Pre-qualifying for a home, understanding navigable water use laws, conducting a professional home inspection, verifying property lines and purchasing insurance; buying a home can be a complicated process. But add “waterfront” into the equation and things get a little more complex. The good news is, real estate agents who regularly deal with waterfront properties know the ins and outs of this process. The following tips will give you a heads-up on what to expect when purchasing a home by the water.
- Find a real estate agent that specializes in waterfront properties. Since there are fewer waterfront properties for sale, most agents won’t have the specialized knowledge of appraising or investigating waterfront properties. In fact, it’s not unusual for a real estate agent to never have a single waterfront transaction in the entire career. Sometimes “you may think you’ve found a great deal” but the reason it’s a great deal could be restrictive use conditions or protected plants and animals etc. You might not be able to create that private beach you’ve been dreaming about.
- Consider the property more than the house. “Oftentimes, people fall in love with a house, but after they buy it, they realize the swimming is mucky, the view’s not very good, it’s difficult to get down to the water, or the place is not very private,” says Ted Silberstein, a real estate agent and GIS analyst with Parsons Realty. Ted specializes in land use restrictions and is an advisor to all of the Parsons’ real estate agents. Long story short, you can change the house, but you can’t change the location, so buy a property that you really love after you’ve checked it out first.
- Can anyone use the waterway in front of your home? The answer is YES. Therefore it’s important to know if the area you’re considering is the “local hangout” on the weekends or during the summer months. Agents specializing in waterfront properties will know this. Here’s an excerpt of the regulations regarding waterways. Federal case law further define and affirm these rights. The United States Constitution says – Freedom of navigation and the public’s right to use rivers are guaranteed by the Commerce Clause. The congressional Act admitting States to theUnion requires that “all the navigable waters within said State shall be common highways and forever free.” Therefore, when you barbecue, be sure to throw on another shrimp just in case you have company.
- Choose a property that dovetails with your lifestyle. You may find a beautiful property for sale, but it’s a 30 minute drive to the closest boat launch. “If you’re passionate about fishing, that’s going to make a difference in how often you actually do it. Focus on the activities you’re passionate about and choose a property accordingly.
- Look into loans programs early. Since many waterfront properties are more expensive than other properties, loans will often fall into the jumbo mortgage category, In addition, there may not be recent sales in the area to justify the “cost per square foot” since a good chunk of the purchase price is allocated to the unique location. John Coneys with Superior Home Mortgage says “lenders will therefore only consider very qualified buyers.” And, buyers ought to start the loan process before they start looking for a property because waterfront property loans can take a lot longer than a normal home loan,” Coneys says.
- Carefully check out the structure and look for deferred maintenance. Waterfront homes receive more abuse from the elements than the average home, so extra measures should be taken to protect them.
- Insurance can be complicated. Look into this early to make sure you know what you’re getting into. For instance waterfront homeowners may have to cover additional perils such as a flood insurance policy and liability policies with higher than normal limits.
- Find out what you can do with the property. If you want to make any changes to your waterfront property, such as adding a dock, start this process early to ensure that these alterations will be possible. Government agencies are very strict to deal with especially inNew Jersey, and you don’t want to commit to purchasing an expensive home without knowing these limitations. Also find out what kind of activities are allowed on the body of water, as some areas have restrictions on jet skis, speedboats and other watercraft.
- Talk to the neighbors. Get insider information from neighbors by asking if they enjoy living in the community, if they have any issues with the property you’re thinking about purchasing, or if there are any waterfront-related problems.
- In rural areas look into utilities. Waterfront buyers who are accustomed to the convenience of suburban life may assume that electricity, clean water, an adequate septic system, cable and Internet will be readily available at their new property, but this is not always the case. Bringing these services in to remote areas can be very expensive.
The Lazarus Team
The Landis Co., Realtors
The Jersey Shore Specialist
Waterfront and New Construction Specialist
609-457-0258 cell direct