What to Know When Buying on the Water

By Judy Royal

Many people dream their whole lives of living on the water. Who wouldn’t want the serenity of looking out your window to enjoy the ultimate view, not to mention having a body of water and its recreational opportunities right outside your door? Buying waterfront property is not only an investment; it’s a lifestyle. Especially in Southeastern North Carolina where the ocean calls so many to its edge, waterfront living is the pinnacle of real estate goals for lots of buyers. But there are many special considerations that go along with owning a waterfront piece of paradise. Educate yourself so you know exactly what to expect as you embark on acquiring your own waterfront property in the Wilmington NC real estate market.

Look into loans

It’s no secret that you will likely pay a premium to have the waterfront lifestyle that you’ve been working toward for many years. Because a home on the water is typically more expensive than a similar home in a standard neighborhood, you will probably need a bigger loan. Jumbo mortgages, which take longer to obtain than a regular home loan and are given by lenders to only the most qualified buyers, are one of the routes you may expect to go when buying a waterfront home. Start loan shopping early to be sure you can qualify and to allow plenty of time for the process.

Calculate hidden costs

The price you pay for your waterfront home is just the beginning. Perhaps more than any other type of property, there are many hidden costs associated with ownership of this type. In addition to the possibility of a homeowners association, which you will find in many other standard neighborhoods, a waterfront home is likely to come with much higher insurance and maintenance expenses. Especially in a coastal environment where hurricanes and flooding are common threats, waterfront homes often come with hefty insurance premiums due to the increased risk of damage from natural disasters. Maintenance costs are also likely to be more than what you’d pay for a similar home in another environment due to increased wear and tear and the need for special features such as storm shutters. Be sure to calculate all of these costs well into the future so you can protect your investment.

Talk to neighbors

Getting to know people who live in a community where you are thinking about buying is a good idea regardless of the type of neighborhood you are considering, but when it comes to waterfront this is a crucial thing to do. Potential neighbors can give you insight about safety, privacy, erosion, what to expect during hurricane season, how crowded the area will be during various seasons of the year, and more. A few conversations may help you decide whether a community will be the right one for you. Doing a little homework now can save you from experiencing some unwelcome surprises down the line when you’re already locked into a loan.

Examine the property

No matter how much you love a home, when you’re buying on the waterfront be sure you consider the land just as much as or more than the structure. After all, you can change a house but not the location. What’s water access like? Are you near a public walkway that might create lots of pedestrian traffic and noise? Where does your land end and public property begin? Is the area good for swimming? How do the tides affect your property? The latter is especially important if you live in a boating community where low water levels restrict the times in which you can use your watercraft. It’s a good idea to look at a survey of the land and a plot map, and talk to your real estate agent and possibly a real estate attorney to be completely clear about what you are actually buying.

Know the rules

If you’re planning to add a dock, seawall, or other feature to your waterfront property, find out what that will entail. You may have to deal with government agencies that have strict rules about what can be done, especially if there are any wetlands on your property. Also find out if there are any restrictions on the use of jet skis and other watercraft if that’s something you plan to enjoy on a regular basis.

Consider a waterfront specialist

Some real estate agents have special qualifications that make them a great choice for those looking to buy on the waterfront. It may be a good idea to look for those who specialize in waterfront transactions so they can share their expertise about the ins and outs of the process.

Are you ready for a waterfront home of your own? If you want to stop dreaming and find out if life really is better on the water, Intracoastal Realty is here to meet your Wilmington NC real estate needs. We are a full-service real estate brokerage operating since 1976, and we currently have 13 offices with over 400 agents and staff to serve Southeastern North Carolina, including the areas of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Southport, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Leland, Hampstead, and Topsail Island.