Considerations When Purchasing a Lakefront Home
Are you looking for a lakefront house to purchase? Pursuing lake houses for sale is not uncommon at all. Lots of folks dream of living on the water.
Lakefront homes fit a particular lifestyle choice that is incredibly exciting for many people. However, when you are pursuing a property you want badly, it is more important than ever to think rationally.
You can have a lakefront lifestyle, but you need to be aware of all the considerations that go into purchasing lake houses.
Buying a lakefront home is very different on some levels compared to your traditional purchase. It is important to understand these differences before making the leap into lakefront living.
All things being equal, homes located on a lake are typically more valuable than homes that aren’t. While your initial expense will be greater, the potential for greater appreciation is typical with a lakefront home.
When the real estate market drops, lakefront houses tend to keep more of their value. What you should know, however, when buying a lakefront property is far more involved than your typical home.
What you need to think about when purchasing a lake house is somewhat involved.
Below is a series of questions you should consider asking when buying a lakefront house. Whether you are dealing directly with a seller or through a real estate agent, get these answers to ensure you’re happy with the purchase.
Current State of The Home
Living on a lake can be a lot of fun, but it is not without its drawbacks. The moisture in the air, the weather patterns created by the lake, and the rise and fall of the water level can all lead to property degradation.
If it is not kept in good repair with regular maintenance by professionals, the close proximity to the lake can lead to property damage. Wood, metal, and stone can all be affected by the unique conditions created by the lake.
Like any other property, you are going to want to go through it with a fine-tooth comb. Ensure you hire a qualified home inspector who will take the time to go through the property from top to bottom.
Specifically, look out for the top home inspection problems, especially bug infestation and water issues that can be found more readily near lakes.
Lake House Orientation
When living on a lake you one of the things you will want to consider is the orientation to the sun and how it sets. Does the home get morning or afternoon sun? If you are getting afternoon sun, does the deck have any sun protection? How do the winds coming off the lake affect both your enjoyment of the property and the heating costs?
When looking at lake houses for sale, this should be a primary consideration.
Get Specific Information About The Lake
Lakes can vary considerably, meaning one lake might be perfect for you while another is completely undesirable. You do not want to discover that the lake you bought a home on is nothing like what you want.
Find out as much information as you can about the lake. Here are some excellent questions to ask when considering buying a lakefront home:
- Is the bottom rocky, sandy, or muddy?
- How busy is the lake during each season?
- What recreational opportunities are available on the lake? Kayaking, boating, fishing, swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, water skiing, waterfowl hunting? Some lakes are better suited than others for particular kinds of activities.
- Are jet ski’s allowed when the lake freezes?
- What is mosquito season like?
- Is there any wildlife on the lake, such as ducks or geese, that could become a nuisance?
- Is the shoreline sandy, rocky or muddy? How easy is it to access the shoreline from your home?
- Does the lake maintain its water level or goes up and down with the seasons?
- Is the lake stocked with fish?
- Does duckweed ever become a problem?
- Does the lake flood? How close is your home to the flood line?
- Are you required to carry flood insurance?
- If you boat, how easy is it to get your boat in and out of the lake? Are you allowed to have a dock right off your house, or is it OK to travel around the lake for an access point?
- Are there any specific things that are not allowed on the lake?
- Are there any local ordinances about noise or having parties in or around the lake?
These are all questions that may or may not pertain to the lake you are considering buying on but are great things to consider in the back of your mind to ask.
Is There a Lake Association?
Find out if there is a homeowner’s association or other organization that controls the lake area where you plan to buy. It is always a good idea to find out the nature of any organization you will be required to join to enjoy your property and the lake it sits on. These kinds of organizations can vary a great deal in how they handle issues.
Make sure you can do what you want to do and enjoy your property as you like before you buy into an area. The last thing you want as a buyer is to find out there are things you were counting on being able to do and are not allowed.
Having a Lake association is generally a good thing as they are formed to protect the lake’s future and resolve any issues that could threaten the lake’s health. The members of a lake association meet when necessary to discuss lake problems and determine courses of action to remedy any problems.
Often, members attend town meetings to be a voice for the lake, apply for grants to protect or improve the lake, and monitor the lake for any invasive species. Most of the time, having a lake association is greatly beneficial to those living on the lake.
There could be occasions, however, where an HOA places overbearing rules and restrictions. You’ll want to find out if that is the case when looking at lake houses for sale.
Decide if This is a Vacation Home or a Primary Residence
If you are purchasing this home as a vacation property, you may have different property needs than if it is a primary residence. The weather patterns and seasonal temperatures may not matter for a vacation home because you will only be visiting during the ideal seasons.
If you want to live here year-round, though, you will need to pay more careful attention to what the seasons will bring – especially if you are an older buyer that may struggle with more severe weather.
Are There Modern Conveniences Nearby
Another thing to consider if you are planning to live here year-round is access to important things like medical care, grocery stores, and dining options. Getting out of town into the middle of nowhere may be great for a few weeks at a time, but not everyone enjoys such isolation on a year-round basis.
How easy is it to get to major routes? Will get in and around the area be difficult during times of inclement weather?
Size is another factor that may vary based on your planned usage for the home. If you want to live in the home and have company during the high season, you will probably want a larger home with extra bedrooms for guests.
If you just want to bring the spouse and kids out during the summer, a smaller home might be okay.
Make Sure The Lake House is Designed For Winter Use
Some lakeside homes are set up to be used during the warmer months of the year and left empty when winter comes around.
If you want to use the home during the cold weather, you will want it to have proper insulation and heating options to remain comfortable. Make sure the house is equipped for winter living if this is something you need.
Expansion Possibilities With Lake Houses
On many lakes, there is a wide variety of housing. In some lakefront locations, the housing has started as small vacation-style cottages only to be expanded upon and turned into permanent residences.
Quite often, local zoning can vary quite a bit on a lake – sometimes, the lots’ size is a lot smaller than lot sizes in a non-waterfront location. It is important to find out what you can and can’t do before purchasing.
You may have grand visions of putting on a second story or adding a large addition and discover it’s just not possible. Better to find out before than after you have made your purchase.
Is The Lake House Serviced by a Septic System or Public Sewer
Whether or not there is town sewer available is an important consideration for many home buyers. Septic systems can be very costly to replace especially when they are located so close to a lake.
Many communities will, at some point in the future, install a sewer system due to the sensitive nature of the quality of the lake. This is an added expense you should consider planning for if a public sewer is not currently available.
Legal, Conservation, and Zoning Restrictions With Lake Houses
When living on a lake, there may be certain regulations that are not as strict elsewhere. Lakes are considered wetlands, so they are afforded different protection under the Wetlands protection act. The local conservation board is more than likely going to want to know anything you do to the property within 100 feet of the lake.
The vast majority of cities and towns also have strict “no disturb” rules that apply to areas directly bordering the lake – most of the time 25 feet. In most locales, this restricts building, clearing, planting, etc. The purpose is to maintain a natural buffer for the lake and impact any future plans you may have. Make sure you keep this in mind.
Do your homework when you see a property advertised as having “lake access” or “right of way to Lake.” While these advertisements certainly could be accurate on occasion, there have been mistakes made which were complete misrepresentations. When this kind of representation is made, it is always smart to consult an attorney who can do a title search to check the accuracy.
Lakefront houses can have antiquated zoning that allows for unusual things. It will be worth researching this aspect of buying a lake house.
Make Sure The View is Adequate With Your Lake House
One of the best parts of living on the lake is looking out over the water every morning. Unfortunately, not every home labeled as a lake home offers this kind of view. Depending on your needs or your budget, the view might not be a priority.
However, if you want to get the most out of lakefront living, you should make certain that the view you have from your home fits your desires.
You might also want to find out if the lake has been completely developed as well. The view you have at the time of your purchase could change if there are still building lots either surrounding the property or the other side of the lake.
At a moment’s notice, you could be looking at something completely different than you planned on. I know of a few lakefront owners who have had views impaired or changed by others residing on the lake.
Determine How Easy it is to Get to The Lake
Some lakefront houses are technically on the lake, but the lots are so steep that getting down to the water can be a real challenge.
If you plan on growing old with the home, then you will want a flatter lot. As you get older, it will become harder and harder to climb up and down a steep lot to get to the water. This is one of the considerations for buying on a lake that many people don’t think about.
Decide on How Much Privacy You Want
The closer you are to the water the easier it is for boaters and lake users to see your home. This may or may not be a problem for you, but it is worth thinking about when looking at different properties.
Lots with more distance between the home and the water – a distance that still offers a clear line of sight to the water – are usually more expensive than those that are right on the water. The extra cost may be worth it, though, if you want to sit out on your front porch in your underwear and still be able to watch the sunset.
Hire a Realtor You Can Trust
Whether buying or selling a lakefront house, you want to work with a Realtor that understands the complexities of the sale of a home on a lake. Avoid picking a real estate agent randomly when you want to buy a lakefront home for sale. Interview agents to find out how well they do at finding lakefront homes that satisfy their clients.
You want a person on your side that can get you a good home within your budget – a home you can enjoy for decades. Lakefront homes are naturally more challenging to find at a good price due to higher demand. With the right agent, the search becomes easier, and you are more likely to get a good deal on a house. This is more than worth the commission an agent will charge for his or her help.
When buying a home, understand that lakefront property will carry a particular premium over a non-lakefront property. How much of a premium, is something a qualified real estate agent should be able to help you with. Some factors come into play including the town, the type and size of the lake, the size and characteristics of the lot, neighboring properties, water quality, privacy, proximity to amenities, and highway access.
When selling a lakefront home, understand that marketing the property well becomes vital. Choose an easily found agent on the internet, does an exceptional job with photography and real estate descriptions.
The Realtor you select should have excellent marketing skills that differentiate between what buyers are looking for in a lakefront property vs. a more traditional property. As you can see, there is a lot to think about when buying or selling a lake house!
If you are thinking about buying or selling a waterfront home, I will welcome the opportunity to help you accomplish your goals.
How to Find Lake Houses For Sale
Besides finding a top local real estate agent who does a lot of business in the town you’re looking in, you may want to consider doing online searches to find lakefront homes. Lakefront houses near me or lakehouses for sale near me should produce some results.
It is possible the area you are looking in might not have a significant amount of inventory, so keep your eyes peeled for the next one that hits the market. Lakehouses for sale are not always easy to come by as they are high-demand properties.
Frequently Asked Questions on Lakefront Houses
1. Is buying lake houses a good financial investment?
Yes. Homes that are located on bodies of water tend to appreciate faster than those that are not waterfront.
2. Are lake houses more expensive?
Yes. You can expect an identical home located on a lake to be worth more money. Waterfront properties tend to command more money than their dry land-only counterparts.
3. Are lakefront houses with a dock more desirable?
Yes. By having a dock, you will be able to have a boat or other recreational vehicles more easily. Your lake house will also be worth a little more money with a dock as well.
3. Is it worth it to live on a lake?
Those who decide they want to buy a lakehouse for sale are usually not disappointed. Most people living on lakes do so because of the extracurricular activities they enjoy.
4. Is it hard to find lakefront houses to rent?
Yes. Any home located on the water tends to be in demand and will go quickly, whether for sale or rent. If you are looking for lake houses to rent, you might want to find an agent specializing in home rentals at your desired location. Like searching for lakefront homes for sale, you could also do the same for rentals.
Lake houses for rent near me or lake houses to rent near me should do the trick. Unless you are in an area with a significant amount of lakes, you probably won’t see a ton of results.
Final Thoughts on Buying Lakefront Houses
There is truly something magical about owning a lakehouse. Being on the water gives you a naturally great feeling. Whether you are looking at sunrise or sunset, it is always better when doing it from a lake location.
When buying a lakefront house, just be sure to do all the normal due diligence you would do with any other home and then some. The little extra time you spend researching the lake you plan on living on will be worth it.
Other Helpful Lake Home Buying Resources
- Check out information on specific lakes across the United States – see a detailed overview of some of the more recognizable lakes around the country from The Army Corps of Engineers.
- The National Lakes Assessment resource on lake information provided by the Environmental Protection Agency has some helpful lake house tips worth reading.
Use these additional resources to generate further questions when buying lakefront property.
About the author: The above Real Estate information on considerations for buying a lake home was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 34+ Years.
Are you thinking of selling your home? I have a passion for Real Estate and love to share my marketing expertise!
I service Real Estate Sales in the following Metrowest MA towns: Ashland, Bellingham, Douglas, Framingham, Franklin, Grafton, Holliston, Hopkinton, Hopedale, Medway, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Natick, Northborough, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southborough, Sutton, Wayland, Westborough, Whitinsville, Worcester, Upton, and Uxbridge MA.