What are the Pros and Cons of Buying Waterfront Property?

Few experiences are more relaxing than heading to the cottage for the weekend and enjoying your own private view of the lake or river. Whether you're looking for a house by the water to use only occasionally or you want a secluded retreat to live in year-round, you need to know what the pros and cons of waterfront houses are.

Below we will look at some points to keep in mind if you are buying a waterfront house or waterfront land that you plan to build on.

Finding the Right Lake

It may seem obvious, but not all lakes (or rivers or oceans) are created the same. Some provide crystal clear waters and may be connected to wider water navigation networks. These are ideal if you have a boat and would like to do some exploring.

Alternatively, a closed lake system may not provide clear waters, but it tends to offer more privacy. Also, if you have a large vessel that will need to be docked, then you will want a deeper body of water with a relatively steep drop-off.

Finally, if you have small children, then a beach with a more gradual slope would probably be ideal.

Surveys and Inspections

Many waterfront properties, especially in rural areas, have never been surveyed, meaning that encroachments and easements may have gone unnoticed. Consider getting a survey done so that legal headaches don’t arise later on.

Also, waterfront properties tend to be subject to a lot of moisture, which can cause problems with the homes themselves, such as mould, flooding, and leaks. Have a home inspection done as these problems can be hard to spot by the untrained eye.

Zoning Regulations

There are many zoning regulations that are unique to waterfront properties. Most municipalities have environmental bylaws that limit the size of any new builds or how far out from the shore a dock can be built. If you plan on doing any major building, find out about these bylaws beforehand.

Also, in many cases, the Crown retains a right to build on the shore, which is called a Shore Road Allowance. A building that encroaches on the Shore Road Allowance could run into major problems if the government eventually plans to develop the land. Ideally, you should look for a waterfront property with a “closed” shoreline as that won’t be at risk for development.

Roads, Water, and Waste

Road access is a major issue for many waterfront properties. Find out if your access road is maintained year round or if there is a fee that needs to be paid to have it plowed in the winter. Also, some access roads may be poorly maintained and only traversable by 4WD vehicles, especially during inclement weather.

Most rural waterfront properties rely on lake water or wells for their water source. Have an inspection done to ensure the water is potable.

Likewise, find out what type of sewage disposal system is in use. If the property uses a septic system, then you need to ensure it is in good working condition. Repairing or replacing an aged septic system can end up being a major expense.

A waterfront property provides for a retreat from the noise and grind of city living. But when buying a waterfront home, be sure you make the experience as smooth and worry-free as possible by keeping the above considerations in mind.