How to Purchase a Lake House Vacation Home
When you decide to purchase a second home, it is an exciting time. Be careful to resist the urge to immediately buy a piece of property. Intense research, smart budgeting and careful considerations will minimize your risk and aid in a successful purchase.
How to Select a Vacation Home Location
When selecting a location for your second home, decide if you will be using this home as a vacation home, for rental income, or both. If you will be using the home, how often? On the weekends, once a month, or for the summer? If it is a home your family wants to use, make sure the location is one that is not too difficult or timely to get to if you plan to use it regularly. A three hour radius may be doable for weekend use, but under two hours is even better. Also, choose a location that is conducive to the activities your family is interested in. Ice fishing may be fun for dads and grandpas, but kids that want to engage in water sports need warmer waters.
If you have children, consider their ages. It is easier to get away when the kids are younger. As they get older, they may have jobs or sports commitments, and they may be reluctant to leave their friends. How many years will you enjoy the home before too many activities prevent you from going as often as you would like? If you are purchasing the home with the thought of one day retiring there, does it meet the needs of your family now and your anticipated future needs?
If you are using the home for rental income, are you going to hire a maintenance management company to care for it or are you going to attempt that yourself? If it is the latter, make sure you can easily drive to the site.
Once you have determined the desired radius from your primary location, determine which lakes are in the area and do extensive research. Make sure the lake you are considering does not run dry in a drought. Find out if it is a water source for another city. Is the lake treated with chemicals to contain bacteria? If possible, visit the lake in the heat of the summer and mid winter. If the lake is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, contact them to find our more information. Is there a certain water level maintained for the lake? Obtaining these answers prior to a purchase can save you from making a poor investment choice.
Water Sports on the Lake
Determine Your Price Range
Before you set your eyes on your dream vacation home, do a thorough audit of your current income and expenses. Try to anticipate future expenses as well. Also, keep in mind these expenses that go into owning a lake home:
- Homeowners insurance: This tends to come at a higher premium due to it being water front property.
- Watercraft: It's no fun being on the lake without owning at least one boat! Think pontoon boat, ski boat, fishing boat, jet skis, etc.
- Property taxes: Additional taxes for your new home, as well as your new boats.
- Home Furnishings: All the comforts of home!
- Lake toys: Whether it's fishing gear, wake boards, kayaks, kneeboards, tubes or floats, you are going to want toys.
- Utilities: Even if you use the home infrequently, there is still a cost to heat and cool the home as well as regular home maintenance expenses. Whatever you think this number will be, double it.
Owning a lake home is a wonderful experience, but you do not want the home to become a financial burden or it will significantly diminish the enjoyable experience.
Do research on the selling price of homes with a similar desired square footage. Decide upon a monetary range that you feel comfortable with and start your search. Be aware that in many locations, homes on the main lake are considered more desirable, thus carrying a higher asking price than those on a distant cove.
How to Select a Realtor for a Lake Home Purchase
Finding a highly responsive, knowledgeable realtor is key to having a positive experience when purchasing your lake home. First, find two to three real-estate agents you may want to work with.
- Ask people you know with homes on the lake for their recommendations.
- Find a realtor who lives on the lake. There is no one who will know the lake better than one who lives there. She will also want to make you pleased with your purchase if she is also your neighbor.
- Research the top realtors for the area. See who currently has the most listings.
- Find out how long they have been a realtor, and how long they have been selling homes on the lake.
- Ask them questions about the housing market in the area. They should be well versed.
- Inquire about property values.
- Call references. Ask people what they liked and didn't like about the particular realtor.
- Check the agency and realtor accreditations.
Kayaking on Lake Gaston
Know the Lake Rules and Restrictions
There is not a uniform set of rules for lakes. Each lake has its own regulations to be aware of. Some smaller lakes to not allow watercraft with motors. Some lakes do not allow certain types of boats, like high speed cigarette boats. Each lake has its own restrictions on what ages are required by law to wear a life jacket in a moving vessel. Knowing the rules of your lake can save you future fines.
Final Checks Before Purchasing a Lake Home
Before you make your decision to purchase a lake home, be sure to visit the house by land as well as by boat. Sometimes great houses have small tunnels to get through before you can access the main lake. Make sure you are comfortable with the distance and route to travel to the nearest marina or boat ramp.
If your potential new home has its own dock, measure the depth of the water. Make sure it is deep enough for a boat as well as swimming. Homes with shallow dock areas do not make for good resale.
Lastly, be sure to visit the home on an average Saturday in the summer to get a good idea of how the boat traffic will be. What may seem like a quiet area of the lake can be very busy on a weekend. Make sure the boat traffic will not affect the docking of the boat or swimming off your dock.
If you have done all the research and found a home with in your budget, then you have lessened the risk of your investment to the best of your ability. Enjoy building lasting memories at your new lake home!