Buying a home is an exciting, yet complex process. Buying a luxury waterfront property adds a whole new level of complexity to that process. Living on the water has many perks, including stunning views, a relaxing atmosphere, and easy access to water activities such as boating, kayaking, swimming, and paddleboarding. Whether you’re looking to buy a waterfront lot, house, or condo with a boat slip, there are several factors waterfront property shoppers should keep in mind to ensure they pick the property best suited to their lifestyle and needs.
Before you start to pinpoint a location that you want to buy in, you need to make sure you have determined your needs. In other words, what types of water activities do you enjoy? If you like to paddleboard or kayak, consider looking at properties on calm bodies of water such as a bay, inlet, or lake. If you own a boat or jet skis, make sure the body of water you’re looking at allows motorized boats, as some do not. You’ll also want to make sure the property has a dock suitable to keep your boat. If you have a large yacht, you’ll need a sizable dock on water where the depth and tides will not pose problems. Consider other factors as well such as is the water clear/clean enough to swim in? Do you have a preference between freshwater and saltwater? Does the property have shared waterfront access or a private dock? Answering these questions will help expedite the process of where you want to look for a waterfront home.
Depending on whether or not a waterfront property is determined to be in a flood zone, the property you look at could require flood insurance. Some properties have controlled water levels on bodies of water like Seattle’s Lake Washington (the Chittenden locks hold and release water into the Puget Sound). But other lakes, like Lake Sammamish, can rise quickly and submerge docks and terrain in heavy rain seasons. Oceanfront properties have a high likelihood of being affected by weather-related issues from high tides and swells which can flood and damage homes. That being said, some homes are elevated enough so that the structure itself does not qualify as being in a flood zone—even if the property is. An engineer can determine if this is the case and tell you if you will need flood insurance. It’s important to be completely aware of the potential problems any negative water-related issues can pose.
It is important to know how limited your options for improving a home will be before you purchase a particular waterfront property. Some waterfront areas have highly restrictive rules in place regarding construction and building, so make sure you’re aware of any set rules regarding the area surrounding the body of water you look at. If you are planning on making any additions to the house, building a sea wall or dock, see if any restrictions will keep you from doing so. In addition to limiting the way a home can be expanded, many communities also have limits on the type of materials you use and the distance of the home’s setback from the shoreline. Do your homework to ensure you’re a happy homeowner.
Waterfront specialists are important in the inspection process, and an inspector who has seen many waterfront properties will be invaluable to you. Waterfront homes are often less sheltered from the elements than other properties, so an experienced inspector should be on the lookout for issues associated with moisture, roofing, siding and other components. Other inspectors are qualified to inspect piers, docks, and shoreline barriers, which you will want to get checked out before purchasing a waterfront property. It is important that you work with a real estate agent who is familiar with waterfront properties and can help you adequately guide you through for the process. An experienced luxury waterfront broker will also know of a good home inspector who has experience inspecting waterfront properties.
The Bottom Line
The potential pitfalls of buying a waterfront home can seem scary, but living on the water is worth the effort! The more research you do upfront, the more confident you will feel in your purchase.