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Housing Trends

December 2018

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How to Purchase Waterfront Property

Whether you’re looking to buy a primary residence or a second home – on a river, lake or on the shore – owning waterfront property can be one of the greatest experiences ever. It can also be one of the worst experiences if you don’t take careful steps when you purchase a waterfront home or lot.

Some buyers get so excited about the prospect of living near a beautiful body of water, they can overlook some crucial issues. So what’s your homework assignment before you sign on the dotted line?

Proper planning and more

Communities with waterfront properties have special needs when it comes to land use, upkeep of roads, utilities, and response to weather-related problems. Therefore, an important aspect of purchasing property is learning about the history of the development and the background of the community’s developer. A company should do extensive planning when developing waterfront communities. If a development is poorly planned, property values can decline and homeowners may experience endless problems.

Check out several developments when shopping for a waterfront/waterview lot. Don’t commit to one site or one development until you’ve done some comparison shopping.

You also need to learn as much as you can about the surrounding community, specifically its economic status. Talk to the local chamber of commerce. Is the local economy stable? Who are the main employers? Are property values appreciating? Are there any major sources of conflict with local city and county officials that may affect property use and values, such as zoning or road-construction controversies?

These issues may not seem important today but every homebuyer can become a home seller, even if you plan to occupy your dream home forever.

Details to examine

Area property owners should be asked what they think of the developer and the area. Are they happy with how their home was built? Were the amenities completed by the developer as promised? Those homeowners are also a source of information on homebuilders to consider if you are planning to build a new home on a waterfront lot.

Buyers also should carefully examine details about easements, utilities, building setbacks, property and road maintenance, property boundaries, and access to water and sewage.

Learn how the development and surrounding area have withstood storms, droughts, grassfires or other weather-related or natural problems. How did local officials respond to floods? Any problems with how soil and vegetation held up under troublesome weather?

In addition, buyers should not make assumptions about water access for boating, fishing or other recreation. Some lakes are constant-level, others experience water-level changes in winter months and during drought. Ask which areas have private or public access and who’s in charge of maintenance.

Know the property

Finally, get to know every square inch of the land you want to purchase by walking over it with a land survey. Buyers who want to build a home on the site should ensure the type of home they build meets zoning requirements and is suitable for the specific lot. If there are restrictive covenants, be sure you know what is allowed.

If you want to make changes such as adding a dock or seawall – or even a gazebo in your back yard – you may have to check with a shoreline management company or Corps of Engineers for guidelines and procedures for getting the proper permits.

Good luck and happy hunting!