Hidden CostsIt’s no secret that lake property typically costs more. If you are shopping for your first lake home, chances are you’re extremely aware of this! What many first-time lake home buyers don’t know is that several other hidden costs might lie just beneath the surface.

While you are busy falling in love with that gorgeous lake home of your dreams, keep the following factors in mind. Your budget will thank you!

Leased Lots

Even with a traditional mortgage, buying a lake home may involve leasing the land itself. This is most common on waterfront property. The power company, the local municipality, or even the federal government may own the lake itself – and that often includes the shoreline. When you purchase a home on a “leased lot,” you enter into a long-term lease with the owner.

These are not complicated, but can be a significant expense. Leases typically run between $200 and $500 a month, depending on the area. Depending on the area, your lease could last anywhere from 20 to 100 years!

When on the waterfront, ask always find out who owns the shoreline. This can be a huge factor in your budget.

Property taxes

It’s no secret that lake property is subject to higher property taxes. However, if your lake home is going to be a second home, that can make tax season incredibly complicated. These hidden costs often don’t pop up until you’ve already been in the home for months.

Many lake home owners have their primary residence in different counties, or even states. Research the local laws and tax rates for your lake home. Don’t be afraid to consult with an accountant!

If you rent out your lake home, you may also be subject to income tax.


Homeowner’s insurance is usually higher for lake homes due to their increased exposure to the elements.

Having good coverage is a wise choice to begin with. Unfortunately, that choice might already be made for you. Local laws and insurance companies often mandate a higher level of insurance coverage for lake homes, including flood insurance.

Remember that you need to get coverage for any additional structures on the property, such as your dock, guest house, or sea wall. Your homeowner’s insurance policy may not cover them automatically.

Flood insurance should always be seriously considered for lake property. After the floodwaters recede, this protection can mean the difference between a serious hassle and a financial disaster.

HVAC and Septic Systems

According to Wally Cawthon, a Lake Homes Realty agent on Jackson Lake, Georgia, “The two biggest unexpected and preventable expenses for first-time lake home buyers are repairs to HVAC systems and septic systems. If buyers take proper inspection measures, they can avoid these in almost every case.”

Many lake homes, especially in rural areas, use a septic system. These need to inspected regularly to ensure that they don’t pollute the local water table, or the lake itself.

Never purchase a lake home with a septic system before having it professionally inspected. This typically costs $200 to $500, and is money well spent. Replacing a seriously damaged septic system can easily cost up to $7,000.

HVAC systems should also be thoroughly inspected before buying. A home that looks picture-perfect when the weather is mild can still house an HVAC system long past its prime.

Buy without having it inspected, and you may be in for a rude surprise (and an even ruder repair bill) when you take ownership. Outdated HVAC systems can also churn through electricity, especially in the chilly winter months.

Boat Docks

Building a dock on your property is no small project. According to, the average homeowner spends $3,396 in dock construction.

Depending on the specifications, a high-quality, permanent dock can cost more than $50,000. Factors such as size, water depth, climate, and other factors all contribute to this cost.

If part of your dream home involves building a dock, get a professional estimate on dock construction. Factor that cost into your budget for the new home.

On the other hand, you may have your eye on property that already has a dock. If so, ask the selling agent if they know how old it is. Most wooden docks last 20 to 25 years. Purchasing one that is due to be replaced can be a serious hit to your wallet!

Know how your homeowner’s insurance policy covers your dock. Many policies cover the structure from incidental damage, but not damage due to flooding, freezing, or thawing.


Many lakes are situated in pristine, secluded, rural areas. This means that power, water, cable, and other utilities often come at a premium.

Lake homes need a dedicated “land line” for the telephone. Between the rural locations and limited cellular service providers, you never want to rely entirely on a cell phone.

This may seem like a trivial concern. Lake home owners can attest, though, that these hidden costs add up quickly. You will find this doubly true if your lake house is a second home. This is why many lake home owners “winterize” their homes in the winter months, cutting off the power, gas, and water when it isn’t in use.

Homeowner’s Associations

Last but not least, many lake homes are part of a homeowner’s association. These associations often serve the same role as small-town municipalities around the lake itself. They maintain the lake, set local regulations, and preserve the natural beauty of the area.

Homeowner’s association dues usually make up a small, but mandatory, annual cost. It’s a good idea to acquaint yourself with the association before purchasing the home. This can give you an inside look at the local culture, including your future neighbors!

Do the Research

These are the most common costs to take into consideration. When researching a lake home, factor these into your budget early on.

Our next blog post will cover the hidden costs of keeping a lake home.


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Grilling Out this Memorial Day

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Memorial DayOn May 29th, Americans across the country will celebrate Memorial Day, to honor those who died while serving in the nation’s armed forces.

What better place to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness than on the lake, surrounded by our loved ones and this country’s natural beauty?

If you are hosting a Memorial Day barbecue on the lake, here is a checklist to help you get started with your preparations.

Clean up Your Act!

Spring is the perfect time to give your grill a good scrub-down. This is true even if you haven’t used the grill since last fall. Give it a good cleaning to remove dirt, dust, grime, and other things you don’t want on that first burger of the season.

If you can remove the grill grates, soak them in a bucket (or plastic tub) of hot water and dish soap, then give them a good scrub. Rinse thoroughly with a garden hose before putting them back in.

Scrub the grill hood and inside walls to remove any build-up. If your grill uses propane or natural gas, make sure all the jet ports are clean and free of gunk or debris.

Give me fuel, give me fire…

Take a careful look at that half-empty bag of charcoal in the garage. Will it REALLY be enough? If you can’t say for sure, better safe than sorry. Grab a fresh bag of charcoal and make sure there’s plenty to go around. Unless you use self-lighting charcoal, make sure you have lighter fluid, too.

If you use a propane tank, make sure there is enough propane. If you don’t have a gauge attached, here’s an easy trick to find out how much propane is left in your tank.

Still shopping for your grill this season? Click here for tips on finding the grill of your dreams.

Serving Guides

Here are some serving guidelines for when you’re planning the menu.

  • For boneless meat (such as hamburgers), most experts recommend between 1/3 and ½ pound of meat per adult.
  • For meat with lots of bones, such as ribs or chicken wings, plan for somewhere between 12 and 16 ounces per person.
  • Side dishes vary, depending on how filling they are. For most dishes, experts recommend four to six ounces per person.
  • With a side salad, go for one big handful per person.
  • When in doubt, round up. It’s far better to have leftovers than to run to the store in the middle of your barbecue because you ran out!

Get a Solid Head Count

While this seems like a no-brainer, it goes hand in hand with making sure you have enough food. If you’re just feeding your immediate family, this isn’t a problem. On the other hand, if you invited all your friends, family and coworkers, you might have more guests than you can handle!

It may seem like overkill, but treating your barbecue like an invitation-only event can save your event.

Don’t be afraid to divvy up the side dish duties, either. Most guests are happy to bring a dish. If you insist on buying everything, even a modest back yard barbecue can easily run upwards of $300.

Make sure you have plenty of parking for your event, too. If you can, tell people where to park in your invitation. That way you won’t see their tire tracks in your front lawn through the month of June.

Get the Tools for the Job!

From a first-timer to a veteran grillmaster, everyone needs the tools for the job. Make sure you have each of these before you get started.

Basic tools: Metal spatula, metal tongs, basting brush, barbecue fork, butcher knife, barbecue scrub brush

Advanced tools: meat thermometer, gloves, bottle opener, meat tenderizer, meat shredder

Specialty tools: Shish kabob skewers, corn on the cob skewers, squirt bottle

Other equipment: Paper plates, disposable cups and silverware, outdoor garbage can, paper towels, tin foil, serving utensils, cooler

Turn up the Music (to a reasonable level)

Having some patriotic jams can make you the life of the party this Memorial Day.

If you don’t fancy yourself a DJ, online music services like Sirius, I Heart Radio, Spotify, and Pandora typically have all-American stations and playlists for Memorial Day.

When outdoors, remember to keep the volume down to a reasonable level. Sound can carry great distances across the lake. Just because you love rocking out to Lynyrd Skynyrd doesn’t mean the rest of the neighborhood wants to (even if they should).

Have a “Worst Case Scenario” Plan for the Weather

No matter how much we plan, Mother Nature doesn’t always cooperate with our outdoor party schedule. Have a contingency plan in case it gets rainy (or worse).

If the sky opens up, don’t panic! Most grilled dishes can be cooked inside, on your stove or in the oven. Make sure you have adequate seating for everyone, and put a movie on. A little rain is no reason to cancel your celebration!

Remember the Reason for the Season

Memorial Day is a remembrance of all those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the service of the United States. Don’t forget to honor them during your event. Be sure to thank any veterans or members of the military for their service to our country.


Considering Selling Your Lake Real Estate - Learn More Looking for Your Dream Lake Homes? Start Here


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Who owns your lake? And what kind of lake regulations could the answer mean for you as a homeowner? This question doesn’t even occur to most people. But if you are considering buying a lake home, this is something you absolutely, positively need to know. Contrary to popular belief, lakes are not undesignated public land. They […]

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Entrepreneur Magazine Shares Leadership Lesson From Lake Homes Realty CEO

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Biggest Dams in the United States

May 17, 2017

There are more than 90,000 dams in the United States, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. So what are the biggest dams, and which one is the largest? That’s a simple question, and it has a complicated answer. Do we mean the tallest? The longest? The one that generates the most electricity, or the one […]

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How To Replace a Ceiling Fan

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Lake Homes: More Than Just Waterfront

May 12, 2017

When you hear, “lake home,” those words can conjure a variety of images. Contrary to popular belief, not all lake homes are waterfront homes. As a matter of fact, many people who own lake houses aren’t even close to the waterfront! Because of this, many lake homes are more affordable than they might seem. There are three major […]

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Ten Signs You’ve Spent Time at Smith Mountain Lake

May 10, 2017

Smith Mountain Lake, known locally as “SML,” is the largest lake contained entirely in the state of Virginia. With beautiful waters and more than 500 miles of shoreline, the lake is more widely known as “The Jewel of the Blue Ridge Mountains.” Smith Mountain Lake is host to just 17,000 visitors each year, a fraction of other […]

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Tips for Energy Efficient Lighting

May 8, 2017

Upgrading the lighting in your home with energy efficient bulbs or other types of lighting can cut your monthly power bill dramatically. It may take some time, but even the more expensive energy efficient bulbs pay for themselves, and then some. In this article, you will discover lighting options that offer you a way to […]

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Getting Ready for your First Open House

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If you are selling your home, chances are your real estate agent has spoken with you about an open house. These are an excellent way to get prospective homebuyers in the door, and get them talking to your selling agent. If you are still living in your home, this can be tricky. Here are some tips […]

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