It’s Monday, August 31, and the real estate industry is making flood risk data easier to find.

It’s a homebuyer’s nightmare: closing on the house of your dreams, only to have it destroyed by a catastrophic flood. That’s a real risk for millions of Americans, thanks to a patchwork of state and local policies — which often don’t require sellers to disclose a property’s flood risks. That’s why it’s a big deal that last week, Realtor.com became the first major real estate website to publish flood risk scores sourced from both federal and nonprofit-sourced flooding data.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency does offer public data about zones that are historically likely to flood (and it requires homebuyers to purchase flood insurance in some of those areas), the agency’s flood maps have been criticized for their failure to account for sea level rise and extreme rain. Realtor.com supplemented FEMA flood data with information from the First Street Foundation, a nonprofit research foundation, which found that 14.6 million U.S. properties are at risk of flooding just this year — a number is 70 percent higher than FEMA’s estimates.

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Realtor.com told NPR News that the company made the decision to stay competitive, though other real estate websites have yet to follow suit. “It’s really important for consumers to know this,” said Leslie Jordan, senior vice president of product at Realtor.com. “They can add a sump pump into the basement. They can install a rain garden outside.”

Emily Pontecorvo

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