Here’s an example of the new flood zone recalculations.

68 Willowmere Circle

68 Willowmere Circle

Just because its around the corner from my own house and. like my own residence, will see a significant increase in its base flood elevation, I thought I’d pick 68 Willowmere Circle in Riverside, on the market at $2.995 million, and look at the complexities coming our way.

The house was built in 1957 and renovated in 2007. It’s not direct waterfront, it’s across the street on a knoll and I’d guess that, like my own house, it’s never flooded, not one drop, since it was built. Which is irrelevant. What does matter is that according to the town table listing base flood elevations (BFE), the land at 68 Willowmere had a BFE of 11′ in 2010 and as of July, will now have a BFE of 15. In other words, whatever could have been built here three years ago at one height will now have to be four feet higher. Was the house in compliance – above the 11′ BFE in 2010? Probably not, given its 1957 building date. If it wasn’t, then improvements/repairs will be limited to 50% of the building’s value – more than that and everything, must be raised to 15′. The town appraises the structure here at $300,000, so allowable improvement would be limited to $150,000, including the costs of that 2007 renovation. My guess is that this house has used up its allowance already.

Even if it was in compliance back in 2010 there’s not much relief offered, because the full allowable improvement allowance is still just half the buildings’ current value, and even the full $150,000 won’t go far – not in Greenwich.

Please understand that I am not singling out this particular house as one uniquely affected by the new flood rules. To the contrary, I picked it at random because so many houses near the water are now similarly afflicted. And $3 million for a half-acre building lot in Willowmere Circle may be a fine price, or buyers may fall in love with this newly renovated home exactly the way it is and be content. The point of the exercise is to illustrate the information buyers now need to compare and evaluate houses: what is its elevation? What flood zone is it in? How much has been spent on improvements since 1986? Was the house in compliance with 2010 flood zone rules? How many coins in my pocket?

Etc.  Things just got tougher.

29 Comments

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29 responses to “Here’s an example of the new flood zone recalculations.

  1. Cos Cobber

    Yes, this is a good illustration.

    Again, I find this particularly tragic for the house that i) has never been flooded, ii) was built to the current (about to be revised) BSE and iii) now, after the waive of a wand, is about to be sawed off at the knees by these overprotective new maps.

    Really the maps havent changed, its just FEMA has gotten much more conservative with the BSE within the zones.

    • Looking in OG/Riverside

      68 had a big dumpster in the driveway two days after Sandy – the basement and garage flooded but I think 1st floor was spared. Still, they were definitely cleaning up quite a bit. I know because we went around to see which homes on our top 5 to buy had remained dry. After 6 weeks residing next to CLP workers at the hyatt due to fllooding in our rental our priorities changed pretty quickly.

  2. Anonymous

    Is the 50% renovation rule based on assessed value in 1986?

  3. xyzzy

    Um did your site get hacked or have you always been Snoutfair Spermologer to the world? (About me section)

  4. Anonymous

    Chris,

    This is a VE zone so the first floor is measured at the bottom of the rafters as opposed to the actual first floor unlike the AE zone which is the actual first floor. So this property would need the first floor to be raised 7 feet…1 foot above the new flood elevation plus rafters at about 1 ft.

    I also believe that pylons are required since it’s in a VE zone. Mike Finklebeiner can probably opine if I missed something.

    • I think you mean floor joists, don’t you? My limited knowledge of building tells me that the rafters hold the roof up, the joists support the floor (and the entire house, in fact). But “limited knowledge” is the operative term here.

  5. Bad News Is Good News

    Our housing is so ancient. No real changes. A bunch of boxes. Maybe architects and designers can come up with something more elegant and affordable for water zones. I like the lily pod idea. An eggs that floats in high water. At least you don’t lose anything.

  6. Anonymous

    Yes…my bad…floor joists.

    Can you imagine what this house would look like sitting 7 feet off the ground?

  7. Fred

    Got to say I’m VERY happy to not own any property in any of these zones.

    As you have pointed out, current owners have just been gut shot and left to die, (not even the common courtesy of just being walked away from, they had to be shot first) and even if the laws and regulations are modified you can imagine it’ll be years before all that works it’s way through the courts.

    Wouldn’t you LOVE to be an owner who bought a house last year that was reno’d in 1986? They have no idea what was spent, have no way of finding out and will presumably be … … if they try to make any changes, like a new roof to prevent immediate problems.

    Normally, I’m a big schadenfreude guy, but I really just feel sorry for them.

    • Mickster

      I believe that looking up the $value of the permits issued at Town Hall will tell what was spent

    • Anon

      That would be my family. This situation is devasting to say the least. Our first home that we put all of our savings into and bought less than 2 years ago will cripple us financially. We honestly don’t know what to do. This hurts us so much more than Sandy ever did.

  8. Pete

    The allowable improvement limitation of $150,000 based on the current building assessment us accurate. However, an appraiser can be hired to do a cost estimate. With a gross living area of 3,222 square feet, the cost estimate would be substantially higher than $300,000.
    Its interesting to note that the “Land Influence Factor” ascribed to the property by the Assessor is +4% for a pond. When is the Assessor going to apply negative influence factors for Flood Zones?

    • That’s correct, Pete, I was trying to simplify. And yes, I do agree that the next assessment should return to the practice of 60 years ago, when waterfront (or in this case, flood zone) areas diminished a property’s value.

  9. Interested Reader

    Not a good example. That house does flood — always has. Water into the kitchen (first floor).

    • Ha! Well, I did say I picked it at random, and the point was, as noted, to illustrate the questions buyers now face before purchasing. In this case, sounds like a buyer has to figure out what the land value is and skip the rest.

  10. dp

    what do you guesstimate the cost of raising a house like this?

    • I think the more relevant question would be how much to raze ($15-$20,000, probably). You could jack this up 10 feet and you’d still have a 1957 house, only one with a ton more money into it – notice I didn’t give you an estimate of how much that “ton” might weigh – that’s because I have no idea, but what, $100,000? More?

  11. Anonymous

    15,000 to bring it down another 25,000 – 35,000 in engineering fee’s to meet new drainage requirements if they will even work with the new elevation requirements, not to mention the costs of designing a house that will be 6′ above the current elevations..but wait Grade Plane? Etc..etc..etc the math and regulation gets scary

  12. anonn

    Wow. There sure are a lot of people proclaiming to know about a house they don’t own and most likely have never seen the inside of. Not to mention, it’s not even on the market.

  13. Looking in OG/Riverside

    Chris – you note that someone might be happy with the renovated house as is – but the “renovation” done stopped before getting to the 80’s kitchen and bathrooms. Only two bathrooms upstairs to service 5 bedrooms so this house still needs quite a bit to bring it into the 3M range IMO. Sadly a tear down and I wonder what a house on stilts would look like in that beautiful neighborhood.

  14. Looking in OG/Riverside

    I don’t think this house is on the market anymore. Pulled after Sandy

  15. GreenITCH

    so if we are looking at houses on stilts like many beach communities .. have any adjustments been made for how high one can build .. I mean suppose I live over in OG on Mortimer or Heusted and would like water views….can I buy a teardown and build a nice ” Beach house ” on 14ft pylons for views of the sound ?

    • There was some vague discussion of his at the P&Z hearing, but it didn’t sound promising – best I could tell, they might consider not counting height until the actual ground floor but then Diane Fox began mentioning “hardship justifying a variance” which sounds to me like they plan on adding another layer to the process of building. Another $20 grand in professional fees, added to the engineering, surveying, legal fees and expenses. I rather think that in the P&Z’s ideal world, no one will build within a half-mile of the water and if they can’t accomplish that, they’ll at least restrict those able to build to a pool of multimillionaires.

      • AJ

        I think you’re definitely going to need an engineer. It’s not going to be quite as simple as jacking it up, adding a couple of courses of cement blocks and setting it down again. If you have a basement it will have to be filled; if you have a slab it will have to be demolished. And it won’t be as simple as filling a cardboard tube with cement like they do with decks — it will have to be steel reinforced concrete, engineered to meet the specific needs of the exact building. Wood might be possible but even so you’ll need an engineer, not just some guy who does renovations.

  16. Anonymous

    i foresee a hiring spree of midget day laborers.