Ask These 5 Essential Questions Before Buying a Waterfront Home

Posted by Dave Kotler on Monday, April 10th, 2023 at 2:01pm.

Questions to Ask Before Buying Waterfront Property

Deciding to purchase a waterfront home could be a dream come true for some people. Being near the water offers many benefits—incredible views, fun activities, and nature all around. Yet, before making the decision to buy a waterfront property, be sure to take a closer look at what it means to own in a specific area, as not every property has the same requirements and opportunities along the waterfront itself. Keep reading to learn some questions to ask before buying a waterfront home.

What Are the Boundaries of My Waterfront Ownership?

Boundaries can be confusing on the waterfront, especially for first-time waterfront home buyers, and they can differ from one area to the next. Private beachfront property title ownership might extend into the water itself, though this is rarely the case. A person's title rights to the water typically include unobstructed access to the water.

Some provinces reserve the right to ownership of the foreshore, which is that unclear space between the property edge and the water edge. Most often, that is the naturally occurring high watermark. It is critical for those purchasing real estate like this to read the deed and know specifically what is being purchased.

That's easy to do. Confirm with a real estate attorney for more insight into specific property conditions or work with a real estate agent familiar with waterfront properties. This offers a few simple benefits. It is especially important for those who wish to build a dock. Knowing what the water rights are may play a significant role in what steps a property owner may be able to take to use their property. It may be possible to gain insight from the title itself, but verifying this information provides confirmation on how the property can be used.

Has the Home Flooded Before?

Locations on the waterfront may risk flooding should a significant event occur, but that doesn't mean the particular home in consideration flooded or that it is at high risk for doing so. Still, property buyers may wish to take the time to verify this to ensure they know what it is they are buying.

There are various ways to get this information. Be sure to get a home inspection and ask the inspector to look specifically for flood risks. It may also be important to have a survey conducted of the home to gain a better idea of the conditions and risks. Local flood zones and wetland areas are also managed by the city's building department.

Flooding damage is also an important consideration when buying a property on the waterfront. Even if the property has never taken on water, humidity and moisture are common concerns for some homes. An inspection can spot areas of possible exposure. Property buyers should know about these risks to ensure they are buying wisely.

What Is the Water Quality Like?

Kelowna, BC Waterfront PropertyWhen buying a home on a waterfront property, spending time in the water is often on the agenda. In most cases, that's not a problem. Still, verifying the water quality is another step in ensuring the property fits the desired use of the home buyer. Water quality changes rapidly. Many cities provide water testing on a routine basis for peace of mind.

For those who still have questions and concerns, other resources exist. For example, city water boards may provide a significant amount of information about water quality in the region. That includes providing a list of agencies and organizations that manage water quality and oversight.

Can I Build a Dock on the Property?

For those purchasing waterfront property, the question of building a dock is often a big one. Many people consider private docks to be one of the most essential amenities for waterfront homes, and it is something that should be discussed early on in the home search process and verified before purchasing the property. The first step is to know that many lakes and other waterfront properties allow for docks, but each jurisdiction has its own set of rules and requirements for what can be built.

In nearly all cases, property owners need to request permission from the local governing authority and provide information on sizing, specs, and use to determine if a personal dock is allowable. Design work is sometimes necessary to verify that the location is safe and the structure will be soundly built. Reach out to a professional dock builder in the area to gain insight into permits and previous concerns with building within that area.

A property owner may wish to have the shoreline assessed professionally to determine if there is public access. Most property owners also must have the dock fully insured. Zoning permits are often provided based on all of these factors.

How Much Maintenance Will the Home Require?

When purchasing a waterfront home, it's essential to consider not only the aesthetics and location but also the maintenance requirements of the home, the land, and the waterfront. The upkeep of a waterfront property can differ significantly from that of a traditional residential property.

Exterior Maintenance

Waterfront homes are exposed to harsher weather conditions, such as strong winds, salt spray, and high humidity, which can lead to increased wear and tear on the exterior of the house. Be sure to inspect the property for signs of weathering and inquire about the frequency of exterior maintenance tasks such as repainting, resealing, and roof repairs.

Landscaping and Grounds Maintenance

Waterfront properties often have larger lots, which can require more extensive landscaping and grounds maintenance. You should also consider the potential impact of erosion and storm surges on the property, as well as any preventative measures that may need to be taken.

Dock and Shoreline Maintenance

If your waterfront home has a dock, bulkhead, or other shoreline structures, it's important to understand the maintenance requirements for these structures. Docks and bulkheads, in particular, can be subject to wear and tear from the elements and may require regular inspections, repairs, or even replacement.

Finding the Ideal Waterfront Property Takes a Bit of Time

For those making the decision to buy a waterfront home, many factors play a role in the process. Yet, for those who wish to own waterfront property, the more information available in advance, the better. Consider what types of activities are important to have access to, what is allowable within the area, and what restrictions may limit success. Most sites will see opportunities for exploring and enjoying the water and designing a waterfront dream home.

Dave Kotler

Leave a Comment