One summer rainy season later, 60-year-old Gaker started to suspect that last part wasn't true. Floodwaters regularly puddled on her street, in her neighbor's yards and came all the way up to her door. Neighbors joked she bought the flood house.
Then in 2017, six weeks after Hurricane Irma tore through
After she started fixing up the home, she got a letter from the insurance company with startling news: this was her home's fourth reported flood with more than
She had few choices -- elevate the home for nearly the same price as she bought it for, sell it for what the land was worth or tear it down and build something else.
"I never would have bought this house if I knew it had the flood history it had. I probably wouldn't have bought it if I knew it had one flood," she said. "If I had known what was going to happen no way on earth I would have gone near this house."
In other states, homeowners like Gaker do have access to that kind of detailed information about flooding. But not
As of last month,
The new law nearly doubles the at-risk area homeowners must disclose to buyers in
The closest thing Floridians have to flood disclosure is a voluntary form issued by the
So why, in
"You get enough repeated disasters and misery that the public is aware of the misery enough to overcome the political class making the determination," he said. "It's not rocket science. We know the issue. We know what we need to do. It's a matter of political will."
Her organization found that 74 percent of Americans support a national requirement for sellers to tell buyers if the home has flooded repeatedly. Pew is lobbying for the federal government to require flood disclosure as part of the next update to the National Flood Insurance Program.
For now though, homeowners have few options to find out the flood risk of a potential property. Other than knocking on doors in the neighborhood, there's a slew of online services (some free, some paid) that rate the vulnerability of a particular piece of property.
Most, however, rely only on
One such tool is MyFloodRisk.org, a free service run by one of the largest flood insurance companies in the nation,
"Our purpose is to give you a heads up that your flood zone is a horrible indication of your flood risk," he said.
When homeowners don't know the risks of a property, they could end up in a situation like Gaker's, paying too much for a risky piece of property.
Without consumer protections like flood disclosure, experts say the market for homes doesn't reflect the reality, that floodprone homes are worth less money and are riskier investments.
"It helps prop up -- artificially -- the value of properties where if people were more aware of that risk of that property, that property would probably be worthless," Ruppert said.
If that continues, it could make it difficult to begin the transition of moving more people inland as climate change drives more flooding to low-lying coastal areas.
"The hope is that people choose, at the end of the day, to ultimately live in higher ground in areas that are less risky so that we don't continue to see sea level rise, high tides, floods, hurricanes, coastal surge impacting so many lives and also costing so much because of all the valuable assets in nature's way," Lightbody said.
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