8 Things to Know Before Buying Your Lake House

Posted by Hunter Croan on Monday, April 26th, 2021 at 2:22pm.

     1. Understanding Value

There are a variety of factors that go into accurately determining value for waterfront property. Lakefront property is extremely unique, unlike your typical residential subdivisions where homes are on uniform lots, have similar sized homes and quality of construction, and are roughly all built within a few years of each other.  When evaluating waterfront property, there are multiple factors that greatly influence pricing, such as location (lake location typically trumps neighborhood location), linear feet of waterfront, flood history, and waterfront improvements (boathouses, retaining walls, etc).  These factors combined make it nearly impossible to use a “price/sq foot” methodology (which is what most consumers are accustoming to hearing Realtors use), and a BIG reason we represent real estate agents, and attorneys, for their personal waterfront purchases. It is never fun to overpay for a lake house.

      2. FEMA Code

Most lake houses are not located in an incorporated city. However, they are still required to build according to FEMA guidelines. Our agents are not in the business for a quick sale to make a commission. Our business is our reputation, and we often recommend that our buyers pass on opportunities that may be risky. Purchasing a non-compliant house can be a big headache. At times, the house can be forced to become compliant. This not only comes at an expense to the homeowner, but it can severely affect your enjoyment of the property in some instances. Our agents know the basics when it comes to reviewing flood maps and reading the correct elevation certificate (there are ones based off the wrong maps at times) to help guide you through the process. We also can connect you with the proper governing authority to answer any details questions.

      3. Flood Insurance

First off, don't let the word “flood” scare you. A high percentage of lake houses have not flooded or may have only once in the past 50 years. However, understanding if a home will require flood insurance, and what that expense may look like, is an important step in your due diligence. The cost of flood insurance can vary enormously from house to house. We often run across flood insurance policies that are incorrectly quoted, which can cost you thousands of dollars a year. We know what to look for on the elevation certificate and can connect you with knowledgeable flood insurance agents. NOTE: Unfortunately, most insurance agents do not know how to read elevation certificates and are not familiar with the private flood insurance options which are now available. Private options allow for coverage much greater than FEMA's $250,000 maximum structure coverage.  

      4. Access to Non-MLS Properties

The importance of connecting with a knowledgeable, experienced, agent/team that is immersed in the market which you are searching within, cannot be overstated. We ensure you are getting a fully comprehensive view of the waterfront market through our membership in 4 different MLS systems that overlap Central Texas. On average, The Lakefront Group sells over 20 off-market lakefront properties every year.  If you haven’t already done so, we highly recommend signing up for Lake House Alerts This way you will be one of the first to know of any changes in the market (including off-market listings).  We just send listings (no junk email). 

       5. Lender Recommendations

We do not make a penny off the lender that you choose; however, we know who makes our life and your life a lot easier during the transaction. As we have discussed above, waterfront property is unique, and it takes a lender who understands this as well. It is extremely frustrating to both the buyer and seller when a lender cannot make it to the finish line.

       6. Local Contractor Recommendations

Most people are buying a lake house several hours away from their primary home, or they are relocating from out of the area and don’t have reputable contacts on which to rely. We have an extensive vendor list that we only share with our clients, and we are constantly updating our list to better assist our clients. Our vendors like to stay on our list, which ensures our clients get extra special treatment.

       7. Fill Area (For Highland Lakes)

“Fill” area is land that may exist between the rear boundary of a waterfront property and the water’s edge, to which the upland property owner doesn’t rightfully have title. According to LCRA, “fill” is most commonly found on Lake LBJ, with very few of these tracts remaining on Lake Travis. An informed agent is crucial to navigating the purchase of home with fill area. Not knowing can lead to potentially tens of thousands of dollars in corrections.

       8. Short Term Rentals (STR)

Many of our clients are not only looking to personally enjoy their waterfront home, but also to rent them out to help offset some of the cost of ownership. While it is not always black and white as to whether a property allows short-term (nightly) rentals, your agent can help point to those neighborhoods, HOA’s, or municipalities which may prevent you from using your property in such a fashion. If there is any doubt as to whether nightly rentals are a conforming use for the property, we will help connect you with a real estate attorney that is qualified to interpret deed restrictions and provide a decisive answer.

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