10 Things to Know Before Purchasing a Waterfront Home

10 Things to Know Before Purchasing a Waterfront Home

Research has shown that living by the water lowers stress and anxiety and increases a sense of well-being and happiness. So if you’re looking for the perfect main residence or vacation home, finding one on the water might be just what the doctor ordered. Before putting down an offer, however, it’s important to think through the unique issues and things to know about owning a waterfront property to ensure it’s the right decision for you. Here are some of the top things you should know before buying a house on the water.

1. What kind of waterfront experience do you want?

Before embarking on the house hunt, decide what kind of waterfront experience you’re looking for. Do you want to live near the crystal clear waters of the ocean, or would you be okay with the greener, murkier waters of a lake? Have you always dreamed of being on a canal or by a river?
Do you prefer a natural body of water or are you okay with a manmade version? Do you want to live in a place that’s warm year-round, or are you okay with living by the water even in colder months when snow will prohibit you from doing water activities? There’s no right or wrong answer, but figuring out what type of experience matters most to you will simplify the process and make it easier for you to find the right place.

2. What kind of waterfront access do you want?

Next, decide what kind of views and access you want. For example, a waterfront property means you are actually on the water, while a property with water views means you can see the water but won’t actually be on it. If a listing says it has water access, that means you can get to the water from your property or a community-owned property. And if the property only has water privileges, that means it doesn’t have water views but allows you to access the water from a community-owned property. Understanding this (and knowing which one you’re after) will save you valuable time in the house hunting process. Be sure to ask your realtor what your water rights will be for any given house you are considering to ensure it aligns with what you want. You should also clarify what exactly you’re allowed to do in the water – from fishing and swimming to boating and using your personal watercraft – to make sure you’ll be able to do your favorite water activities.

3. What is the water like?

Before purchasing a waterfront home, conduct some research to learn more about what the given body of water is like. For example, is it safe to swim in? If you want to boat, is the water deep enough to accommodate your boat? What is the average temperature of the water? Be open to waterfront listings in other neighborhoods or areas that you may not have originally considered, as you just might end up liking one of the more under-the-radar destinations better than the more popular alternatives.

4. What do the neighbors think of living there?

If possible, try to ask some of the neighbors how they like living on the body of water. They can provide some behind-the-scenes intel on how the water is used by those in the community, what the general vibe of the area is, and what it’s like working with the homeowner’s association. They can also give you a better feel for what types of people live there. For example, is it a community made up mostly of retirees or families with young kids? Is the water safe to swim in? Are there opportunities to volunteer and get involved with the community? The people that live in the area will have an impact on what your experience is like, so try to get information from them about how they like living there.

5. How private is it?

Unless you live on a private beach or lake, you will likely have lots of visitors coming to the area to go boating, swimming, or sunbathing. Think about whether the listing offers enough privacy to help you feel safe and comfortable at home. You can also look into adding landscaping, fences, or privacy shades if desired to keep prying eyes at bay. Don’t forget to think about what the potential noise issues may be like as well.

6. What was the building process like?

To reduce the risk of anything catastrophic happening to your home, hire a home inspector to survey the property. They will be able to give you a better idea of whether the builders followed proper building protocols, whether the house was designed to withstand the elements, and whether there are any deterioration issues that might affect your house in the future. Their expert knowledge will give you valuable peace of mind and help you know that your house was properly built to last in its waterfront location. Many properties also have seawalls or bulkheads (which are built to protect the property from water damage). If your would-be house has a seawall or bulkhead, make sure to have it inspected as well to ensure it is up to code.

7. What will your future building rights look like?

Whether you might want to put in a boat dock or erect a guest house in the future, it’s important to find out what your building rights would be. Even if you aren’t immediately planning to build something, it’s nice to know what your options would be in the future if you choose to go down that path. If the house is in an area with an HOA, find out what kinds of rules you would be expected to follow as well. If you live in a condo building, you’ll also want to find out if the rules would prohibit you from renting it out to a tenant or listing it on Airbnb in the future.

8. What are the maintenance costs?

Owning a house on the water comes with a whole host of financial responsibilities. For example, you may need to pay fees to store a boat or replace pipes and roofs that are damaged by the weather. When purchasing a waterfront home, it’s not enough to just look at the listing price; you also need to have a good understanding of the typical wear and tear on the house and roughly how much you may need to spend on maintenance costs each year. You’ll want to factor in these ongoing costs to ensure that you can truly afford the ongoing maintenance needs for the house instead of just the down payment.

9. How much is insurance?

As with maintenance costs, the insurance rates for a waterfront home are likely to be higher than their landlocked counterparts. This is because waterfront homes often have a greater risk of being damaged by hurricanes, floods, and other natural disasters. Get a quote from a trusted insurance company and make sure there are not any unforeseen types of things you’ll need to get the home insured against. Calculate the insurance costs into your monthly home payment to get a better idea of how much the property will cost you in the long run.

10. What do you want your current – and future – lifestyle to entail?

Many people like living on the water because it offers a more laid-back, peaceful alternative to city living. But before you spring for waterfront property, think through what you're current (and anticipated future) lifestyle is like and whether owning a waterfront property aligns with that. For example, living in a smaller lakefront community like the Lake of the Ozarks is a gorgeous setting, but you won’t have as many shopping and dining options as in larger cities. If you have kids, do you need to be closer to a city center so you can easily take them to extracurricular activities, or would your whole family benefit from living in a more secluded waterfront community? If you’re planning on retiring in the home, it might be helpful to think through potential issues you may need to deal with in the future. For example, you might want to think about purchasing a house with just one story (or an elevator) in case you experience mobility issues as you get older.
If you’re thinking about buying a waterfront home, be sure to contact the team at Hogan Luxury today. As a top-producing real estate firm serving the Richmond and Charlottesville communities in Virginia, our team specializes in representing properties throughout the entire state and has built a reputation for providing exemplary customer service. With years of experience helping sellers navigate the ins and outs of the real estate process, the team at Hogan Real Estate is well-equipped to answer any questions you may have and help you find the right home. Give us a call today to start the process!


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