rate flood insurance before the new maps are adopted on September 29, 2017, the lower cost flood insurance can be transferred with the sale of your property, as it runs with the property, not with the individual homeowner!

My client doesn’t currently have a mortgage, he is lucky enough to own his home outright.  However, even though he doesn’t have a mortgage, if he gets flood insurance before the maps go into effect, his property will be grandfathered into the lower rates and he will pass that benefit on to the future buyer, therefore passing on the significant savings.  Do you think this will make his house easier to sell and that it will allow him to fetch a higher price?  You bet it will!

If you live near a stream or by the coast, I highly recommend that you check out the new very cool online mapping tool:

If you are in a zone that is changing, you need to call your insurance agent TODAY to discuss flood insurance.  This could serve to protect you and your home-investment from these FIRM changes.   Conversely, if you are thinking of buying near a stream or on the coast, it is VERY important you find out what flood zone the property is currently in and what flood zone it is going to be in.  Non-subsidized flood insurance can be very expensive.

If you have any questions, you are always welcome to contact me.  I am always ready to help people learn more real estate!, 808-989-7861.


See what the new maps will be by going to:

You can only purchase flood insurance through an insurance agent; you cannot buy it directly from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If your insurance agent does not sell flood insurance, you can contact the NFIP Referral Call Center at (888) 379-9531 to request an agent referral.

County of Hawaii Floodplain Manager
Bryce Harada
(808) 961-8327

The information provided in this article was obtained during an informational meeting on July 10, 2017 by the County of Hawaii called FEMA Flood Maps Changes.  Readers are encouraged to verify all information they deem important.  This is a government run program, so dates and information may be subject to change.

About the Author

Alethea Lai ,


I moved to the Big Island in 1996 to attend the University of Hawai`i at Hilo. 'Island life' became my life, and I never left. The unique lifestyle that the Big Island offers continues to feed my heart and soul like no other place I have found. After graduating with a Masters degree in Geography from the University of Hawai`i at Manoa, I decided to work in places where I felt like I could make a difference- first at the Kahilu Theatre in Waimea as their Development Director and then as the Executive Director of Mala`ai, a school garden dedicated to helping children and the community embrace life long learning and healthy choices. I am truly dedicated to helping my community become a better place to live, work, and play! I then decided to simultaneously follow another of my career dreams, real estate! I am taking my skills in relationship building and organization to the next level, and I am happy to say I have found quick success. I won 'Rookie of the Year' during my first year at MacArthur Sotheby's International Realty, and I have been flying ever since! With my extensive knowledge of the Big Island's diverse climates and cultures, with my meticulous attention to detail and problem solving skills, you will benefit from my services, from initial meeting to final closing. I can and will help you find your dream lifestyle on the Big Island.

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