Whether you’re looking for a coastal residence, river frontage, or a lakefront home—Virginia has a plethora of waterfront real estate to offer. However, when you’re shopping online and viewing properties, be aware of the unique characteristics and challenges of buying and maintaining a waterfront home.
Below are five tips for buying waterfront property in Virginia.
1. Talk to your lender early
Due to the unique nature of waterfront homes, lenders need more time to assess each property and its potential value. As such, it’s especially important to get in touch with a lender and pre-qualify when purchasing waterfront. With land-locked residences, the lender can quickly run an inspection to see if the property is on a flood plain or at risk for any other water-related damage. Even if the waterfront property you are looking at is not on a flood plain, the lender will still need to research the surrounding area to evaluate any potential issues. This protects not only the lender, but the buyer, as you’ll be made aware of any blatant issues before going through with your purchase. Some lenders use specialty loans for waterfront properties, which have different specifications than a conventional loan. If you are interested in a property requiring a loan larger than what conventional mortgages will allow, the lender will need to do a jumbo loan, which comes with its own set of specifications. Talking to your lender early will keep you informed and stave off any major surprises down the line.
2. Understand shoreline management
While your shoreline is yours to enjoy, there may be restrictions on how you can use it. Depending on the body of water your home resides on, there may be special requirements for maintaining the property. For example, some property owners might be responsible for the maintenance of any barrier walls between the water and the home. In this case, you will need to get in touch with your insurance agent and go over what your policy does and doesn’t cover. Additionally, a thorough home inspection will fill you in on any other requirements for maintaining the waterfront property you are interested in.
3. Know your priorities
Not all waterfront properties come with the same amenities, and different bodies of water offer different lifestyles. Before beginning your search for Virginia waterfront homes, consider and document your motivations to buy. If you want access to the water for recreational use, then be sure you’re looking at homes that offer the use of private or public docks. Some lakes may not allow wakes and wouldn't be ideal for those wanting to boat or jet ski. If you want access to water for swimming, be sure the lake you're looking at is safe for swimmers. Some buyers may value entertaining space above all else, thus, your search for waterfront homes will focus more on usable space than usable waterfront. Some homes may have wetland areas that are unusable. Be aware also of the water levels and how they change seasonally. When you view a property, the dock may look deep enough for your watercraft but if it's in a shallow area where the water recedes, then it may not be fit for year-round use. Once you’ve determined what you need out of your waterfront home, you can work with your real estate agent and conduct an informed search of available properties.
4. Understand the unique needs of waterfront investment property
Waterfront property can be a great investment opportunity. Because of limited supply, waterfront homes are always in demand and can serve as profitable rentals. They can also be listed on Airbnb full-time, or part-time to supplement your income. Just be sure to check local regulations for renting the property. You’ll want to check state and local laws along with the lake and neighborhood homeowners association regulations.
5. Use an experienced realtor
Every waterfront property has unique needs depending on the location (the type of bulkhead, docks, access, etc.) A Virginia realtor that’s experienced with waterfront properties will be able to help you navigate any and all unique situations that arise. An experienced realtor will be able to talk with you about special maintenance issues that may arise with waterfront property and be familiar with any special permits that need to be pulled on outbuildings and docks. Additionally, waterfront properties have to face the elements in a way that landlocked properties do not. An experienced Virginia realtor will know what needs to be inspected to ensure the home is built to withstand the effect of nearby water and will make the entire process easier for you as a buyer.
Agent Patrick DeLeonibus at The Waterfront Group is an expert advisor for waterfront property and takes pride in helping homeowners and investors find the best real estate for their needs.