Whether you're planning to buy a lake-front home as a vacation retreat or as a full-time residence, it's a big decision. But you can make the right call if you know what to look for in lake properties. Here are 5 of the most important questions to ask your real estate agent before putting down your money,
What is the lake used for? Get to know the lake you will be living near by asking some questions specifically about it. How busy is the lake in the high season? What types of recreation are generally available, and are they things you like to do? How is the mosquito season? What kinds of nuisance wildlife inhabit the area as well? Does the lake flood, and is your home required to be covered by flood insurance? Does the lake maintain a stable level, or does it go up and down during the year?
Are there local conveniences? Even if you just plan on using the lake house on vacation -- and especially if you plan to rent it out when not in use -- it's important to know what you can purchase, have repaired, and rent in the area. Be sure to investigate local towns or other options for things like medical care, food and supplies, dining out, and home maintenance. If you will be traveling back and forth between a different primary home, you may want to time the distance to travel, especially during less-than-ideal conditions.
Is it winter-ready? Not all homes in vacation areas are designed to be used in winter. What can decide its winter use? Such things as insulation, sufficient heating options for the entire house, winter plowing, double-paned windows, and road maintenance.
How is the lake access? Being on or around a lake doesn't necessarily mean it will be convenient to use the lake. First, determine if the home has full lake access and what you can use and not use. Can you place a dock right on the water, or do you have to trailer a boat in and out? Is the lot steep or flat enough to make entertainment and recreation easy? Is your section private, or will you be dealing with public water access nearby?
Are there general restrictions? Two things can restrict your use of or any changes to the home or property. These are the local zoning authorities and any lake associations in your area. Ask about both before buying, particularly if you want to remodel or alter the terrain. You may also need to talk with the local conservation board if you make changes within about 100 feet of a lake under certain circumstances, so it's important to know what restrictions you will be dealing with.
By knowing what to ask about when visiting lake properties with your real estate agent, you can make the best choice possible no matter what you plan to use the home for.