The sale of waterfront homes has typically followed a predictable pattern over the decades. Sellers use their homes all summer and list them with real estate agents over Labor Day weekend. Buyers, in turn, wait until fall or even winter to make an offer so that all the paperwork and re-decorating can be finished by boating season the following spring.
The current seller's market, however, has upset this tradition. In fact, waterfront homes for sale are selling much faster than normal. In northern Wisconsin, for example, sales of lakefront homes are up almost 30 percent. With low inventory, waterfront homes are selling in days instead of months.
To combat the fast-paced market, potential buyers need to know what they want in advance so they are ready to make a quick decision. This includes:
- Type of lake: The value of a waterfront house is often determined by the lake itself. All-sports lakes are more expensive than quieter, 'no wake' lakes. Private lakes, if your state allows them, are more valuable than public lakes.
- Size of the lake: The size of the lake also affects the value and, in turn, the price of waterfront homes for sale. It can be difficult to waterski and wakeboard on smaller lakes. Therefore, larger lakes appeal to more buyers and drive up the price.
- Size of the home: Know in advance how you will use the home. If you plan on entertaining guests, you need to determine the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms that you will require. If, however, you just need a smaller cabin for day trips to the lake, you will need much less space.
- Status of the lake: Invasive species are becoming a nuisance for inland lakes throughout the country. Talk to your real estate agent or your state's Department of Natural Resources to gain a better understanding of how invasive species are affecting the lakes in your area.
- Access: Know what you are willing to compromise on and what you are not before beginning your search for a lakefront house. Level lots are highly desirable while those with a steep incline and multiple flights of stairs to the water are not. If you do not mind the exercise, buying a sloped lot can save you money on the purchase price of your waterfront home.
Having a clear picture of what you want in a waterfront home will allow you to act quickly when house hunting. Buying a waterfront home can be easy, even in a tight seller's market, if you are prepared and know what you want ahead of time. It is also helpful to contact real estate agents who know of waterfront homes for sale near you. Being able to make quick decisions, sometimes on the spot, gives you an advantage over other potential buyers.