Return to the Buying and Selling Homes Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
Waterfront Property Questions

Posted by HelenBack (My Page) on
Wed, Mar 6, 13 at 3:24

H is accepting a job in the New England area that is expected to run for 2 to 5 years, possibly more, so we’re looking for a new home after 30 years in the same house. How exciting!

We are coming from the west coast, and something that interests us is properties that have pond, lake, stream, or river frontage or are adjacent with access. We’d love to try something new, having lived in suburban tract housing all our lives. But . . . we are clueless to the relative merits and disadvantages of different waterfront listings.

One property we've looked at is set on a slope with direct access to a floating dock on a big man-made lake (250+ acres, less than 15 feet average depth) that has no shoreline. Another property is on a good-sized natural pond (90 acres, average depth 30 feet), but is set back on a lawn with a couple of feet of sandy margin to the lake (it also has an arrangement for a boat). Should we just be evaluating which house we like better, or are there different aspects about the two lakes that make one property more desirable than another that we should be considering? We do need to keep possible resale in mind.

Much as I am eager to hear about what features are desirable about waterfront properties, I also hope to hear the cautionary stuff and the downside. As I wrote, this is totally new to us and we don’t know what we don’t know! What about noise -- one listing states only electric motors on boats are allowed, the other doesn't specify. Also, one lake is privately owned by the residents -- is that an advantage or liability? Finally, I’m worried about is the insect factor; do you deal with more bugs and insects living by a body of water? We've never lived in an area with a spring thaw.

We are intrigued by the waterfront listings we see, but we've also found other properties that also look very appealing. So, truly, we're hoping to not only read answers to our specific questions, but the good, bad, and not-so-great about owning on the water to help us narrow our decision.

Thanks, all, for your thoughts and opinions!


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

We have a lovely view of a small pond, and very much enjoy watching the various waterfowl residents. It sparkles in the sun, and seeing fish leaping is entertaining. The questions I would want to know are: is either pond open to the public for boating/ fishing/swimming/ ice skating? I would not want the noise, traffic and trash this would bring. Do you have small children that this might be a hazard?


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

We looked at a house on a pond a few years ago. Lovely property, but the yard was littered with goose droppings.


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

New England is a big place - perhaps not geographically (compared to the West) but in terms of difference of climate so more info about approximately what part you are looking at would be helpful. (i.e southern CT is much different from Lake Champlain in VT)

Re insects: proximity to water may increase exposure to insects, or not. Because compared to many parts of the west the NE is much buggier, everywhere and all (warm) season long. The cold weather suppresses the beasts (finally!) after the first hard frost in late Sept/Oct., but they start up again in April.) The bugginess is due to the naturally more humid weather and the fact that the local insect species have adapted to the shorter temperate season by becoming intensely active during the warm months.

This varies a lot, by region, and to some degree how "suburbanized" the area has become.

The closeness to the water is not really a pro-bug factor since both of the water bodies you describe are deep enough to have a good fish population. Bugginess in relation to water is really more a function of shallow water, and marshy areas.

I live on a farm in upstate NY (about 10 miles from western VT border) with a habitat similar to most western NE areas. We have more 20 acres of marsh some within 500 feet of our house. The main (annoying) bugs are deer flies (mean, aggressive biters active in summer), black flies (tiny, swarming, bitng beasts mainly active in the Spring to early summer) and mosquitos, of course. They drive my DH wild enough that he wears an insect headnet when outside most of the time - but they don't make me crazy. I work outside (I am a farmer) all season long and rarely take any notice of them.

But of course, your main insect-risk isn't really flying bugs, but ticks. Water is not a factor with ticks. These are everywhere except quasi-urban places and the extreme northern sections of NE. I have lived in NE nearly all my life and ticks have only been a huge problem for the last 15 years or so. Of course, they've always been here but the pops. were small and the disease risk from bites very low. That's not true anymore.

Re water: the electric-motor only restriction would be important for me as the noise from gas-powered machines, especially PWC (Jet-Skis) would make my life Hell. Water bodies completely owned by a private asociation may have costs associated with invasive species removal, which can be high. Find out what's going on with that now.

Find out what kind of solid waste system is on the house you are thinking of - due to the lot's proximity to water,
an older, not-to-modern standards system that may be grandfathered in now might entail significant costs to replace if it fails.

Are you coming from the dry, hot southern west, or the PNW? Either way NE weather may be a startling change. The one good thing about it compared to areas with more-slowly changing seasons, is that it is not static at all. The adage here is "If you don't like the weather in NE, wait a minute." Over the course of a year it's not uncommon for a single place to see a temperature shift of more than 110 degrees. Highs of 95-100F happen regularly as do lows below 0 degrees F.

HTH

L.


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

New England is a big place - perhaps not geographically (compared to the West) but in terms of difference of climate so more info about approximately what part you are looking at would be helpful. (i.e southern CT is much different from Lake Champlain in VT)

Re insects: proximity to water may increase exposure to insects, or not. Because compared to many parts of the west the NE is much buggier, everywhere and all (warm) season long. The cold weather suppresses the beasts (finally!) after the first hard frost in late Sept/Oct., but they start up again in April.) The bugginess is due to the naturally more humid weather and the fact that the local insect species have adapted to the shorter temperate season by becoming intensely active during the warm months.

This varies a lot, by region, and to some degree how "suburbanized" the area has become.

The closeness to the water is not really a pro-bug factor since both of the water bodies you describe are deep enough to have a good fish population. Bugginess in relation to water is really more a function of shallow water, and marshy areas.

I live on a farm in upstate NY (about 10 miles from western VT border) with a habitat similar to most western NE areas. We have more 20 acres of marsh some within 500 feet of our house. The main (annoying) bugs are deer flies (mean, aggressive biters active in summer), black flies (tiny, swarming, bitng beasts mainly active in the Spring to early summer) and mosquitos, of course. They drive my DH wild enough that he wears an insect headnet when outside most of the time - but they don't make me crazy. I work outside (I am a farmer) all season long and rarely take any notice of them.

But of course, your main insect-risk isn't really flying bugs, but ticks. Water is not a factor with ticks. These are everywhere except quasi-urban places and the extreme northern sections of NE. I have lived in NE nearly all my life and ticks have only been a huge problem for the last 15 years or so. Of course, they've always been here but the pops. were small and the disease risk from bites very low. That's not true anymore.

Re water: the electric-motor only restriction would be important for me as the noise from gas-powered machines, especially PWC (Jet-Skis) would make my life Hell. Water bodies completely owned by a private asociation may have costs associated with invasive species removal, which can be high. Find out what's going on with that now.

Find out what kind of solid waste system is on the house you are thinking of - due to the lot's proximity to water,
an older, not-to-modern standards system that may be grandfathered in now might entail significant costs to replace if it fails.

Are you coming from the dry, hot southern west, or the PNW? Either way NE weather may be a startling change. The one good thing about it compared to areas with more-slowly changing seasons, is that it is not static at all. The adage here is "If you don't like the weather in NE, wait a minute." Over the course of a year it's not uncommon for a single place to see a temperature shift of more than 110 degrees. Highs of 95-100F happen regularly as do lows below 0 degrees F.

HTH

L.


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

Another person here with a small farm in WNY ... I have a 3/4 acre farmpond close behind the house. I call it my "water feature" ... and now can't imagine living without it. The wildlife I see that is drawn to the pond is amazing, and I have 2 large dogs, so geese are not an issue.

My pond is stocked with fish and crawfish, also have frogs, etc. I think the mosquitos are not a problem because of the fish, frogs, etc.

We have swam in the pond, boated, fished, etc. I also use it to water my gardens. I am anxiously waiting for the ice to melt now that spring is almost here, so I can see the open water and critters again.


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

Rent for a year before buying.


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

"One property we've looked at is set on a slope with direct access to a floating dock on a big man-made lake (250+ acres, less than 15 feet average depth) that has no shoreline"

Maybe I am missing something, but...
how do you have a lake and NOT have a shoreline?


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

Why would you buy if you might only be there for 2 years?


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

So many great responses! You've given us much to consider.

No small children, tilenut, so no worries there. That's a nice description of the scenic benefits -- I think the view aspect is what we find most appealing. I'll make sure to find out what recreational activities are allowed and who has access.

I appreciate your mentioning possible geese issues, sas95 -- we hadn't thought about that at all.

Liriodendron, thank you for taking the time to write such an informative post. We are looking in eastern Massachusetts or southern New Hampshire in relatively rural, wooded areas, so I'll see what info I can find about the tick population. Good points, too, about the invasive species and the waste system. As for the weather, we're currently in SoCal, so changeable seasons and varied weather are two of the things we're looking forward to experiencing -- the deer flies, not so much.

Pamghatten, your farm pond sounds delightful. I did read that both the lake and pond for the properties we've looked at so far have several species of fish, hopefully enough to make an impact on the mosquito population.

Brickeye, thanks for the suggestion to rent before we buy; we are considering that.

LuAnn_in_PA, sorry, that was sloppy phrasing on my part. I meant to convey that particular property doesn't have much of a shoreline, as it is built at the top of a slope that pretty much ends at the water edge.

Dekeoboe, we're not sure how long we'll stay there; it could be indefinitely, and we prefer owning to renting for a variety of reasons. We are keeping both options open for now, though.

Again, thank you all for your comments.

Helen


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

Make sure the septic is sufficient for your needs. You do NOT want a tight tank, which is a closed tank that need to be emptied periodically. Living on a lake also means you might be prone to flooding. The roads could wash out. You may not have a basement but a crawl space that gets flooded. Can you have a washing machine there? A dishwasher? A garbage disposal? An association could be a good thing or a bad thing- private roads. Does the town plow your street? Or does the association have to handle it? And if so, do they do a good job? Because many neighbors might go south for the winter and not care if the roads get plowed. Check the police reports as well. If it's a neighborhood where half the people are not there for some of the year, there might be partying and trouble. And one more thing about the septic...even if YOU have a good system, there could be neighbors whose septic systems are grandfathered in...and raw sewage could be going right into the water. Ew. Is it town water or a private well? If it's association water, is it shut off to you in the winter? If it's a well, do you need a water filtration system? Because there could be lots of iron in the water that will turn your white dishes, tub, toilet, hair and skin - YES skin - orange. Are you asthmatic? If you are, a damp environment might not be a good choice. Things get musty if not aired out properly. Ask me how I know all this.


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

Concerning the man-made lake: In our part of NH, they are taking out many of the old dams that created mill-ponds, etc. Check to make sure that the lake you are interested in is not slated to disappear in the near future.

Also, if either of these properties is on a minor road, ask whether it is regularly plowed in the winter. Many of the class V (I think) roads are plowed last or not at all. Even if you have a 4WD vehicle, it can be impossible to get out after a blizzard. And if either home is relatively rural, find out if it has a generator (power does go out in winter storms) or consider installing one yourself.

Find out if there are public snowmobile trails nearby. They create a lot of noise!


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

I really doubt that raw sewage being emptied into a lake would be grandfathered in by the County.


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

Afraid I can't contribute much to the waterfront discussion, but I've lived in eastern MA or southern NH most of my life.

Do check out the commute from the homes you are considering to your workplaces. Distance does not equal time, especially in the greater Boston area.

People do commute from southern NH to Boston daily, but most of them don't drive all the way. They take an express commuter bus or the commuter rail, both of which are much slower in the snow.

If your husband will be working in Boston, he should know that few people drive into the city daily. Most take public transportation of some sort. Unless his job provides a parking spot, parking is expensive. Driving is a hassle, with lots of one-way streets that don't go the way you want them to.

Rush hour traffic is slow. Last year, it took me an hour and a half to drive 6.5 miles, from a suburb north of Boston to one just south of Boston, during the evening rush hour.

Other large cities in the region have the same problems--narrow streets, highways built for fewer cars but no room to expand them, and just too many cars everywhere. And snow can add 30-60 minutes to a standard commute. I'd suggest doing at least one trial run of the commute before buying. Unless living in CA has gotten you used to two hour commutes each way!


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

"we're not sure how long we'll stay there; it could be indefinitely, and we prefer owning to renting for a variety of reasons. We are keeping both options open for now, though.

If you buy and decide the area isn't for you, will you be able to rent it? Is it close enough to good schools, amenities, etc so you can cover the expenses in the event it takes longer to sell?

I had a friend who inherited a condo in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It couldn't be rented by the week. Only 6 months or more at a time. She went through several deadbeat tenants before deciding to get rid of it. It didn't help that she lived out of town.

She was lucky and sold it right before the real estate market tanked. Otherwise she would have taken a 50k bath on the price.


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

ncrealestateguy, it happens in a town in southern MA...when I say grandfathered in, I only meant that the owner doesn't have to upgrade the septic until the property changes hands. Obviously if a septic system has failed, the town will not put up with it. In this particular situation, nobody complained about the horrid smelly sess pool smell at the association beach. It was obviously coming from the house by the beach. So, although they knew all these houses were in the water table, the town looked the other way. We sold our home to get out of there, just after Title V had passed, and we had to pay an engineer to design a new pump-up system to avoid a tight tank. It nearly killed us to get out of there, and we took a huge hit to get out but it was worth it. I would never put myself in that situation again. Our home was not the one pumping sewage into the water, but the water table was so high during the Spring that everyone's septic failed.


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

I checked on this thread tonight, and again, want to thank all who have taken the time to share information and thoughts.

When I wrote in my original post "we don't know what we don't know," I was hoping not only my specific questions would be addressed, but also someone would identify potential issues to me as someone too naive to imagine just how badly unknown factors can morph into massive problems. Sameboat, thank you so much, because your response provides exactly this. If we do decide to offer on a waterfront property, we will have a large checklist of questions that require specific answers. Your experience makes a great case for renting before buying.

Chibimimi, thanks for the info. A few questions: are the dams being taken out because the mills are no longer operating or no longer need the water resource, or is this being done to return an area to the original ecological condition? Does it make a difference if the dam is on public or privately owned land? Also, is this something happening specifically in NH or a trend in adjoining states as well? Thanks -- this is very interesting and new information.

Camlan, my husband has always hated commuting. Fortunately, the majority of his work hours will be spent west of the Boston metro area, and that's where we've decided to do most of our property search. We definitely are making sure there is rail access to Boston. We would love to spend weekend time there; it's a great city, albeit with truly great traffic issues.

Dreamgarden, we have these factors in mind and plan to buy conservatively and with an eye to resale, even though a short-term stay is not necessarily what we are planning. But, yes, these realities exist and should be given proper weight; thank you for setting them forth.

My husband and I have read and discussed all of the comments on this thread, and we are most appreciative of the time and effort taken to provide your thoughts. Again, thanks to you all.

Helen


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

Helen, my understanding is that the dam removal is primarily to restore rivers to their original condition. There have also been some recent catastrophic dam collapses during severe storms and part of the thrust might be to prevent more of these. I believe as far as private dams go, it is voluntary AT THIS POINT, but that may change, especially if the dam is deemed to be a danger to people downstream.

You might do some research to see what is involved in dam upkeep and whether you might be assessed some amount for this or whether the owner might consider it too expensive to maintain and decide to take it down instead. Also, if a dam upstream from yours is removed, what will that do to your pond? Will it potentially raise the water level or stress your dam to the point that it fails? I'm not an engineer, so have no answer to that.

I hate to see the old dams go, from a scenic standpoint. They provide wonderful swimming holes and lovely outlooks, but understand that there are two points of view on this.

I'm only familiar with this in New Hampshire and have included a link to the state site. No doubt Massachusetts has a similar site, as I believe this is happening throughout New England.

Here is a link that might be useful: New Hampshire dam removal -- state site


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

Chibimimi, thanks for the explanation and very helpful link. I did find info on a similar program underway in Massachusetts. Again, something totally off our radar that we will need to investigate before buying.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dam removal bill recently passed in Massachusetts


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

i'm in vermont and in my backyard is a year round fast mountain brook. we have insane no-see-ums which love me and made me nuts for years.
until i discovered fans-box fans, little fans, fans of all shapes and sizes do a fabulous job of preventing the little buggers from landing and biting.
i keep box fans in the barns blowing on the horses when they need relief from bugs or heat.
hth!


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

Hi HelenBack,
With my screen name, you can rightly guess that I am not from the NE. I am not a lake person, either, and that is where I may be of help. We have started to enjoy vacationing on the water. We like to look at the movement of waterfowl, but boats and skiers and jet-skis can be interesting at times, too. I have some observations that someone accustomed to water living may not think to point out.

Here, at least, there are little to no emission controls on boat motors. They stink. They are loud. Some "party" type boating people do litter (as mentioned above), and drink a lot. A vacation destination can become very different on summer weekends, especially - as compared to cooler spring and fall days. Private lakes can control who is on their water to a certain degree. Lakes with a public access site cannot.

"All Sports Lake" means that water skiing (noisy and makes a big wake, disrupting everything), as well as fishing, sailing, and canoeing can be done.

Electric motors, as far as I am aware, are small "put-put" motors a fisherman may use to move to a new fishing spot, or a sailor to get to shore in a still breezeless time. They are not going to bother you to any great degree. You will still hear the loons and the frogs!

Here in the Great Lakes area, we have had falling lake levels for a long time. That means that your boat dock may go over a marshy area (mosquitoes and West Nile Virus) before getting to real water and may end before the water is deep enough to float a boat. Are you allowed to groom this new shoreline, or is it to be left strictly natural? Is the water level in the lakes you are looking at stable, falling, or rising? How does that affect your property upkeep and values?

Neighbors can be really close by on a lakefront property. Are open fires permitted? For some reason, bonfires are all the rage now. That means that when I am looking to rent a cottage for a week, an ad that brags about the fire pit for every cottage will steer me away. Woodsmoke is a big asthma trigger for me. How do you and your DH feel about smoke coming in the house anytime day or night? Your neighbor's fireplace can be a smokey hazard, too. If either of you have asthma or COPD, think twice about lakefront living. I don't know why, but you get people out in nature, and they want to light something on fire! Watch for woodpiles, firepits, and chiminea at neighboring houses.

With neighbors close, you will also want to figure out if they are people you want to live next to. Any nice feature like a lake will have you all wanting to entertain or hang out on the same side of your homes, so you will be seeing more of each other than on a suburban lot that is situated to maximize privacy. Can you add a fence between your yard and theirs? How far down toward the water may it go?

That is all I can think of tonight. I would love to retire on a lake, but it would have to be private, no gas motors, and with houses spaced far apart so I could at least sometimes get to enjoy an evening outside or having the windows open without smoke! HTH!


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

We retired to lake front living and love it! It is a long narrow lake in NE Michigan, 7 miles by 1 mile. Jet skis make the most noise of all watercraft. Our lots tend to be larger on our side of the lake, ours 108' wide, across lake lots are 60' wide.
Something to really check into is flood insurance, that can be very expensive, you can be required to have it by your mortgage holder, depending on the property.
Geese are every where and poop every where. My neighbor and I discourage them when we see them come in. So yes, the crazy ladies with the broomsticks are us!
Best part of living on the lake is the pontoon boat rides. Morning or night, long slow rides around the lake. Waving to all the other. pontooners. Checking out how each of the homes uses its lakefront. All in all, a good tme!
kathyginmi


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

We lived on a LARGE lake for 13 years until selling our home this year and building a new one off water. We loved it 99% of the time.

Here is a link that might be useful: Poker Run


 o
RE: Waterfront Property Questions

I'd consider the slope of the yard for resale. You may not care, but if the next owners have small children they will want a flat, safe play area.
Bugs, I think spiders are the worst. We have a misting system around our house and boathouse. It goes off for 30 sec twice a day and makes a world of difference. Check with the city water board as our lake has only approved two types of systems. Also check for other types of permits and fees. On ours remodeling, outdoor kitchens, sprinklers, and dock staining have approval processes with fees.
In our area a home inspector usually doesn't have the expertise for boathouses and docks. If you are concerned start researching for that type of expertise.
Lastly, could your neighbor ruin your view in any way? Think gazebos, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, etc. if you love the view make sure you understand the building restrictions.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Buying and Selling Homes Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here