Elevation plays a critical role in determining flood insurance rates. A couple of feet, a few documentation errors or significant omissions can make a considerable difference in the amount property owners pay for coverage or measures implemented to mitigate flood damage. In an interview with the Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s office, Tim Bryce of the St. Petersburg Tribune, provides noteworthy takeaways that underscore the importance of a flood risk management program and why elevation matters.
The Pinellas County Property Appraiser’s office, though, currently lacks the tools to measure elevation accurately, and Dubov is not alone. Across Florida, property appraisers are working overtime to change their systems to accommodate elevation data into their databases. Dubov’s office is going so far as to merge aerial photographs and oblique imagery (aerial photos at a 45-degree angle) with maps and just about anything else they can lay their hands on. Based on that information, Dubov’s office will make educated guesses and adjust its data, and that’s no small effort.
Understand that a couple of feet in elevation can make a big difference in a property’s market value and its assessed taxes. Values for comparable homes may even vary on the same street. For example, a street appearing to be level may actually be sloped, such that a house on one end may be elevated a few feet higher than a house at the other end. Those differences will affect property values.
Dubov said her staff will be working hard through the fall, winter and spring to put it all together for the 2014 tax roll. Nonetheless, the elevation data will be less-than-perfect.
Knowing this, the tax appraiser’s office will gladly accept certificates of elevation to supersede its own elevation figures. Such certificates can be prepared by surveyors or engineering firms at a cost ranging from $200 to $500. Without such a certificate, calculating the elevation defaults to the property appraiser’s office, with its amalgamation of maps and photos.
…the message is loud and clear: It’s no longer a matter of just location, location, location; it’s now all about elevation, elevation, elevation.