1. Motivation. I hear it all the time…..“Buying this lake house was the best decision we ever made for our family.”  Owning a lake home is a huge motivation for a busy, scattered family to come together. It is also a pathway to nurturing friendships. It’s been said, “you never know how many friends you have until you have a lake house.”  A lake home and all that comes with it–fishing, boating, skiing, or just relaxing–affords endless opportunity to connect and reconnect with family and friends.
  2. Time.  Consider the commute.  The average person buys 1.5 hours away from their primary home. Consider your schedule. Will you see this as a year-round weekend getaway? Will you spend your long holidays and vacation here?  Will you rent it?  Could it serve as a conference center where you conduct business?  This may help you map your area where you would consider purchasing.
  3. Maintenance. Don’t spend half of your two-day weekend cleaning. Look into lawn maintenance and cleaning services. Consider local concierge options, where someone makes sure that the fridge is packed with food and the boat is gassed and ready to run. These services can enable you to maximize enjoyment of your time at the water.
  4. Expense. Waterfront properties are, as a rule, more expensive than homes not on the water. Price is determined by waterfront footage…not necessarily the amenities within the four walls of the house. Costs of seawalls, docks, and piers vary and can require the input of the entity that “manages” the water (i.e. Alabama Power manages Lake Martin).  The corporation manages water levels and administers permits, dictating what can be done on areas that touch the water. You should also budget for “water toys” like boats, jet skis, life jackets, floats, coolers, etc.
  5. Proximity. Consider costs for taxes, licenses, tags, etc. Lakes are usually in rural areas which sometimes have lower cost of living expenses. However, you can expect to pay a premium for boat gas and other water “must haves” during lake season. Consider also the proximity of those that will be joining you.  Out-of-town family and friends will weigh the ease of getting to and from your slice of sunshine.  If you want them there often, take note of their route.

These are the five key considerations before deciding whether to move forward in a lake investment. Here are a few additional things that are also helpful in researching lake property.

  • What does the lake property look like “off season?”  Your local realtor should be an expert on what properties look like year-round.  Winter months are the best time to get a worst case scenario snapshot of the property.  As a rule of thumb – if you like it in the winter, you will love it the rest of the year.
  • Bucket list item:  If you can’t let go of your dream of lake property, move in incremental steps. Set your goal, start researching, and go look! This is where a lake expert is key. Navigating specialty property such as lakes requires experience and expertise. Lake property is in a class all its own.
  • The waterfront market is still at market recovery prices, but by the 2018 sales indication, not for long.
  • Lakes are where they are. “More lakes” aren’t being built, which makes finding an area that you like an easy first step in moving forward.
  • Unlike hotels or rentals, when you arrive at your lake home, it is just that–your home. You’ll have your own food, furniture, toys and such to enjoy with those you love. It will be a warm and familiar place that you’ll go to time and again to make lasting memories with those you love.