Things to Consider When Buying a Lake House

There’s something magical about life on a lake. Whether you dream of meditative fishing trips, boisterous swim sessions or parties on the dock, there’s no denying the peace and natural beauty of life on the water. Before you pull the trigger on the lake house of your dreams, though, it’s important to ground your decision in fact, not emotion. Keep these factors in mind as you house hunt the perfect lake home.

The Home’s Orientation

Chances are good that you’re buying a lake house for its proximity to nature. Simply deciding between a house right on the water or a house close to the lake is a good start, but you’ll also want to factor in the home’s orientation. Does it get a lot of morning sun? Will that exposure to summer sun degrades the home’s deck more quickly than average? How will the wind coming off the lake impact your enjoyment of the outdoor space?

Heating and cooling costs are also important to consider when looking at a home’s orientation. Homes that receive a lot of afternoon sun may be difficult to keep cool in the summer months, especially for a multi-story property. In the winter, an abundance of shade can mean a house that guzzles heat while still running chillier than you’d prefer. While the orientation of a home is not itself necessarily a deal-breaker, it should be a significant factor in your decision to purchase one property versus another.

Proximity to the Lake

Owning waterfront property is a dream for many prospective buyers, but there are unexpected challenges associated with life on the lake. Weather patterns created by the lake can create high winds and cooler temperatures, not to mention the potential for damage when storms roll through. Additionally, with the rise and fall of water levels comes serious degradation of property.

Moisture in the air can also be an issue for homeowners. High levels of humidity make houses more prone to mold growth. If a home already has challenges with moisture retention, you may want to pass over the property in lieu of a more ventilated house. A qualified home inspector can go through every nook and cranny of a property to determine its current condition and any maintenance concerns. Be sure to invest in a certified inspector before you lay down any cash on a lake house.

Sewer or Septic?

Many lake houses are located far from the services offered by urban living. While getting away from it all may be your ultimate goal, this sometimes requires sacrifices. Check to see if the home you hope to buy is serviced by a septic system or by public sewer. When septic systems are located close to the water, replacements and maintenance can be incredibly expensive.

In fact, some lakeside communities make plans to install sewer systems throughout the neighborhood. This many require expensive lake or homeowner’s association dues. Sharing the financial burden with your neighbors may end up being the more affordable approach, but it’s important to know the facts before you decide to purchase a home.

Lake Access and Zoning

If you’ve never lived on a lake before, you might be surprised to find that there are certain rules and regulations involving the use of the water. There are a number of wetland protections in place to preserve the natural ecosystems, so before you get too excited about dock access from your backyard, check to see if you’re allowed to use your jet skis, wakeboards and speed boats.

The zoning of a particular lakeside property may or may not limit your enjoyment of the water, but it will undoubtedly have an impact on the building, planting and clearing you intend to do. If you love a lake house but want to tear down its existing deck and replace it with a larger one, for instance, you may be fighting an uphill battle. Do your due diligence to understand the zoning limitations ahead of time so you’re not in for any nasty surprises from the homeowner’s association.

Dock Construction and Maintenance

Does the home you’re considering buying have a dock already in place? If not, the construction of one could put your lake house dock dreams out of price range. A permanent dock can cost upwards of $50,000 to construct. Depending on the zoning permissions allowed by the homeowner’s association, there may be additional hoops to jump through before the project can even begin.

Even if a home already has a dock, it’s worth having a home inspector who specializes in docks come to examine the structure. Maintenance can cost big bucks, so you’ll want to perform a thorough examination of the current condition of the dock. Since most docks will need to be replaced after 20 years or so, you’ll want to gather as much information on the history and construction of the dock as possible.

The Importance of a Lake House Inspection

No matter your goals for lakeside living, you’ll want to hire an experienced home inspector who specializes in decks, docks and homes on the water. These professionals lend their expert eyes to ensure home buyers have all the facts they need before making a decision. Home buying can be an emotional process, especially if you’ve been saving up for a lake house for years. With a certified home inspector on your side, you can take a logical approach to one of the most important investments you’ll ever make!

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