Are you thinking about purchasing a new lake home? Below I have listed a few considerations that may help you prepare for this exciting but big life decision. Over the many years that I have been helping people like you find their perfect home, I have seen my customers struggle with a wide array of choices and decisions that can indeed be daunting or confusing. So I thought I would share them with you to get your planning thoughts started. Some are challenging to work through, but doing so can be fun and exciting in the big adventure of home shopping.
Whether you are looking to purchase a full-time lake home or weekend getaway, shopping for a lake home provides a few more challenges than shopping for a non-lake home. Either way, I hope this quick list helps as you are planning your next big move into the lake real estate world.
Lake Lanier’s 692 miles of shoreline covers seven counties. Each one has something to offer a potential home buyer. For more facts about Lake Lanier you can click here. Below are a few things to consider when looking for the perfect lake home:
Not unique in buying a new home, but depending on your thoughts and desires for lake living, this has very important considerations. When potential lake home buyers think about owning their lake home, they may think of solitude and relaxation. Others want to entertain friends and family, enjoy boating and waters sports, or have nearby access to restaurants and shopping. What is your idea of lake living? Some may not mind being far away from a grocery store picking up the items they need on the way to the lake. Others may want to be near a hospital for peace of mind or want to be closer to their workplace. Location is the starting point of your search and can’t be ignored. Making a list and prioritizing what is most important to you will help guide you through getting the best location for you. You can read about the difference of life on North vs South Lake Lanier in one of my blogs here!
On Lake Lanier there are an abundance of unique properties to choose from. There are swim/tennis neighborhoods with community docks and properties tucked away to be found only by driving through the area. Some homes are located in heavily wooded lots not visible from the road or water. They can be on main highways not located in neighborhoods. Off the beaten path on windy roads or found driving through communities designated as trailer parks or campgrounds. Figuring out what type of neighborhood that makes you comfortable is crucial to getting you to the home of your dreams. Do you want full amenities, a neighborhood feel, or being further from other homes?
Many say this is the most important part of choosing a lake home. A homeowner is able to make changes to the home, but the lot and the view usually stay the same. Do you prefer to see the twinkling hints of the water through the trees, or would you rather sit high up on a hill and see glassy lake water stretched out for miles? Maybe seeing the water is not as important as being nestled on a private lot shaded with trees. Every lot has different features, but it is critical to know where the corps line is located. The corps line marks the area between the home and the actual water line and it is owned and controlled by the Corps of Engineers. How close is it to the water for direct access? Dock placement, tree removal, and paths must be approved by the Corps prior to making any changes by the homeowner.
Because Lake Lanier is managed by the Corps of Engineers, the water level fluctuates quite often. You can read the importance of understanding water levels in my blog on the matter here. If you are considering a property with a dock located at the end of a shallow cove it’s possible the if there is a drought and the water level drops significantly that your dock may end up sitting on the muddy lake bottom. Be sure to know what the water depth is under the dock gaged against what the current water level is (usually lowest in the winter, and full pool in the spring). For more information on Lake Lanier water levels and fluctuation click here.
The cost of a new dock can be extremely expensive and could break the budget easily. If you are looking to purchase a home with a private dock, be sure to inspect the dock carefully or hire a dock professional to inspect it before you buy. Some docks are shared with one or more homes. If you are purchasing a home in a neighborhood with a community dock, know exactly what the required fees are before you buy. Also, if there is an existing boat hoist or you are wanting to have a hoist installed you should be sure it is in working order or know what the estimated cost will be before you buy.
Many people begin their lake home search by wanting a home with big views on a main channel and being able to swim/kayak/fish or paddle board from their dock. Aside from the price tag associated with the big views and deep water there are other things to consider. What most people don’t know is that while the view is beautiful, the sound of the boats going by is unavoidable (especially the fishing boats going by in the early morning hours or on a holiday weekend). Swimming/Kayaking/Paddleboarding/Fishing may not be pleasant, easy or safe with boats speeding by. Maybe you would prefer less traffic and more solitude in a quiet cove or maybe waking up every morning to a spectacular view is good enough.
Age/Style Of Home
Lake Lanier has many homes to choose from ranging from tiny cabins built in the 1950’s to new construction mansions. What is your preferred style? Log cabin? Traditional? Craftsman? Cottage? If you can be a little more flexible with your choice, you will have many more options to choose from.
Are you a handy person who likes to work on projects or are you planning to spend your free time playing on the water? Having money set aside to update or renovate a home allows more options to finding your lake home. Know your limits and be present when having a professional inspection done. Not all homes are a good fit for additions or major changes. Get estimates for repairs and updates that you plan to address done during your due diligence period. Knowing exactly what expenses you will be faced with will help to ease any anxiety that you might experience prior to closing on your home.
If you plan to do a lot of entertaining, is there ample parking for your guests? Often times your lake house will be the popular place to visit or spend celebrations. If there is not enough parking in the driveway it may become very frustrating for you and challenging for your neighbors. Does the neighborhood permit parking on the side of the street? If the driveway is steep will you be able to get your boat trailer parked safely? Do you expect to have a garage, or would a carport be sufficient? Do you have children that will be driving their own vehicles in the next few years? If so, take this into account and plan ahead to avoid parking issues further down the road.
If you have a growing family or plan to entertain regularly. Remember those current and future grand children will want to come to visit with you at the lake. Make sure you have enough space to live comfortably and take having guests into consideration.
As mentioned previously, the Corps of Engineers has the final say on dock permits, stairs to dock, dock placement, electrical and water to dock, paths, tree removal, rip rap, golf cart permits, corps lines and other grandfathered permits. Visit the Corps office and ask them to check on the permits to make sure they are current for the property that you are considering during your due dilingence period. If you are planning to upgrade the dock or make any changes to the Corps property discuss it with them during this time as well. More info on permits can be found from the Corps of Engineers’ page here.
Access to the dock and to the home from the street are also important to consider. If you are elderly or have elderly or very young visitors that you plan to entertain it is probably not a good idea to have a steep hill going down to the dock unless you have an ATV (must be permitted by Corps of Engineers).
Is the property manageable to maintain? The landscaping as well as the home will need to be maintained. Can you afford to hire out the services or do you plan to do it yourself? Make sure that you know the cost or personal time involved in maintaining the property and you feel confident that it won’t be too much to handle.
Does the layout of the home work for you? Some folks prefer to have a master bedroom on the main floor while some have no preference on bedroom level but would prefer to have a basement or a large kitchen. Think about how you will be enjoying your lake home and where you will be spending most of your time. If you think this through in advance, you will be able to narrow down your search results when house hunting and save time finding the right home for your lifestyle.
Whether it’s for cultural reasons or because you desire to watch the sunset, the direction that the home faces could be a deal breaker. Pay attention to where the sun will rise and set and where the sun will be during the afternoon hours. The radiant heat of the sun could make an impact on energy usage as well as affect the comfort level in rooms or outdoor spaces where you plan to spend most of your time.
As you can see, this comprehensive list is an invaluable checklist for you to consider from the very first day you start looking for lake homes. Obviously it may be difficult to find the *perfect* home that meets every criteria, so don’t forget to weigh options and consider which of these elements is worth budging on in favor of others, should the need arise. Go through each item with your family and answer as many of these questions as you can. Then with me as your realtor, we’ll go through it all and we’re sure to find a home that’s just right for you! By coming here to my blog, you’ve already made the first great decision. Now all you have to do is give me a call, and we can get started on finding you the lake home of your dreams!