Boater’s Guide to Buying a Home
For water lovers and boating enthusiasts alike, purchasing waterfront property can be a rewarding and exciting experience. Without the proper knowledge, preparation and an experienced real estate agent on your side, the process can quickly turn into an expensive challenge. Like most major purchases, planning ahead and asking the right questions can save you time and money. For example, if you plan to dock a boat at your new property, be sure to consider your current and future boating needs. If you have a small center console now, but plan to buy a large sportfish in the future, make sure you can accommodate the larger boat at your new home. The following tips should provide you with a good primer on the basics of waterfront property. When you are ready to start your search, make sure you contact a waterfront specialist to assist you.
Location, Location, Location
Just like all real estate, the location of your waterfront property will determine price, utility and resale value. Make sure you ask all the right questions when considering your purchase. How long does it take to get out to the ocean? If you are a fisherman and want to be the first boat to the blue water, then you will probably want to buy in an area close to Port Everglades, Hillsboro Inlet or Boca Raton Inlet. For those who work downtown, the neighborhoods along the New River and Las Olas Boulevard provide for an easy commute by car and direct ocean access by boat. If you enjoy wake boarding or water skiing, living close to Lake Santa Barbara or the water ski zone on the Middle River may be attractive. Do you frequently trailer your boat? If so, is there a desirable boat ramp nearby? Where is the local marina, fuel pump, watering hole? Make sure your agent knows the local waterways and is prepared to show you a variety of properties in different locations. Keep in mind, where you are on land is important too, so don’t forget to consider the traditional factors when evaluating your property’s location.
Waterfront Property Types
The waterway system in South Florida provides buyers with a wide selection of property types including condominiums, townhomes and single family residences. For the ultimate in waterfront living, you can choose from a select few oceanfront properties that offer dockage for your boat. Since most oceanfront property is not practical for boaters, another option is to live on the beach and keep your boat at a nearby marina. Most properties however are located on a bay, lake, canal, river or on the Intracoastal Waterway. Many boaters want reasonable access to the ocean and a popular choice is a single family home or condo with canal frontage in close proximity to the Intracoastal Waterway. Mid-canal locations tend to be the most desirable for boaters because the water is typically clean and calm, and they allow for easy dockage. Canal ends on the other hand, while they can have nice views, may have smaller docks and limited maneuverability. Also, debris tends to build up at the end of canals (and around your boat).
Point lots are usually more desirable and located on a corner with water frontage on at least two sides of the property. A point lot, while typically more expensive, can provide twice the waterfront as well as dockage for multiple boats. The larger Intracoastal point lots with their big views are some of the most desirable in South Florida and will demand the highest prices of all Intracoastal frontage property. Most owners of these properties will keep their boats on their side canal so they don’t interfere with the primary waterway views and where the boats are more protected from the higher wake of the Intracoastal waterway. Smaller boats are typically kept on lifts, especially within wake zones.
Exposure is another factor to consider and when we talk about exposure for waterfront property, we mean where the water is in relation to the structure, or most often where the back of the home faces. Southern and Eastern exposure tend to be the most desirable in South Florida. Keep in mind, if you plan on spending time outside enjoying your view or working on your boat, the afternoon sun from the West can be brutal in the summertime.
Seawalls and Dockage
Most waterfront properties have a seawall and it is critical that you have it inspected by a licensed contractor prior to closing since repairs and/or replacement can be very expensive. Bowing, cracks, holes behind the seawall and lack of batter pilings are all issues to be concerned about. Dock types, sizes and materials vary from property to property and may or may not be important depending on your boating needs. Most seawall contractors can inspect your dock as well, so make sure your inspection is comprehensive and includes your dock and wood pilings which can deteriorate if not maintained properly. Many docks have lights, power receptacles, water and even cable TV and telephone lines. Make sure the utilities are installed to code and include the proper connections and safety devices. A popular utility solution for boaters is to install a pedestal on the dock with lights, water and the necessary shore power adapters for your boat.
Zoning and Accessibility
Zoning laws apply to boats too, so before you purchase make sure you understand how local zoning may restrict the size and type of boat you can dock at your property. Be careful, city zoning can be different than county zoning. For example, the city of Fort Lauderdale RS4.4 allows your boat to extend up to 30% the width (or 25 feet, whichever is less) of the waterway including your dock (Broward County is 33%). The theory is that if your boat extends out into the canal 30% and your neighbor across the canal also extends out 30% then there is still 40% of the waterway left for navigation. Setbacks are another issue and restrict how close your boat can be to your neighbor’s property. Setbacks can literally be different for every lot, so make sure you know the exact zoning for your property. A good waterfront agent will either know this information or will assist you in confirming the local zoning laws.
Water depth can be an issue especially for sailboats and large yachts, so you should measure the depth at low tide to make sure your boat won’t hit bottom when docked.
What about fixed bridges? Depending on the size of your boat you may be limited to properties with “no fixed bridges”. Unlike a draw bridge that opens and allows large boats to pass underneath, a fixed bridge is fixed in size and does not open. All fixed bridges have different height restrictions, so make sure your boat will fit underneath at high tide before you purchase property behind one.
For more information on buying and selling waterfront property please contact us.