2021 Update

Selling a flood damaged home: To repair or not repair?

Joe Bailey

Flooding happens every year in the UK. It ruins home, lives, increases insurance premiums and makes homes unsaleable. It doesn't have to.

Flood DamageFlood Damage

Flooding happens every year now in the UK.

Flood damage can be catastrophic and is expensive to repair even if the damage is relatively minimal. To a homeowner in this position, it can seem impossible to sell.

That said, it doesn’t have to be.

We’ve created this guide that may ease the burden.

Let’s get started ...

Areas in the UK with the highest chance of flooding

Flooding, of course, can’t be completely predictable, but there are some areas in the UK that have a definite long-term risk of flooding. The UK Government has identified these areas in an attempt to allow residents a kind of ‘early warning system’ that will help them prepare for the worst.

The following areas are in the long-term risk category:

  • Vale of Clwyd. This is in North-East Wales, and has been repeatedly flooded
  • Folkestone and Hythe
  • Wiltshire, specifically i Ludgershall
  • York
  • The Lake District
  • Rochester and Gillingham in Kent
  • Glastonbury, and Highbridge
  • Carlisle
  • Lancaster

There are other areas and regions affected. There is an increased risk of flooding in areas that are close to the coast. The east coast is most at risk however.

Assessing the flood risk for your area

Knowing how vulnerable your home is to flooding can be very useful. And if you’re approaching an insurer for cover, it’s essential. You can, in the first instance, check the same map councils use for planning, it’s available here, and just asks for a postcode so that it can provide you with information as regards your flood risk.

If it is surface water flooding that is causing you anxiety, there is also a website that can give you advice and support on the matter.

Selling an 'at risk' home

According to a report by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, over 5 millions homes in the UK are currently at risk of flooding. That’s almost 20% of the whole residential property market. And with house prices in flood risk areas generally lower than those that are not at risk it makes selling a flood risk home quite difficult.

While this is to be expected due to the flood potential, it doesn’t mean that houses in risk areas aren’t sold, or that there aren’t buyers for them. However, on top of the cost of the house, buyers can expect to have higher insurance premiums. And as stated earlier, there is also the possibility of there being no insurance offer.

So it’s not the most attractive package available to a house buyer. However, these properties are sold, and there are ways to increase the chances of them being sold.

How to treat a flood damaged home

If a flood is serious enough for you to have to leave your home, then that is what you must do.

On your return, it’s important that you are clear about safety issues. Seek advice from agencies involved in the clear up, for example, on whether or not it's safe to go back in the building.

This is an absolute priority, and you should not do anything else until you are clear the property is safe to be in.

In addition to this, and if you have less serious damage but have still taken in water, there are steps you should take.

  1. Contact the utility companies - If you think there may have been damage to electricity supplies or water supplies.
  2. Turn off your utilities - You don't want to be at risk of danger due to water seeping into the property as time goes on. The supplies for all utilities will all have to be made safe.
  3. Take photos of the property - It’s important that high quality images are taken. These will be given to your insurer and will help with any claim you intend to make. Ensure that the photos are digital so they can be shared easily.
  4. Take these pictures first, because anything that you remove from the building could affect your claim by not being there.

Water is dangerous, especially after flooding.

You cannot be completely certain that the water that has entered your property is safe. It may have been contaminated, depending on where it has come from. This is an extremely important area of treating the home, so make sure.

Once your claim has been accepted, you can get on with the job of dealing with the areas of flood damage that you can do something about. At all stages, you must keep in contact with your insurer to make sure your actions don't affect coverage.

It is a good idea to:

  • Remove wet contents and soft furnishings - Such as bedding and carpeting. If you act quickly here, and as long as the insurer is happy for you to do so, you may be able to salvage these items.
  • Get rid of water damaged furniture - Items of furniture that have been badly affected by water are difficult to dry out fully. You may want to consider getting rid of them.
  • Secure the property - This will prevent further damage. It may mean boarding up any broken windows as well as covering untouched furniture with materials to keep them dry.

At all these stages, take a photographic record of the impact of the flood damage. It is vitally important that insurers are able to see what has happened to the home.

Insurance for flooded homes

If you’ve ever called an insurance company to set up a home insurance quote and policy, you’ll know that one of the very first questions they will ask you is …

Has your area ever been flooded?”.

e you are wearing water-safe clothing (preferably waist high) and that you don't expose yourself to water.

This shows just how important flooding is.

You may find that, if your house is flooded, the insurers will move quickly to get things back to normal. However, some insurance companies will not be interested, and that’s worth bearing in mind if you live in an area prone to the problem.

Insurance companies should continue covering existing customers.

This is part of an agreement that the companies made with the government. While this sounds great on paper, some insurance companies don't play fair. They may well offer flood insurance cover to existing customers, but at the same time they may decide to hike up insurance premiums.

We know, you’re asking, is that fair!?

Well, unfortunately, they’re not breaking the law, because a customer can always go somewhere else.

If insurers don't push premiums up with regard to flooding, they’ll often charge significantly larger excess amounts as part of your cover. This means that they can quite easily raise the excess to an unaffordable amount for any flood claims.

And if someone wants to move to a new insurer and they have had flooding before or they’re currently experiencing flooding, it’s likely that the new insurer will simply refuse cover. And if someone has moved into a flood area, they can probably expect there to be no insurance offer.

In 2016 though, Flood Re was created. This is an insurer that has been specially set up to help those most vulnerable to flooding. They have an agreement with major insurers, a list of which can be found here, and those insurers simply pass on part of the increased premium cost to Flood Re.

To repair, or to move?

It goes without saying repairing flood damage doesn’t come cheap. Statistics collected by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) states that the average expected pay out for each domestic flood claim is £51,000.

This is obviously a question that will come up for the homeowner.

If the damage is extensive, it probably won’t matter that the insurance company is going to cover it. Having a home damaged is very distressing, and a waterlogged property is very difficult to fix. It will take some time.

If the repairs and the clean-up are bearable, then you should stay.

With low impact levels for damage, you can usually pull things back together and carry on with your life. However, if the damage is extensive and the planned work to rectify that damage is stretching into the weeks ahead, it may be worth thinking about selling up.

Unfortunately it’s not that easy ...

Buyers aren’t going to be overjoyed about purchasing a home on a floodplain, which can make a traditional estate agency sale difficult (though not impossible).

A quicker option would be to look into a company such as ourselves. We can buy any house - even those with flood damage, or that are prone to flooding.

We can take properties off people’s hands quickly, which is why it is attractive to people who have damaged properties. The turnaround can be within 2-3 weeks. If you are going down this route though, be prepared for a lower offer price.

Moving Forward

Having  a house to sell that is susceptible to flooding is of course not ideal, but by documenting everything and working closely with your insurer, you should be able to get the building sold.

Just remember ...

It will sell, you just have to be prepared for either a longer wait, or a lower price, than you first expected.

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