• Property lawyers carry out one in four flood risk searches in either October or November
• Autumnal wet weather puts the risk of flooding at the top of buyers minds
• But flood searches tumble in January
• Flood damage costs estimated at £1bn for 2012
The seasonality of conveyancing property searches undertaken by property lawyers may leave homebuyers heartbroken if unexpected risks cause damage to their property in future, according to SearchFlow, the property search firm.
In research into flood risk searches undertaken over the last three years, SearchFlow found that nearly a quarter of annual flood searches (23%) take place in October and November, when wet autumnal weather reminds homebuyers and their conveyancers of the importance of understanding flood risk. The number of flood searches undertaken by homebuyers drops to its lowest in January when just 6% of the annual number of searches are undertaken.
2012 saw the wettest April to June on record with further wet weather in July, late September and October. This caused the proportion of flood searches undertaken in November this year to spike at 14.4% of the annual total. In contrast, the month with the lowest proportion of flood searches, just 7.3%, was September when the fine and warm first half of the month suggested the UK might enjoy an Indian summer. However, many homeowners who bought in September and didn’t undertake a flood search may be regretting the decision now.
Richard Hinton, business development director of SearchFlow said: “If a property is at risk of flood during a wet year, the risk is the same whether you buy in June or November. But many homebuyers and property lawyers are only carrying out flood risk searches when the autumn rain begins to set in. Unfortunately, this attitude leaves a great many homebuyers at risk of heartbreak further down the line. Heartbreak which could have been avoided if seasonality didn’t cloud buyer’s judgement of what threats their property might face.“
The number of properties susceptible to flooding is significant. The Environment Agency estimates that 5.2m homes in the UK are at risk. Of these properties, the majority (2.8m) are at risk of surface water flooding while 1.4m are at risk of river or coastal flooding. 1m homes are at risk of both forms of flood. And once floods hit, the damage and cost can be vast. In 2012 alone the cost of flood damage is estimated to be around £1bn – the costliest flood year since 2007.
Richard Hinton said: “The emotional cost of flooding is one thing but the financial cost accentuates the misery. And homeowners who suffer events such as flooding unexpectedly may not have taken out the relevant insurance and could face carrying the burden of repair costs themselves. The best way to avoid situations like this is to fully understand the risks a property faces – whatever time of year it may be.”