Know Your Lake Property Regulators


What you need to know before you write an offer on a lakefront property........

1. Zoning Authorities: Get familiar with all the zoning authorities that set regulations for your potential lakefront property. This starts at the top with the Army Corps of Engineers. If you plan on building anything on your lakefront property such as an addition, a detached garage, or a shed, the Army Corps of Engineers may be involved if you have wetlands on or near your property. Secondly, your state will certainly have regulatory guidelines for lakefront ownership. Get in touch with someone at a state department such as natural resources, conservation, or whatever else your state may call it. Find out who covers your region for water regulations and zoning and get as much information as possible. Lastly, check with your county, town, and local municipality to find out what else you need to know. Gathering contacts and general information about owning lakefront property may give you the answers you need immediately before you even set up a showing on a particular lake.

2. Determine the ordinary high water mark: Meet with a county zoning officer or someone from the state to determine where the ordinary high water mark is located on a particular property. This will determine how much property actually comes with the sale and what is determined to be public land.

3. Review local shoreland zoning guidelines: After you find a property you like, get a copy of the county or local shoreland zoning regulations. You may have found a property that is densely forested, and you want to cut down some trees to view the lake. The guidelines will address related issues.

4. Check for easements: Check with a local zoning authority or a title company to see if there are easements through the lakefront property that you want to purchase. You don't want to wake up one day to find people legally walking through your land to gain access to the lake.

5. Get information about the lake association: Get in contact with the president of the lake association. You can find out news about the general health of the lake and what kind of projects the association is working on to benefit the lake. You may find out information that sways your purchasing decision one way or the other.

6. Get data on sold properties: If you are not being represented by a realtor in the transaction, you should go to the county and get some data on properties that have sold recently on the lake. Always ask how long the property has been on the market. The listing agent will not disclose that information unless the buyer asks.

7. Lake districts: Find out if there is a lake district. Lake districts have the right to levy taxes. If there is a lake district, find out what they are doing and how much it's going to cost.

8. Neighbors: Try to determine how the neighbors use their property. Is it a party house? Are they quiet? It's not uncommon to hear horror stories about people selling their adored lakefront home because the neighbors are driving them crazy.