Weather in America is serious. Few countries in the world suffer as many catastrophic weather events, as last week’s tragic events in Florida and the Bahamas showed yet again. If you’re buying a property here, especially in Florida but not only here, you will need to hurricane proof your Florida home. The good news ias that it needn’t be expensive. 

Anyone considering a move to the USA needs to understand the risks associated with hurricanes, and how to protect themselves as well as possible. While Florida may have missed the brunt of Hurricane Dorian, such storms often occur in The Sunshine State between the months of June to November. As it is one of the most popular states with British buyers, today we’re providing some need-to-know information on how to protect your Florida home before and after you make the purchase.

Why you need to hurricane-proof your Florida home

Flooding and wind are the main problems

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Essential housing regulations

The good news is that no US state is better prepared for hurricanes than Florida. Following Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the Florida Building Code was developed – a strict set of building codes that all coastal houses in Florida must adhere to. These codes, which are the highest mandatory building codes in the US, significantly improved hurricane resistance in Florida homes. The codes your property must adhere to will depend on your location. For example, Broward and Miami-Dade counties are in the High-Velocity Hurricane Zone. The local code here dictates that a building’s entire envelope, i.e. windows, doors and eaves, must incorporate lab-tested, wind-resistant design.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety created a ‘fortified home’ standard, to protect Florida properties against hurricanes and hail

Additionally, a decade ago the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety created a ‘fortified home’ standard, to protect Florida properties against hurricanes and hail. However, these are purely voluntary guidelines – and so far, only 12,000 homes have been built to these high standards. Properties that meet these standards tend to be around 7% more expensive than those that don’t. There are three levels – bronze, silver and gold standard – gold being the highest.

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The cost of hurricane protection

Due to the already high building codes in the state, making up the difference to ensure your Florida property is ‘gold standard’ actually doesn’t work out all that expensive. In fact, the cost is likely to only be any additional $1,000 on a $75,000 four-bedroom house. That investment is more than worth the peace of mind it offers alone.

The cost to hurricane proof your Florida home is likely to only be any additional $1,000 on a $75,000 four-bedroom house.

For areas of the state (or other states) that don’t have the same high building standards, such as the Florida Panhandle, gold standard construction is more costly. Budget for between $3,000 and $5,000 (£2,400-4,000). Given the relatively low-cost of making your Florida property gold standard, we advise all of those buying within the hurricane-susceptible area to make the investment. Additionally, doing so will make it easier and cheaper to insure your Florida property.

Damaged by Hurricane Michael, but this Florida home survived. (Terry Kelly / Shutterstock.com)

Ensuring your Florida house is hurricane-proof

It’s important that you double check this before making any purchase. Ask the realtor for proof that the property meets the International Code Council (ICC) regulations, which is the minimum standard for the state. Ideally, your property should have hurricane-proof doors and windows and a hurricane-proof roof. Dome-shaped roofs are better at withstanding win. You may also want a back-up generator. If you are by the beach, the property should be raised to protect you from flooding. Of course, that’s the property; it’s even more important to keep yourself safe by heeding all hurricane warnings and moving to safer ground if advised.

That’s the property, but it’s even more important to keep yourself safe by heeding all hurricane warnings and moving to safer ground if advised.

As you would for any property purchase, it’s important to have a survey conducted on any property you plan on buying when you move to the USA. The inspector will be able to check the quality of the building work. You can also contact the local municipality to see what permits were obtained for the property when it was being built. This will give you an indicator of whether it was built to meet local code requirements.

Also, you can have a Windstorm Inspection conducted on the property, which involves a professional coming in to survey the property and to establish its ability to withstand hurricane-force winds. Some properties have features that can actually increase the risk of storm damage, which is the last thing you want. An inspector will hunt these out so that you are informed before you decide on whether or not to buy the property. The inspector will also highlight features that will help protect the safety of the structure in the event of the storm, i.e. concrete block construction, gable-end bracing, secondary water-resistant barriers and hurricane straps or clips.

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