Investing in a waterfront property (lake house, river house, beach house, etc), can be one of the most rewarding things you can do and can be a dream come true. It can also be a solid short-term and long-term investment. As you start your search for the right lake, you’ll want to really think about what you plan to use the lake and lakefront property for. Is it an investment? Primary residence? Second or third home? Do you plan to use the lake for watersports or is it mostly for the views? Are you entering your golden years or are you preparing to start a young family? As you consider these, and many questions, BetterLakes will work to guide you down the right path and hopefully help you find your Better Lake.
If you’re athletic and plan to use the lake for watersports, you’ll want to make sure it’s an all sports lake. If, when doing your search on betterlakes.com, you don’t see an indicator for “all-sports” that does not necessarily mean it’s not all-sports. It just means one of our reviewers hasn’t selected that as important to them yet ( you can be the first!). There are many ways to find out if a lake is all-sports though. The best place to start is our friend Google with a search for “is X lake all sports”. If the lake is not all-sports, it’s likely a very quiet and calm lake during the days and nights. It might be worthwhile investigating what, if any, kind of boats are allowed on the lake. You might find that only Human Powered Boats (HPB) are allowed.
Some lakes are known for their clarity, like Crater Lake with a visibility of upto 100 feet, while others are more brown or green. If a lake isn’t as clear as you’d like, fear not. It does not necessarily mean that the lake is dirty or contaminated. Usually, lakes have that murky effect when they are on the shallow end and/or when water in the lake is supplied from a river or other actively moving body of water. Lakes can also be murky when there’s a decent amount of runoff from driveways, lawns, construction sites and agriculture, and when there is a lot of boat activity. Think of the murkiness as stirred up sediment. It’s also possible that there’s a fair amount of algae in the water. Again, this is not necessarily a cause for concern to your health but rather a cosmetic issue.
Surely, you’re familiar with the adage “location, location, location” in real estate. This holds exceptionally true when investing in a lake front property. Zooming out, take a look at the area that the lake is in. Are there stores, shops, restaurants nearby? There will be days when you might not want to be on the water. It seems crazy, but it’s bound to happen. So, make sure you’ll have fun on the water and off the water.
It’s also important to consider, if this is a vacation house, how far away this is from your primary residence. Too far and you might be scrambling to get emergency maintenance. Too close and you might as well condense to one place. It’s usually recommended that a vacation lake house is 1-4 hours away.
Bringing the lens closer to your property, take a look at the lake and see if people have reviewed the lake. If other Better Lakes users have submitted and reviewed the lake, that’s worth paying attention to. The stats and measurements of the lake are all great, but what people actually have to say about the lake can be really important - especially if your property is in the busiest part of the lake or your spot is shallow and has a mucky bottom. Reviews are the best way to help your decision making process.
Of course, you want to make sure the actual structure is what you’re looking for but frankly, that can change. What is more permanent, however, are the details of your prospective property. Go down to the shoreline and see if it’s what you want. Watch for sandy bottoms, fast depth changes, thick seaweed, free flowing water (no one wants floating pond scum or mosquito hot beds). Can you see a way to gain easy access to the water? Is the size of the shoreline what you’re looking for? If you have a boat, will docking it be easy enough or will you be struggling to find pull into the slip? If you fish, is the shoreline going to give you quick and easy access to the type of fishing you're looking for?
Another really important part about the lake house buying decision is knowing what is on the lake. It’s nice to be able to drive it to a waterfront restaurant or bar. Some lakes don’t have marinas on the water - knowing that, alone, could tell you a little about the lake. If you have a boat, or ever plan to have a boat, you will want to know if there is a public boat launch. Private ones are fine too but often carry a fee. Check out the boat launch. If you’re buying a lake house, you’re buying into a part of that lake. You want to make sure that everything suits your needs.
As you can imagine, this is not a comprehensive list on what to look for when buying a lake house but hopefully it gets you started toward your better lake!