Your Guide To Lake Living

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A Place of Your Own

Find your piece of heaven on a lake near you.  With these guidelines you will be enjoying your property for years to come.

So, you have decided to build your own place at the lake, congratulations! Assuming that you already know which lake you want to locate on, you are ready to start looking at lots. Selecting a lake lot is more complex in some ways than choosing a standard lot. Of course, some of the criteria will be the same, but considerations regarding the water will add some complications. Just like any other lot purchase, the first considerations are your budget, and an approximate location. Once you have made these basic decisions, you are ready to take a look at potential lots.

Lake Lot Types

There are three main types of lots to be found around lakes. Waterfront, water access, and water view. Occasionally you can also find out parceled waterfront lots. What does all this mean?

Waterfront Lots

The prime lake lots are waterfront. These lots have their own water frontage, and are the most expensive. For those who can afford them, all the best of the lake can be had right in your own yard. If you are looking for a waterfront lot you will want to be especially careful in your selection. You will need to consider the local boat traffic. Try to make sure that you will have a safe place to swim out of the way of the traffic. Find out what the normal water depth is. If you have small children you will want to make sure there is a shallow wading or swimming area. It is advisable to get in the water to check the consistency of the bottom and the grade. My husband brings his water shoes along when we look at lots for this purpose. Man-made lakes sometimes have muddy bottoms, or stumps you have to deal with. Make sure the lot has enough frontage and deep enough water to build a dock or a pier, if that is your goal.

Water Access

Waterfront property isn’t for everyone. It may be worth considering a water access lot as an initial purchase. These lots can be just what many part-time residents want, and they are usually the least expensive. Many water access lots also include common areas with boat ramps, recreation facilities and some even have individual boat slips.

Out Parceled Waterfronts

An out parceled waterfront lot has ownership of lakefront that is not adjacent to the lot. This enables the owners to build their own dock or pier, but is typically not quite as convenient as waterfront.

Water View

A water view lot typically has no direct access to the lake, but should be situated high enough to have a superb lake view. For those who can keep a boat in a nearby marina, this may be just the solution that fits their needs and the budget. Some water view lots may also be water access lots.

Neighborhood Selection Criteria

When reading ads or working with a realtor, you may want to keep in mind some other issues. You need to decide if you want to live in a gated community. This adds a little bit of security, but also potentially causes problems when you have visitors or contractors coming. Also, make sure you find out what type of Property Owner’s or Home Owner’s Association (POA, HOA) is in place in a prospective neighborhood. The fees can sometimes be quite high, so you need to make sure they fit into your budget. You’ll want to make sure their rules are compatible with your plans.

Local Zoning and Setback Regulations

Some areas have regulations mandating that new construction be a certain distance from the water, power lines, or adjacent property. Also, check the local zoning laws, they may restrict the size of houses in the area. Make sure that your building plans are in compliance before you buy!

Sewer and Well Issues

Once you have identified a potential lot that seems to meet your requirements it is imperative to get some key information.

What is the water table depth in the area? You will most likely be putting in a well, and need to get an idea how deep you will have to go to reach water, as this impacts the cost of building.
What size sewer drain field can be put on the lot – and where will it need to be located? This will determine the size of house that can be put on the lot, and where the house can be situated on the lot. It’s important to know if the house can be located where you want on the lot, and your water views are maximized.

You’ll want to make sure the drain field can accommodate any future expansion plans you might have as well, such as finishing a basement and adding another bathroom, since lake houses are never quite big enough.

What and When to Build

You have found your perfect property and bought it, what next? I know some people who put a camper on their lake property and leave it at that, in order to keep the wilderness feel. Sometimes people put up a shed or garage with a loft as a first lake place. You still need to put in your well and septic and get the electricity run, but if all that will put a strain on your financial resources, a camper, shed or garage is a cost effective way to have an inexpensive place to sleep, and possibly keep a boat and supplies under cover.

If you are ready to build, find a builder that you feel comfortable with, and check their contractor status and references. A good builder can make the homebuilding process easy, and a bad one can create a nightmare of problems. One last piece of advice, get as much house as you possibly can initially – the only regrets you are likely to have are for the things you want but don’t get.


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