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Pinellas County leading the way in warning potential home buyers of flood risks

Posted at 5:00 PM, Oct 25, 2019

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — During a big storm or heavy rain fall flooding is widespread in the Tampa Bay area.

“It’s devastating, just devastating,” said Jonathan Hyde, who saw the water rise in 2016 at Mariners Cove in Largo.

"I just got out of the hospital, the whole area was flooded real real bad and it was at least up to my chest high and I couldn’t walk at all so they had to come in with a boat and boat me and my wife out,” he said of the terrifying experience.

That's why Lisa Foster, the Pinellas County Floodplain Administrator is taking charge to warn potential home buyers or renters of flood risks so they can weigh their options.

"We are a peninsula on a peninsula in West Central Florida which is a tropical climate,” she said. "We have a lot of folks moving here from out of state and a lot of them are just not familiar with flooding at all.”

Think of it as a Carfax for your home. The program is easy - plug in the address of the home you want to buy or rent and it will calculate the risk of storm surge, heavy rain and wetland flooding.

Plus, it gives tells you if flood insurance is required or recommended.

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Foster's been actively training real estate agents on reading the maps. Right now it’s only voluntary, but she says it helps them become more reputable and trustworthy. She's also handing out brochures to them so they can mark off the risks and hand it directly to the potential buyer or renter.

"This empowers them, now we’ve educated them and they understand what flood risk is and they understand how they can communicate that to their clients,” she said.

She believes if buyers get flood insurance coverage it could keep them from getting stuck in a money pit and reduce liability on the realtors end. Big cities across the country, like New York, are following Foster's lead but she hopes Congress can step in and make this a requirement across the board.

"The risk really needs to be better identified through the mapping process and mitigation needs to be funded a little bit better,” she said. "More accessible and easier to access for residents who want to elevate their home."

Foster says people who think this is a good idea should reach out to lawmakers and put it on their radar.