An elevation certificate for flood insurance is a document that ensures your home is in compliance with FEMA community floodplain building regulations, helps gauge your home’s flood risk, and can provide information on ways to reduce flooding.
Previously, elevation certificates were required under certain circumstances to get flood insurance coverage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Under FEMA’s new Risk Rating 2.0 method of calculating NFIP flood insurance rates, elevation certificates are no longer required to purchase coverage.
However, getting an elevation certificate could potentially result in cheaper flood insurance premiums.
What is an elevation certificate?
An elevation certificate (EC) is a six-page document that provides information about your home’s susceptibility to flood damage, including your property’s:
Lowest floor elevation as compared to base flood elevation (BFE)
Building characteristics and makeup
Do I need an elevation certificate to buy NFIP flood insurance?
No, elevation certificates are no longer required to buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program.
In the past, elevation certificates were used to show the difference in elevation between your home’s lowest floor and the ground level to determine rates based on your home’s risk of flooding. Now instead of these certificates, FEMA uses its own tools to determine the first-floor height of homes and other properties when calculating NFIP rates.
Learn more >> Flood insurance requirements
Do I need an elevation certificate to purchase private flood insurance?
No, an elevation certificate isn’t required to get private flood insurance. However, some insurance companies offer discounts if you have an elevation certificate that proves your home is above the base flood elevation.
Learn more >> Best flood insurance companies of 2023
Why you should consider getting an elevation certificate
It may still be a good idea to request an elevation certificate yourself. As a homeowner, you might want to get an elevation certificate and then submit it to your agent at the time of your policy renewal for two reasons:
Cheaper rates: Elevation certificates can ensure a home in a high-risk area is compliant with floodplain management building requirements, which affects your eligibility for Community Rating System discounts. You can also use an EC to prove your home’s lowest floor is several feet above your community’s base flood elevation (BFE), which can lead to cheaper rates.
Letter of Map Amendment (LOMA) requests: If you have a federally backed loan, your lender will require you to get flood insurance if you live in a high-risk flood zone. If you don’t believe your home is in a high-risk flood zone, you can request a LOMA and use an elevation certificate to back up your claim. If your claim is legitimate and your request is accepted, your lender is legally prohibited from requiring flood insurance.
How to get an elevation certificate for free
If this is your first time looking into an elevation certificate, make sure there isn’t already one on file for your home that you can obtain for free. Here are a few people or places you should check with before paying for a new elevation certificate:
Your local floodplain manager: You can find your state's floodplain manager by visiting the Association of State Floodplain Managers website.
The seller: The previous owners of the house you purchased might have already had an elevation certificate completed.
The developer or builder: If you live in a high-risk flood zone, the builder of your home might have been required to purchase an elevation certificate when the home was built.
Your property deed: You might be able to find an existing elevation certificate included in your property deed.
If there is no prior elevation certificate for the home, you’ll need to hire a state-licensed surveyor, engineer, or certified architect who is authorized to certify elevation information.
To find a professional surveyor, FEMA recommends doing the following:
Check with your state professional association for land surveyors: You can find your state's surveyor association by visiting the National Society of Professional Surveyors website.
Ask your state NFIP coordinator: You can find your state's NFIP coordinator by visiting your state government's website.
Talk to your local building permit office: You can find your local building permit office by visiting your local government's website.
How much does an elevation certificate cost?
An elevation certificate costs around $600 on average, according to MassiveCert, a company that specializes in flood zone analysis and elevation certificates.  But costs will vary depending on your home’s occupancy type, structure type, location, and the complexity of the job.
How long does it take to get a flood elevation certificate?
How long it takes to get a flood elevation certificate varies depending on the bandwidth of the state-licensed surveyor, engineer, or certified architect who you hire to complete the job. Your state might also have laws regarding how long the surveyor has to submit a copy of each elevation certificate it completes. For example, in Florida, surveyors and mappers have 30 days to submit the elevation certificate to the Florida Division of Emergency Management after it's been completed.
How to get cheaper flood insurance with an elevation certificate
Your flood insurance costs depend on a variety of factors, namely your home’s flood risk. If you take actions to flood-proof your home, like if you retrofit it above your community’s base flood elevation (BFE), you should submit an elevation certificate to your agent to prove it.
Let’s look at an example.
Say you live in a high-risk flood zone and you recently retrofitted your home — which could involve raising it with jacks or filling in your basement — so that it’s not only above the BFE, but it clears it by about five feet. Since your home’s elevation certificate reflects the home’s characteristics prior to it being retrofitted, you’re probably paying more than you should for flood insurance.
According to FEMA, a home elevated just one foot above the BFE can lower flood insurance premiums by as much as 30%.  Updating your elevation certificate after a retrofit can save you tens of thousands of dollars down the road.