Water Access, Water View, Waterfront ... What's the Difference?
Many neighborhoods (but not all) in and around the Annapolis area are "water access". This means that if you purchase a home in the community that you have access to the water. Access can be to the Severn River, the South River, Back Creek, Spa Creek or any of a dozen other inlets and bays along the Chesapeake Bay. Sometimes access is an established area that is well maintained and sometimes it's not. Many water access communities have beaches, boat ramps, communities piers and boat slips. Access is usually regulated and sometimes monitored. Water access gives everyone who lives in the community (but not outsiders) an opportunity to use the inlets, creeks, rivers and the Bay that makes living along the Chesapeake Bay so wonderful.
Water view means that you can see the water. Water views come in many variations, from limited to full all out spectacular views. My favorite spin on a water view is the "seasonal water view" which sometimes translates into "you can see the water only when and if the leaves fall off the trees and before they grow back" and is sometimes called a "winter water view". Water views can be that water you see between two homes, the water you see across the rooftops of the houses across the street, and from time-to-time it the water you see down at the end of the street when you stand out in front of the house in the middle of the road!!!
There are no "view rights" in Maryland. So, if you live across the street from the water and you've got a great view of the water over the summer cottage across the street, there's no guarantee that you'll always be able to look out, across, and over the house. Your water view might be wiped out in one summer when the "waterfront tear-down" gets torn down and a new multi-level home is build on the footprint of the old cottage. There went the view!!!
A waterfront home is what many buyers are looking for when they come to Annapolis. Waterfront homes come in a wide variety of styles and price ranges, from tear-downs to multi-million dollar mansions, with shallow water to deep water, with and without piers, with and without the need for flood insurance. Waterfront along the Chesapeake Bay is highly desirable and often has a deep open vista. Along the creeks and rivers, a deep vista can be hard to find and the farther up the creek or river you go, the shallower the water and the view. The waterfront can also be cluttered. You can find older "camp and cottage" communities that have undergone decades of transformations from summer cottages to fully renovated year-round homes. The homes on either can be quintessential waterfront tear-downs to new construction on old cottage foot-prints. The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area regulations determine just what can be built within the 1,000-foot setback (please visit the Critical Areas Commission website for details).
Deep water around Annapolis usually means 4-plus feet of water that is deep enough where you can keep a sailboat in the water with a shallow draft or shoal draft keel. Powerboats often need two-plus feet of water for small runabouts and deep water for near-shore and off-shore cruisers and fishing boats. Many piers have lifts which are often capable of lifting 10,000 lbs. and sometimes more out of the water. There are a few waterfront homes with covered boat houses but this isn't the norm along the waterfront. Deep water is coveted and often hard to find and comes with an expensive pricetag.
When you purchase a waterfront home, you lender will request a flood certificate that states the flood zone status of the property. Depending on the lender and the flood zone, you'll likely need flood insurance in addition to hazard insurance on the property. Hurricane Isabel in September 2003 did significant damage along the Chesapeake Bay and many homes were damaged and flooded. When considering purchasing a waterfront home, it might be important to note when the property was last renovated. There are many homes that were rehabbed in the twelve to eighteen months following the hurricane. Ask your agent to ask the homeowner what damage - if any - was the result of that hurricane and verify with you insurance agent who might be able to check the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) to see what claims if any were filed on the property.
Riparian and Non-riparian Waterfront
Riparian waterfront is where you own property that has water (around Maryland a creek or river) as one of its boundaries. Riparian rights refers to the rights of the property owner has to the use or restrict others' use and access to that water.
In Maryland buyers can find both riparian and non-riparian waterfront. Non-riparian waterfront usually means there is water but access to/from the water is over community (and occasionally county) property. A non-riparian waterfront property might have a road or community beach between the house and the water's edge. Typically non-riparian waterfront means that the owner doesn't have a private pier or dock on the water - although there are many expectations. Cape St. Clair is a good example where the community retains the riparian rights to the water with an approximate 10-foot buffer between the property line and the water line but allows homeowners to construct and maintain private docks and piers along the creek. Occasionally a homeowner purchases the land between their property and the water and converts the home from non-riparian to riparian waterfront via a "lot consolidation letter". There can be property tax implications to doing this. So one should consult with an attorney or qualified professional before undertaking this action.