What is a property elevation certificate, and what are some of the most important things that you will need to know before requesting one? Continue reading to learn more!

Flooding is a major climatic issue in different parts of the world. It wreaks havoc with people’s lives and destroys property, sometimes swaying away huge buildings and large homes with its tide. 

Flooding can be especially devastating for the common population living in and near those areas as it can destroy their homes and other property. Apart from residential buildings, it can also take a huge toll on office buildings and other commercial buildings, causing costs for millions of dollars.

In this article, we will answer the question “What is a property elevation certificate?”, and we will take a look at some of the most important things that you will need to know about it.

1. What is a property elevation certificate?

A property elevation certificate, also known as flood elevation certificate or simply Elevation Certificate (EC), is an official document that determines whether a real estate property is susceptible to flooding based on its location, flood zone, characteristics, as well as the elevation of its lowest floor.

The elevation level defines the height of the lowest floor of the building from the base level at which floods are expected. 

If your house or business is in a high-risk area for flooding, the chances are that you will need to get a property Elevation certificate, especially if you are purchasing flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). You may also need an elevation certificate if you are making a real estate purchase.

Elevation surveying is typically conducted by a licensed land surveyor such as Tucker Engineering, who will prepare the property elevation certificate once the surveying has been completed. 

obtain a property elevation certificate
Source: FEMA

2. What is the purpose of the property elevation certificate?

The basic purpose of the flood elevation certificate is to figure out the insurance rate your property is worth, in regards to the factors mentioned in the certificate. Depending on the measures in the property elevation certificate, some properties are more at risk of being swayed by flooding than others. 

Once you get your property elevation certificate, you can apply for flood insurance for your property overseen by National Floods Insurance Program NFIP. 

The NFIP is handled by FEMA. Obtaining flood insurance for your property is essential as it is usually not covered under normal house insurance policies that you get. So, to get your insurance premium, you need to have an updated property elevation certificate. 

Getting a property elevation certificate is important as it can significantly lower your rates of insurance in keeping with the risk of flooding for your property. But insurance is not the only purpose of getting a property elevation certificate. 

You may also need to get this certificate to ensure the authorities that you are diligently following the rules, regulations, and ordinances of your local area. The certificate is also needed when there are changes made in the flood zones by FEMA in the location of your property. 

3. How does the certificate help in determining insurance premiums?

The measures in the property elevation certificate help determine the insurance premium you are eligible for in case of flooding. These measures and factors analyze the location of your property in relation to the flood area. 

The factors on the certificate examine and predict the chances of floodwater getting into your home or other property in case of a flood. 

One of the important factors in the property elevation certificate is the location of your property concerning the flood zones. Different areas have been divided into flood zones on the map according to the threat each location faces of being hit by floods. 

Then, the features and characteristics of your property are also very important such as the basement, building size, doors, rooms, and more.

The certificate also has the elevation level of your property, which is perhaps an essential factor here. The elevation level determines the level of the lowest floor of your real estate property. The lowest level of your property is compared with a base flood elevation or BFE. The base flood elevation is the water level or level of flooding expected in your specific flood zone in case of a serious flood. 

The elevation level of your home should be significantly above the BFE for your property to be considered safe from any risk. The higher your property is from BFE, the lower your insurance rate is as you face a reduced threat of flooding. 

You may not need to get a flood property elevation certificate if your property is situated in low-risk or medium-risk flood zones. 

An important factor to remember here is that you will need to update and get a new property elevation certificate if you make any changes or additions to your property, such as the construction of a basement or adding another room. 

This is because the base elevation level of your property changes when you make additions or subtractions from the building. You will also have to get a new certificate if you make any renovations. 

An updated property elevation certificate is also needed if you have not paid for or renewed your insurance policy for 90 to 180 days. Depending on your updated certificate, you may or may not receive the previous rate for your property insurance. 

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4. How can you get a property elevation certificate?

In order to obtain a flood elevation certificate, you will have to get professional help by a licensed land surveyor specialized in elevation certificates. Sometimes, you may be able to find one already existing for your property, but this can be risky and may not reflect the actual situation of the property.

For example, if the property elevation certificate is too old the information may be outdated, or it may no longer be relevant if renovations or further developments have been done to the property. 

For this reason, the best course of action would be to get in touch with a professional who will carefully analyze the most up-to-date situation, providing detailed information to the following elements we mentioned previously:

  • Location of the property
  • Flood risk of the property’s area
  • Elevation of the lowest portion of the structure
  • Elevation of the ground around the structure
  • Lowest elevation of machinery & equipment

5. How much does an elevation certificate cost?

Exactly how much a property elevation certificate costs will depend on a variety of factors, including the size of your property, the floors, the location, the flood zone, as well as other factors that insurance companies or land surveyors may consider relevant for the obtaining of the certificate. 

If you have a basement or a lower level of elevation, it could cost more, and so will being in a high-risk area. The cost will also vary depending on whether the property is residential or commercial. 

You will have to hire an expert such as a land surveyor specialized in elevation certificates in your area. You may be able to find one in your local association. It can take about two to three weeks to complete the inspection and fill in the certificate. 

6. Is it important to get an elevation certificate?

In some cases, if your property is in a low-risk or medium-risk flood zone, you may not be required to get a flood elevation certificate. However, you should still get one despite this exemption, as it can be beneficial down the road. 

The certificate provides important information regarding the house or the property, which could be needed for other tasks. Even if your property is not in a high-risk area, you should still get a certificate, as it can get you big discounts on insurance rates, and it can also provide you a peace of mind when it comes to living or working in your property.

If you are going with private insurers, you will not need a flood elevation certificate to get insurance, even in high-risk flood zones. However, some private insurance companies may offer discounts for those who have a certificate. 

So, depending on your situation, you may choose not to get one, but it could be useful in several ways if you have one. 

property elevation certificate

7. How to choose the right land surveyor for your needs

Getting a precise and detailed property elevation certificate is extremely important for determining your flood risks and insurance costs. However, not all land surveyors are made equal – factors such as lacking the necessary experience for this type of certificate, or not having the right technology, can take a toll on your final evaluation. 

For this reason, it is very important to choose the land surveyor that fits your needs the best. Here are a few tips:

Look for trust indicators

In today’s modern times, anyone can make a website and look like a legitimate business, but this is not always the case. Look for trust indicators such as proof of experience, positive reviews, high ratings, and most importantly, official licenses. For example, Tucker Engineering is licensed with the Alabama Board of Engineers and Land Surveyors.

Pay attention to professionalism

Only work with land surveyors who are professional at every step of their communication with you – from the first telephone call to the first meeting. If you’ve requested a quote and they are taking forever to get back to you, or not keeping the communication alive, don’t move forward.

Don’t sacrifice quality for costs

Getting a good deal is a priority for many people, but when it comes to things that involve risk for your life or your property – such as a property elevation certificate, don’t sacrifice quality just because of costs. Some flooding factors shouldn’t be underestimated.


With better technological systems, it has been easier and more accurate to predict changes in weather. Experts can now gauge emergencies with high precision and implement control strategies. But risks of natural disasters like floods still lurk at the corner. 

This makes it an essential task for people with properties in high-risk areas to get a property elevation certificate. 

The certificate can help you with discounts on your insurance and keep the information about your property updated in case of emergencies. You can try to find a certificate that already exists or get a new one. 

One important thing to keep in mind is to ensure your certificate is updated with new additions and changes to your property so your location and other information can be adjusted in the flood zones. 

If you are looking to get a property elevation certificate for your real estate purchase, insurance process or project development, hiring a professional will be an absolute must. For this reason, it’s important to choose the right land surveyor.

Tucker Engineering is a civil engineering and land surveying company in Alabama with more than 25 years of experience in the industry. 

Specializing in elevation certificates, ALTA surveys, boundary surveys and more, Tucker Engineering delivers professionalism, experience, knowledge, and state-of-the-art technology so you can have a peace of mind with your project. Want to learn more? Click here to contact us today!