Buying a home is never an easy process, but it can be even more complex when you’re considering a waterfront property.
Just so we’re clear on terms: ‘waterfront’ refers to property that is directly on any body of water. This can be an ocean, lake, or even a river.
There are unique challenges and legal considerations when it comes to buying these types of homes, so it’s important to have the right information to make an informed decision.
Here are 9 things to consider when buying waterfront property or buying a waterfront home:
1) Focus on the property rather than the house
When it comes to waterfront property, the property itself is the ultimate selling point – not any structures that may be on it. Try removing the house from the equation and think about the property and the surrounding body of water.
For example, can you swim in the water? Would that even be important to you and your family? Is there boat access? What’s the weather like, and does the weather even permit enjoyable water activities?
It’s important to consider that you can always fix the house, but it’s much more difficult to alter the property.
2) Look into risks and insurance costs early
Insurance is more expensive for waterfront homes because of the special challenges that come with waterfront property.
You will need more coverage than just a standard homeowners insurance policy. This is because there is an increased risk of damage from the elements, such as the surrounding water and high winds.
For example, a standard homeowners insurance policy generally covers wind damage. However, this may not always apply to waterfront homes – especially in areas with repeated hurricane exposure. You may have to pay extra or buy wind insurance separately.
Other unique policies you may not consider with a standard home are things like boat insurance, flood insurance, and personal liability insurance for you and your family due to the increased risk of injury associated with water-based activities.
3) Understand any building restrictions
There are often restrictions, regulatory or practical, that apply to building additional structures on waterfront property.
Ask yourself if building a dock, seawall, or new home is something you may want to do in the future.
If so, ensure that the land near the water could support such a structure or if there are any legal issues preventing further development. A good place to start is to go to your local government’s website and look into permit information. REtipster gives some good background information about building on land.
4) Make sure the property fits your lifestyle
Waterfront property may present an alternative to the suburban or urban lifestyle you are accustomed to. This is often due to the location and associated challenges of getting to and from the property and its proximity to urban centers.
Many conveniences offered by traditional homes may become trade-offs for the charm of waterfront living. But on the other hand, these properties allow you to do activities (like boating and water skiing) that would otherwise be impractical to do on a daily basis.
Ensure that you can carry out your routine as usual. Or if you are looking for a lifestyle change, ensure you have a backup plan if the change doesn’t work out.
5) Dig into the property’s history
Once again, a top agent will be invaluable in the process of vetting a property and its history. It’s important to take many aspects into account.
For example, examine the floodplain and its proximity to any structures on the property by taking a look at the history of development on the land. Also, consider seismic assessment and risk. Generally, all of this information is available through local government resources.
Look at weather patterns and the potential impact of flooding and wind. Online sites like FloodTools.com can help you assess your flood risk.
6) Consider the weather and the seasons
Waterfront environments are more extreme than their inland counterparts. And that means you should consider the temperature and weather throughout the year before putting in an offer on the home.
If you live in a colder climate, for example, the environment will be very different in the winter – likely much colder! Also consider what will happen to the water levels throughout the year and if the water will freeze in the winter. You can find historical climate data through NOAA.
Don’t underestimate the impact day-to-day weather and seasonal changes can have on your lifestyle.
7) Know the value of waterfront property
Waterfront homes can be worth nearly double that of their non-waterfront counterparts due to low supply and high demand.
The value of the property depends on a number of factors including flood risk and noise levels associated with water activities. This can vary widely from location to location.
Know how much your property is worth by looking into what homes sold for in the surrounding area. That way you can better understand the retained value of waterfront property.
8) Understand the legalities
There are a number of legal issues unique to waterfront properties. So it’s often a good idea to consult a lawyer.
An important issue is how far your property extends toward the water. Sometimes your property lines may stop short of the water’s edge, leaving a gap that may be zoned for public use as a promenade or roadway.
If your property does extend to the water’s edge, you encounter what is called riparian rights – meaning that the rights to the water are shared equally amongst all owners of property that extends to the water’s edge.
It is important to consider whether or not you are buying waterfront property that extends to the water’s edge as this can impact your usage of the water and interactions with fellow property owners.
9) Hire a top agent to help guide you
Purchasing a waterfront property is much more complicated and nuanced than normal property transactions. That’s why it’s important that you hire a top real estate agent in your city. They will have the knowledge and insight about waterfront properties that can help take the burden off you.
Also, if they are a member of the Top Agent Network, they may also have access to waterfront properties that are not listed on the MLS.