Make sure the property matches your lifestyle.
If you love waterskiing, buying a home adjacent to the rough ocean may not be the best place to buy. But if you’re a surfer, that may be your dream. Are you more interested in lying on the beach? Seasonal fresh-water fishing? Jet skiing? Do you want to take tranquil canoe rides but there are speedboats whizzing by? Or does the prestige and scenic view of living on water give you all the incentive you need? Make sure you put some thought and planning into exactly what you want out of your property so your family can best enjoy it.
Unlike a traditional home that sits in an inland residential neighborhood, obtaining proper insurance for waterfront property can be time consuming and often expensive. If you’re ever bought a home in a flood zone or special flood zone, you know that that alone complicates the process! With waterfront property, there are many considerations depending on what type of water you’ll be living adjacent to, and an insurance policy to match: flood insurance, hurricane insurance, increased liability, and general hazard insurance.
Weathering and maintenance.
Living on the water can be extremely rewarding, but it doesn’t come without a lot of hard work and upkeep. The elements – whether high winds, salt water, humidity or a combination – exact a high toll on structures. It takes an extra measure of protection and frequent maintenance to keep corrosion, rot, and water damage, so be prepared to take good care of your investment.
Restrictions and use.
When you own a traditional house and want to make a change, like adding a storage shed in your yard or repaving the driveway or whatever, it’s a fairly simple process. But with waterfront property, there are many other things to think about and hoops to jump through. For instance, if you want to add a dock, you may be disrupting your neighbor’s boat path. A simple storage shed may block someone’s view. The list goes on and on, including environmental restrictions. So make sure you check with you municipality and local agencies if you plan on doing any work to improve the property.
CC&R’s, HOA’s and waterfront associations.
It’s always important to check CC&Rs (conditions, covenants and restrictions), when buying a property, but it’s absolutely crucial when you’re purchasing waterfront property. Read the fine print about the benefits, rules of use, and also your responsibilities and costs as a homeowner in a community. Talk to people and review the newsletters to find out if there are any disputes, issues, upcoming costs, and what challenges they face. Many waterfront areas also have a separate association that regulates all issues that have to do with the water itself, like a Lake Association, Shoreline Association, etc.
If your waterfront home is well outside of the city or in a rural area, don’t take things like electric, gas, sewage, garbage, water, cable, and internet for granted. Sometimes there are issues, just like with any rural property, special considerations because of your proximity to water, or limited service providers based on your location.
Waterfront home buyers sometimes forget that coastal areas, shorelines, and waterfront land is always changing and evolving based on several factors: wind patterns, floods, storms, drainage, dams, and natural erosion. So consult with an expert and obtain geological surveys so you’ll understand the risks and possibilities, as well as the general trend, of the condition of the valuable shoreline you’re investing in.
Know the body of water.
Investing in waterfront property is a unique buying experience because you’re greatest asset isn’t the structure or even the land, but the body of water you’re next to. So it’s crucial you do copious research into the body of water. Learn about the depths, currents and riptides, seasonal changes, water quality, and everything else you can.
Waterfront properties can present more issues when it comes to rights and usage. A good attorney who specializes in maritime and Riparian rights can clarify if anyone else has a claim to use your land for any purpose, and what area into the water, if any, is considered your property or available for your sole use once you purchase a home. Additionally, docks, moors, and boat landings are often shared or used by others. It’s also a good idea to obtain a survey and a Platt Map, which will provide a legal description of the land you’re purchasing.
The rental market.
Are you planning to live in your new waterfront home all year round, or will it be a vacation getaway for the family or even a fulltime rental? It’s important to know the restrictions on rentals, as well as the potential income you can bring in during the busy season, and also if there’s any viable rental market during the off-season. You may want to talk to a few local property managers who specialize in serving that local niche market.