We're not in a designated flood zone, but my neighbor remembers her house flooding when she was young -- in fact, she's shown me a mark they put on the outside wall. Do I need flood insurance?
You're wise to ask. Flooding is the United States's most common natural disaster, affecting people who live nowhere near water. For example, more than half the people whose homes were damaged by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita weren't in a flood zone, and had no flood insurance, which made the disaster even worse than it already was.
Melting snow, overflowing creeks or ponds, a weak levee, or water running down a steep hill can all cause flooding. Talk to your local flood control board or municipal building department to find out the likely risks.
The good news is, flood insurance is cheaper if you're not in a flood zone.
Standard homeowners' policies don't cover damage from flooding, but flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program (www.floodsmart.gov). Many consider the coverage limits too low, however, so you might want to buy additional coverage, called "excess" flood insurance, from a specialized company (which may be available through your current homeowners' insurance provider).