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Lake Travis Flooding

Lake Travis Flood

In October of 2018, the Highland Lakes chain of lakes that runs through central Texas experienced an unprecedented flooding event.  Lake Travis rose 24 feet in just 24 hours.  This is a photo I took on October 20th, 2018 from a home in Spicewood. You can see entire structures under water.

To control the flow, the floodgates at both Mansfield Dam and the Tom Miller Dam near downtown were opened to release water from Lake Travis.  The photo below is one I took of Lake Austin at the Steiner Ranch Lake club the same weekend after they opened the floodgates. The boat docks are completely submerged and I was standing at the boat ramp which was completely covered in water.

Most of the homes around Lake Travis are in the 100 year flood plain.  Being in the 100 year flood plain means that in any given year there is a  one percent chance of experiencing a flood.  In response to this flood, FEMA started redrawing the flood maps, and the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) changed their building requirements.  These new restrictions apply to new construction as well as remodels.

Many lots on Lake Travis have been rendered unbuildable by these new restrictions.  Some are still buildable but any structure would have to be placed very high up on the lot, limiting water access or views, or the structure would have to be built on a huge foundation or on stilts.

In the past couple years, demand for lakefront properties have skyrocketed and I’ve seen many of these flood-restricted properties come on the market with no mention at all about the restrictions, hoping for an unsavvy buyer to take it off their hands.

Elevation Certificate

If you’re looking at property near Lake Travis, always ask for an elevation certificate showing at what elevation the structure and/or septic system are located at.  Floodplain rules require that the finished floor be elevated above the 100-year floodplain.   If the existing structure is in the floodplain, there will  be significant restrictions on remodeling the property and in many instances, it will not be possible.

If the property is outside of the floodplain, that elevation certificate is key to marketing the property to it’s highest market value, so the absence of a certificate should give buyers pause.  The elevation certificate is also vital to obtaining insurance on the home and buyers should be aware that flood insurance can be very expensive if the home is in the floodplain.

Finally, be aware that Lake Travis was designed as a reservoir and flood-control device and it’s actual function is to protect Austin and other downriver communities, not the houses built along its banks.  However, with proper due diligence and safe building, Lake Travis is a beautiful attraction in a wonderful community that can be enjoyed by many.

Lakefront Property

If you’re looking for property on Lake Travis, note that a lot of those properties are sold privately, off the MLS.  Contact Elicia for a list of these non-public opportunities.  Listed properties han be found here. 
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Elicia Michaud

Elicia Michaud

Broker AssociateCLHMS, CNE, SRS, ABR, CRS, e-Pro, PSA