No discussion of real estate would be complete without a warning about the potential for flooding at the end of a winter that has already brought near record snowfall. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette warns of the potential for March flooding near Pittsburgh if predicted additional snowstorms arrive. Such an outcome, while far from certain, would have implications continuing far longer than the immediate damage and danger. Local economies, disclosures, misrepresentations, insurance coverage, income streams, appraisals and numerous other aspects would be forever altered by such a cataclysmic event.
If you are buying real estate in the next few weeks, pay particular attention to whether the property is in a flood plain. If you are uncertain about the possibility of flooding, buy flood insurance if you can. Most importantly, make sure the seller disclosure is as clearly and fully completed as possible. Sellers tend to be vague if there is something to hide (especially in the current fraud-prone market conditions). Pay particular attention to all explanations under section 16 (b) of the PAR disclosure form.
Buyers should ask their settlement attorneys now what options they will have if their newly purchased basements take on water during the March/April thaw. Sellers should know that the more they disclose now (before settlement), the fewer remedies the buyers will have in court later on.
According to the Post-Gazette, the worst flood to hit Pittsburgh in the last 100 years occurred in March 1936 ("The St. Patrick's Day flood"). Attached is newsreel footage from the same flood in Johnstown.
In Harrisburg, the most recent winter-related severe flooding happened in January 1996, when ice flows on the Susquehanna River destroyed the Walnut Street bridge.
Update - 3-14-10 - Click here to find out how the flood situation turned out in Central Pennsylvania.