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Buying Waterfront Real Estate: a Home with a Dock

Monday, March 22, 2021   /   by Anne Rose

Buying Waterfront Real Estate: a Home with a Dock

Buyers looking at waterfront property are often motivated by the convenience and caché of owning private, direct access to water. In southeastern coastal North Carolina, this could be property with frontage on the Cape Fear River, Intracoastal Waterway, or the Atlantic Ocean.

Buyers considering purchasing a home on the water need to consider how they intend to enjoy their new waterfront home.

If the view is your primary motivation for living on the water, the direction that the home faces is important. An east-facing home will provide views of the sunrise, and over the Atlantic Ocean, those early morning vistas can be spectacular. For sunsets, west-facing windows and decks will give the optimal perch to enjoy the waning day. Homes that face south often have light all day, and can provide a view of both sunrise and sunset.

Views of the water can be impacted by easements or a community’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions. Waterfront property should be evaluated for trees, structures, and other things that might obstruct your current - or future - view. Your new neighbor’s huge yacht could be part of your scenery, as could a weekly gathering of local fishermen.

For a boater, a waterfront home should provide moorage appropriate to the type of boat. Most importantly, is the depth of the water at the dock sufficient for your boat, and does the depth fluctuate with a tide? A dock with a lift will keep your boat out of water when not being used, and if there is no lift, convenient access to a marina for dry dock service is essential. If you have friends who are also boaters, and who plan on dropping by your dock for a visit, do you have adequate slip space for their convenience?

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Docks, like houses, come in all sizes. Make sure that the dock on the property you are considering has slips to accommodate your boat, small watercraft, and the boats your visitors might want to tie up. Adding footage to an existing dock can be costly, and may involve permits and inspections.

Having a dock on your property can also significantly increase your property's home value. Current statistics show that having a dock on your property can increase home value by $14,000 to $20,000.

When applying for a loan on waterfront property with dockage, there are also important considerations. Tara Jones, VP of Mortgage Lending with Guaranteed Rate, advises, “Make sure water frontage and dockage are included with the parcel. If it’s separate, it can cause issues. Typically the agent would disclose that and there would be multiple parcel numbers.”

Location, location, location - and the water

You can make alterations to a home, but not the property where it is located, and this can makes a waterfront location more valuable. The ratio of land value to total property value is often higher for waterfront properties.

Proximity of your new house to the water is an important consideration. If the home is not directly on the shoreline, is there a drive or pathway that allows you to move your equipment, as well as food and supplies, to the dock?

Evaluate the topography of the lot: a steep slope to the waterfront can make access more difficult, but will also increase your buffer to high water and storm surge.

“When you are looking at waterfront property with dockage for your boat, think protection versus convenience,” advices Teri Moylan, broker/Realtor with KBT Realty Group. “Dry storage in a marina may offer more protection for your boat during hazardous weather, but the tradeoff is that you need to drive to a marina or coordinate with the marina to bring your boat out to you. Owning a property with boat access allows you to take advantage of a beautiful day and be on the water with the wind and salt and sun on your face in a matter of minutes.”

For those people who don’t own a boat, but value water access, there are specific considerations before investing in a home on the water. For swimmers, evaluate currents, obstructions, and wade-in or diving dock access. Kayaks, standup paddle boards, jet skis, and other small watercraft will require easily accessible storage and a safe place to moor when not in use. 

Sharing the waterfront

If you are looking at homes with shared waterfront access, research what your rights and ownership interests, as well as expenses, would be. Shared waterfront properties can offer a deeded boat slip, or provide a shared interest in a community dock. In a shared dock situation, inquire about the moorage assignment and rotation to make sure that it satisfies your needs for access and boat mooring.

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Making changes? Research development regulations

When you are looking at waterfront property, ask your agent about regulations and codes from all local, state and federal agencies. In many southeastern coastal North Carolina communities, there are strict regulations for use and development of the shoreline.

If you are considering building a new dock or bulkhead, or refurbishing existing structures, be forearmed with information on the process and permits you will need to undertake with all government agencies involved. Anticipate future limitations and expenses as shoreline regulations are updated.

If you are planning on purchasing a waterfront home that will need significant remodeling or expansion, ask for a feasibility study of city codes and shoreline regulations regarding new construction. You might not be able to build as close to the shore on a specific parcel as the existing structure.

Own your piece of boating paradise

Owning a waterfront home is a dream for so many people and the southeastern North Carolina coast offers many options. Living on the water, whether it is the river or the ocean, provides an extraordinary lifestyle.

Because purchasing waterfront real estate is significant financial investment and specific commitment to maintenance and development, it is essential that a prospective buyer engage a real estate professional with experience and understanding of the complex considerations.

Searching for waterfront property? Start online and contact a local expert to refine your home search.

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