Flood risk throws cold water on plans to sell homes

Flooded homes in the UK
  • Seven in 10 UK residents worry environmental change will increase flooding in the future
  • 55% of people in high risk areas regret moving to a flood zone
  • 42% of all respondents would consider moving to avoid a future flood
  • People are most concerned about property appearance when choosing a new home
  • Risk of flood is 11th on the home buyers’ priority list

More than half (53%) of people who think their home is at high risk from flooding have been unable to sell their home, and 55% regret moving to a flood zone, a new report from Aviva shows.

In addition, 42% of all respondents would consider moving from their property to avoid being flooded in future.  

While the threat of  flood and climate change remain high on the list of concerns for people in the UK, when it comes to choosing a new home it is appearance, commuting convenience, proximity to green spaces and  transport links that rank higher, leaving many at risk of unwittingly moving to a flood zone in future.

Commissioned by Aviva, the research surveyed 2,000 residents across the UK, including those in high risk areas, which are defined as having a 1 in 75 year flood risk, or a 75/1 chance of flooding every year.

Aviva’s ‘Adapting to the Rising Tide’ found that:

  • Seven in 10 (70%) UK residents say they are concerned about environmental change making flooding worse in the future.
  • Those whose homes have previously flooded are most worried, with 91% concerned that flooding will get worse.
  • A quarter of residents (25%) say appearance is the most important factor when choosing a new home, with commuting second (23%).
  • 15% of those surveyed have been flooded previously and of these, 59% have suffered a flood within the last four years.
  • Almost two thirds (65%) of homes which have flooded have suffered at least two floods, and worryingly, a quarter (24%) have flooded three times.  
"Helping our customers when they need us is what we’re here for, and our claims teams are on the ground providing support, sometimes before a flood even happens."

Colm Holmes, Chief Executive Officer, General Insurance, Aviva, said: “This year we’ve been all too aware of the devastation that extreme weather and floods can bring, with consecutive storms leaving homes under contaminated water, businesses unable to trade and communities cut off, sometimes for days or weeks.

“Helping our customers when they need us is what we’re here for, and our claims teams are on the ground providing support, sometimes before a flood even happens.

“However, with one in seven properties across the UK already at risk and the likelihood of flooding set to increase in the future, many people could be unwittingly moving to flood zones and facing the trauma that floods sadly bring.”

Appearances are everything

Despite their concerns for the future and regrets about moving to a flood zone, it seems that looks are everything, with a quarter of people (25%) saying appearance is the most important factor when choosing a new place to live. Commuting is the second most important reason (chosen by 23% of respondents), followed by green space and parks (22%).  Flood risk is 11th on the priority list after transport links, crime rates, traffic, views and house value.


of people we surveyed said that flood risk was one of their most important considerations when buying a new home.

Worryingly, people living in flood zones are only slightly more likely to consider flood risk (12%) than the average.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, residents whose home had flooded before they moved in are most concerned, although only 15% in this group consider flood risk important when choosing a new home.  Other factors, including crime and traffic noise, school catchment area, transport and commuting links, and appearance are a greater priority.  It seems people are being over-optimistic when thinking about future flooding, with many households hoping that if it’s happened once, it won’t happen again while they live there.

What, if anything, were the most important things you considered when choosing your home?



Commuting distance


Green space/parks


Transport links


Crime rates


Traffic and noise at different times of day


Views from the house


School catchment and Ofsted ratings


Will the house hold/gain value


There were no most important things I considered


Flood risk


Growing concern over rising tide

The research showed that it’s not just present-day flooding that worries us.  Seven in ten (70%) people say they are concerned about environmental change making flooding worse in the future.  Unsurprisingly, people whose homes have flooded in the past are most concerned, with 91% being worried about flooding getting worse in the future.

Colm Holmes added: “With extreme weather in the UK set to rise2, flooding is expected to become more common and a holistic approach is needed to protect homes, reduce damage and prevent future risk.  Community-based flood protection schemes offer the best protection in preventing floods, but we know that not every flood can be stopped, so other approaches are required. 

"Stricter planning laws are needed to prevent new homes being built in flood zones without adequate protection, and more information about flooding is needed for homeowners and renters before they move home."

“Stricter planning laws are needed to prevent new homes being built in flood zones without adequate protection, and more information about flooding is needed for homeowners and renters before  they move home.  And we believe more needs to be done to encourage flood mitigation measures; Aviva already helps homeowners with advice and support to install these measures but greater incentives and more information is needed to increase take-up.

“Many of these measures are simple and quick to install and have little impact on the appearance of the home.  Installing them often means that residents and business owners can return to their property much quicker than a traditional repair, reducing financial strain and improving well-being.”

To help people when moving to a new home, Aviva has put together the following advice:

If you’re buying:

  • Before you move, check the flood risk in your area –
  • Get a full buildings survey, which should include any flood risk.
  • If you’re buying a newly-built home, ask your homebuilder if they have installed any flood mitigation measures.
  • Make sure your insurance policy provides flood cover and ask your insurer if they are part of the Flood Re scheme – or visit for more information.
  • If you are buying a home in a flood risk area, ask the current homeowner or landlord if they have installed any flood resistant or resilient measures.
  • If there are no flood mitigation measures, consider installing these as they can minimise damage caused by water and can help you to return to your home quicker.
  • After you’ve moved in, check the house for any loose tiles or damaged fences and try to secure the property as much as possible ahead of bad weather.

If you’re renting:

  • Ask your landlord what flood cover they have in place and if there is cover for alternative accommodation if you have to move out due to a flood.
  • Consider taking out contents insurance. Not only will it protect your possessions if they get lost or damaged, you’ll also be covered for temporary accommodation if your home becomes uninhabitable.
  • If you’re in social housing, check with your council or local authority about tenants’ schemes, which can offer low-cost contents cover.  Aviva underwrites a tenants’ contents scheme, which is available from over ninety councils and housing associations.

A full copy of the ‘Flood Report – Adapting to the Rising Tide’ can be found at



1Research commissioned by Censuswide for Aviva in September 2020. 2004 nationally representative respondents which were split into groups according to flood risk with 236 in ‘high flood risk’ areas, 218 in lowest flood risk areas and the remaining recorded as average risk. The risk of each area was defined by Aviva’s flood mapping data which assesses river, coastal and surface water flood risk.

A high risk flood area is defined as having a 1 in 75 year risk, which means that a property in this area has a 75/1 chance of flooding every year. A low risk area is defined as 1 in every 200 years, which means a property has a 200/1 chance of flooding each year.

2Environment Agency –July 2020. Blueprint to protect and prepare nation from flooding.

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General Insurance — Products and regulation

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