If you’re interested in purchasing a home that backs onto a lake, make sure to do all of the standard due diligence you would with any other home. homes backing onto a lake are different and come with unique challenges that buyers may not be aware of.
For example, municipalities often own the lakes that lakefront homes look over and they may lease the land to homeowners on the shoreline.
1. Look for a Home with a Dock
A dock is a big selling point for lake homes. According to real estate broker Maggie Keats, two-thirds of the potential buyers she meets with mention needing a private dock in their new lake house.
A home with an unobstructed view of the water is also important. This will help ensure you can enjoy the sunrise or sunset without being interrupted by boat traffic and other lake houses’ boats and docks.
Mosquito Magnet notes that there are more mosquitoes near lakes than farther inland, so it is important to consider whether you want to be close to the lake or not. If you don’t want to be bothered by mosquitoes, make sure to find a house with a screened in porch for the summer months.
Another factor to consider is whether the lake house is on a public or private lake. Many lakes are owned by government agencies or utility companies that lease the land to lake homeowners on the waterfront. This is important because it may affect the cost of maintenance and upkeep of a property.
2. Ask the Sellers About Access
If you find a great lake house, ask the sellers whether or not the property comes with lake access. Many lakes have easements that allow homeowners access to the water, and it’s important to know if those easements are still in effect. If not, you could end up with a beautiful home that’s impossible to get to the water from.
In addition, it’s a good idea to find out if there are any restrictions on the shoreline of the property. Some state laws require a permit for alterations to the shoreline, which could be a deal breaker for some buyers.
Other questions to ask include:
3. Look at the Shoreline
Look at the shoreline and determine if it is natural, or has been heavily altered. Natural shorelines are typically comprised of a variety of materials: live and dead trees, stumps, rocks of all shapes and sizes, silt, sand, cattails, grasses, flowering plants and more. These diverse and often local materials work together to create a functional and aesthetic natural buffer that protects the lake and allows it to maintain its water quality.
Most municipalities have strict rules regarding what you can and cannot do on your property within a certain distance from the shoreline. You may not be allowed to mow the shoreline or alter it in any way without special permission. This is designed to keep the land a natural habitat and protect wildlife that uses it. It is important to understand these restrictions before purchasing so you do not have grand plans for landscaping that are impossible or expensive to implement. Also remember that most lakes are public, and others recreating on the lake may be able to walk across your home’s shoreline freely.
4. Look at the Water Level
The water level of lakes can change drastically through the seasons. Lake levels also differ depending on if it is a natural lake or manmade lake and whether it is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers or an electrical power company.
Look at the lake level during a rain storm to see how quickly and dramatically the water rises. During drought years, water levels will drop more significantly.
Also note how far the lake drops away from the shoreline, and ask yourself if you will be able to have a screened porch for the summer months. Without a screened porch, mosquitoes and midges can ruin your time on the lake.
Buffer zones, a 20-30 foot zone of undeveloped land between the lake and your home, are important for protecting lakes from excess nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. These nutrients can be introduced to water bodies from failing septic systems, residential detergents and fertilizers and runoff from cities, towns and villages.