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UK: One in four London homebuyers faced flood risk in 2017

Source(s):  Future Climate Info (FCI)

  • Nearly one in four (23%) homebuyers in London encountered a potential flood risk in 2017, up from 21% year-on-year, according to data from environmental risk analysts, FCI
  • Frequency of flood risk in Birmingham also rose annually from 9% to 11% and in Liverpool from 7% to 10%
  • Overall, around one in seven home purchases in the last two years in England and Wales have involved properties with a potential risk of flooding, according to FCI environmental report results
  • Just 11% of homebuyers in rural towns and remote areas in 2017 encountered potential flood risks
  • Conveyancers working on transactions near Heathrow most likely to encounter a flood risk based on recent trends; those near Bosworth Field are least likely

Our latest Homebuyer Urban Flood Risk Report shows around one in seven UK homebuyers have faced a potential flood risk when buying a property this year.

Our report examined trends in homebuyer activity within the ten most populated cities across England and Wales, using our data gleaned from tens of thousands of home buying transactions during 2016 and 2017.

Across these ten cities, homebuyers seeking properties in London (23%), Manchester (21%) and Cardiff (20%) faced the highest likelihood that their chosen home may be at risk from flooding. Comparing year-on-year trends, aspiring buyers in Liverpool, London and Birmingham were all more likely to be targeting locations at risk of flooding in 2017 than they were the previous year.

Based on our sample, conveyancers based in Liverpool saw the greatest increase in the frequency of flood risk, with 10% of purchasers this year encountering a potential risk compared with 7% in 2016. Both London and Birmingham saw an increase of two percentage points, from 21% to 23% and from 9% to 11% respectively.

In contrast, reduced levels of flood risk were seen for transactions in Bristol, Leicester, Leeds and Sheffield this year compared with 2016 – which could be influenced by fewer sales in at-risk areas.

Table 1: Top ten most populated cities in England/Wales – % of transactions with potential flood risks

City 2016 2017 Annual change (percentage points)
London 21% 23% +2
Manchester 20% 21% +1
Cardiff 20% 20% n/a
Leicester 18% 17% -1
Birmingham 9% 11% +2
Bristol 15% 10% -5
Leeds 11% 10% -1
Liverpool 7% 10% +3
Coventry 8% 9% +1
Sheffield 9% 8% -1

Note: percentage changes may not match the percentages due to rounding to the nearest 1%

Urban conveyancers faced highest flood risk

Across all of England and Wales, aspiring homebuyers in the largest urban metropolitan areas were the most likely to encounter flood risks according to our data, while buyers in rural hamlets and isolated areas saw risks rise the most year-on-year.

Around one in seven (15%) homebuyers in urban conurbations found a potential flood risk attached to their property in 2017, which was consistent with 2016’s data. Slightly fewer buyers (14%) in rural hamlets and isolated dwellings encountered a risk, but this was up from 12% in 2016.

In contrast, buyers in urban cities and towns, along with rural towns and fringe areas, were less likely in 2017 to target properties at risk of flooding than they were the previous year. Overall, our data shows the frequency of homebuyers encountering a flood risk dropped from 15% in 2016 to 14%.

Table 2: % of transactions with potential flood risks in England and Wales – rural vs. urban trends

Area 2016 2017 Annual change (percentage points)
Urban conurbation 15% 15% n/a
Rural hamlets and isolated dwellings 12% 14% +2
Rural villages 13% 13% n/a
Urban cities and towns 15% 13% -2
Rural towns and fringes 13% 11% -2

London boroughs carry heightened flood risk

Among England and Wales’ most populated cities, conveyancers working in England’s capital were the most likely to have to deal with a flood ‘further action’ in 2017 as part of their due diligence on residential property transactions. In fact, our data shows London conveyancers were almost three times as likely to see a flood risk highlighted on a client’s purchase (23%) than their counterparts in Sheffield (8%).

Of London’s most populous boroughs, homes in Southwark – on the south banks of the Thames – were the most likely to have a potential flood risk (39%) in 2017, up from eight percentage points from 31% of homes on the market in 2016. Of London’s most populated boroughs, only homes in Croydon and Bromley were below the national average for flood risk potential.

Table 3: Top ten most populated London boroughs – % of transactions with potential flood risks

London Boroughs 2016 2017 Annual change (percentage points)
Southwark 31% 39% +8
Enfield 24% 34% +10
Newham 26% 27% +1
Lambeth 20% 21% +1
Brent 15% 19% +4
Wandsworth 26% 18% -8
Barnet 16% 18% +2
Ealing 17% 17% n/a
Croydon 14% 13% -1
Bromley 10% 12% +2

England and Wales’ most and least at-risk buyers

Across England and Wales, data from our environmental reports found that those conveyancers helping homebuyers in Spelthorne district, on the southern edge of Heathrow airport, were most likely to encounter a flood risk warning in 2017. Almost three in five (59%) homebuyers exploring a purchase here encountered a potential a risk of flooding. Half of homes in Kingston-upon-Hull carried a flood warning (50%), the second highest in England and Wales.

In contrast, homes in the town of Hinckley – on the edge of the historic Bosworth Field – were the least likely to have a potential flood risk flagged, with only 1% falling into this category in 2017. Conveyancers working between Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks were also less likely to be concerned with flood risks on a daily basis, with only 3% of homebuyers in the mid-Devon area encountering a flood risk.

Commenting on the findings, Geoff Offen, managing director of FCI, said:

“We’ve assessed tens of thousands of transactions over the last two years, and while there are significant regional and local variations, this data emphasises how flood risk is something all conveyancers and their clients need to be aware of as part of the homebuying process. It is interesting to see that homes in our biggest cities are some of the most likely to come with a potential flood risk. Due to the complexity of flooding dynamics in built-up urban environments, it is vital that conveyancers keep up to date with the latest developments in assessing and managing potential flood risks" – by doing so, they can ensure that a potential issue needn’t result in the collapse of a transaction. “Homebuyers are increasingly educated and aware of environmental issues and the implications will become a growing influence on their decision-making. With a range of solutions available, conveyancers should be ready to discuss the flood risks associated with a property, and they can help to highlight follow-up actions that will ultimately leave the homeowner better protected.”

For more information or media enquiries, please contact Lee Jones or Fran Hart at Instinctif Partners on 0207 457 2020 or 


The FCI Homebuyer Urban Flood Risk Report examines flood risk on properties in England and Wales by analysing tens of thousands of environmental reports created by Future Climate Info (FCI), the environmental risk analysts, between January and October 2016 and 2017 alongside Office for National Statistics (ONS) population data. The report was designed by Instinctif Partners. While care is taken in its compilation, no representation or assurances are made as to its accuracy or completeness. 

About Future Climate Info 

Future Climate Info (FCI) is an independent provider of environmental risk analytics that delivers professional insights and practical solutions to remove environmental risk from property transactions.  Launched in 2014, FCI was borne out of focus groups with property professionals to enhance the market and address failings with environmental reports. 

FCI has a client-focused, value-driven business model that combines human insight with sophisticated data manipulation. This results in comprehensive risk assessment reports that are clear, concise and solve problems for conveyancers and their clients. 

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  • Publication date 30 Jan 2018

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