Whiteboard Topics: Does “Lake Home” Mean “Lakefront”

Not every lake home is waterfront, but they all have their advantages.  Lake Homes Realty’s CEO, Glenn Phillips, breaks down the differences between types of lake homes.
  1. Sometimes, But Not Always: Not every lake home is on the water. There are many options available including lakefront, lake access, and lake view.
  2. Lakefront: This property is also known as waterfront, and is actually on the water. The home has direct access to the lake.
  3. Lakeview: These homes are some distance away from the lake, but have a beautiful view of it from where they are. For some, the view is the highlight of lake living.
  4. Lake Community: Typically a large community with plenty of amenities including golf courses and clubhouse access. You’ll also be a fair distance from the water but said amenities will more than make up for it.
Whether your home is right on the water, or some ways away, you can still make the most out of your lake living experience. Think about what’s most important to you before you buy your dream lake home!

Lake Homes: More Than Just Waterfront

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 you might think.

There are three major types of lake property: lakefront, lake access, and lake community. Each of these have their own pros and cons, both functionally and financially.

looking out at the lake through window

Waterfront Property

Lakefront, also known as “waterfront,” property extends to the shore of the lake itself.

It offers the most prestige, the most access, and a direct line to the lake right out your door.

Lakefront property can be incredibly beautiful, and there’s nothing like looking out your back patio directly onto the calm waters of the lake in the evening.

Naturally, such prestige comes with a high price tag. Waterfront property is significantly more expensive than similar property even a block away from the water.

It also brings with it many more responsibilities.

Waterfront property is the most vulnerable to flooding, erosion and inclement weather. There are often special insurance requirements, and upkeep can be a significant commitment of time and money.

If you plan to build or improve on waterfront property, make sure your plans fit with the local regulations. Many lakes have restrictions on docks, signage and landscaping.

Since there is a limited amount of shoreline on each lake, property on the water’s edge often appreciates the fastest.

Waterfront is also very attractive to vacationers. This can pay dividends if you intend to rent it out.

Waterfront property is perfect for those who have their heart set on the water’s edge, and have the time and money to maintain it.

Lake View Property

“Lake view” property, also known as “lake access,” is near the water, but does not extend to the lake itself.

This property can be a literal stone’s throw away from the water and is often just as picturesque as lakefront.

Prices vary from lake to lake, but lake view property is typically much less expensive than lakefront.

Lake view property isn’t as scarce, doesn’t have the same water access and doesn’t have the convenience or prestige of being directly on the waterfront.

At the same time, lake view can give many of the benefits of waterfront, at a fraction of the cost or the headaches.

Owners still typically have easy access to the lake, without needing to maintain their own stretch of shoreline. Weatherproofing and maintenance costs aren’t as significant, either.

Most lake communities have options for those who live on the lake to enjoy its benefits. Marinas can store boats until you need it, and there are usually access points for swimming, fishing and water sports.

If you want property close to the water’s edge, but have a limited budget, lake view property may be for you.

Lake Community

Most lakes have neighborhoods arrayed about them. Many of these homes aren’t within clear view of the water’s edge, but are still very much part of the lake community.

Homes situated in a lake community a short distance from the water can cost a fraction of waterfront property.

Nicole Anderson Walters, a Lake Homes Realty agent specializing in real estate on Logan Martin Lake, Alabama, offered, “you can save money by being in a lake view or lake access neighborhood. Many have water views and community areas with boat launch.”

“Where a home may cost you $89 per square foot off the water, the same home could cost upwards of $168-$200+ per square foot directly on the water,” she added. “You can often find a much nicer home off the water with amenities in the neighborhood.”

Depending on the size of the lake, these neighborhoods can range from high-end gated communities, to condos and cabins, to retirement communities and everyday suburbs.

These lake communities are often a short drive to a short walk or drive to the lake itself, but still have easy access to fishing, swimming, boating and other lake activities.

As an added benefit, most avoid many of the upkeep costs and restrictions associated with lakefront property.

Many communities are also situated near state parks, landmarks, shopping centers and other attractions. If these appeal to you more than living near the water, look for lake communities within a short distance of the lake.

Find what works for you!

Every lake is different.

In addition to those listed here, market prices can vary greatly between lakes. If you can’t find the kind of property you are looking for at one lake, look for others nearby.

You may find a hidden gem right under your nose!

Five Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Lake Home

five questions to ask before choosing a lake home

If you are shopping for your first lake home, there are several factors to consider. Between lake geography, utilities, property restrictions and hidden costs, buying lake property can be full of unexpected surprises. Be sure to ask these five questions before choosing a lake home.

1. What are you looking for in a lake home?

This is the simplest, most important and toughest question!

Lake homes can come in a surprising range of prices, conditions and access to amenities, even on the same lake.

Will this be your primary home, or a second home? Are you looking for an existing home, or a lot to build your dream house on?

man holding glass on wine next to door on lake beach - lake front access

What is most important to you – the view, the activities, boating or fishing, the local community, having fun with the grandkids or just getting away from it all?

Thinking about these things will help you find just the right kind of lake home, and narrow down the wide array of choices you have available.

For example, if this will just be a summer home, a large waterfront property that needs weekly upkeep may not be the best choice.

On the other hand, if you want a house big enough for the extended family to visit, a larger home a short distance from the water might be the best fit for your budget.

2. What kind of water access do you need?

When it comes to lake homes, there are three general kinds of water access: lakefront (also known as waterfront), lake access, and lake community.

Lakefront property goes right up to the water line, or within a few yards of it. This is the most expensive option, but also lets you enjoy the lake directly.

You have instant access to boating, swimming, fishing and other activities.

boat dock during sunset

“Lake access” is property that is close to the water, but not on the lakefront itself.

These properties often have a clear view of the lake and are a short walk to the water. These are often significantly less expensive than waterfront property.

“Lake community” property is part of the overall lake neighborhood, but without direct access to the water.

These can be anywhere from a few blocks to a mile or two from the lake. Owners still enjoy the lake lifestyle, even if they aren’t directly on the lake.

Homes in lake communities have more limited access, but are often much more affordable.

3. What restrictions does the lake have?

Many lakes have restrictions that you might not know about as a visitor.

They are often regulated by power companies, neighborhood associations, even the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Each lake, has its own regulations.

These entities work to preserve the wildlife, culture and natural beauty of the lake and the surrounding neighborhood. Becoming familiar with them will give you a big head start on finding your ideal lake home.

Some common restrictions address factors such as: boat usage, docking, exterior fixtures (such as gardens and doghouses,) light fixtures, seawall maintenance and leasing or rental agreements.

4. How are the utilities set up?

Knowing about the area’s utilities can save you a world of stress when choosing a lake home.

In rural lake communities, modern conveniences like cell phone service and high-speed internet may be hard to come by.

Water access is something to be mindful of, too. Not lake access, though – the plumbing!

choosing a lake home - bills to watch out for HOA, water, internet, cell phone service

Some lake properties draw water from a well. Find out if the property uses a sewer system or a septic tank, too. Each of these can bring unexpected costs or upkeep.

If you intend to build, see what the cost is to set up utilities for the property – specif.

You want to know this before you purchase it, not after!

5. What conveniences are nearby?

Many who are choosing a lake home often just look at the property itself. Don’t make this mistake!

Marinas, golf courses, country clubs and campgrounds are all important parts of the lake lifestyle.

choosing a lake home - waterfront community

Take the time to learn about the off-lake community, too.

Nearby hospitals, restaurants, police departments, shops and grocery stores are all things to take into account, too.

Many lake communities have local websites where you can learn more about the area. These are often hidden gems, and from them you can learn a great deal.

Getting to know the local culture can turn a property from, “let’s think about it,” to, “this is the one!”

Lakefront Property: What Are Your Options When Buying at the Lake?

When considering purchasing lake property, many potential buyers assume lakefront is their best option. But for many buyers, there are other options to consider, specifically lake-view and lake-access properties.

Lakefront property, of course, includes shoreline as part of the property, while lakeview property is within sight of the water but doesn’t include shoreline.

Lake-access properties may not have a clear view of the lake, but do have guaranteed access to it, through either a dock or path.

Factors to Consider

How do you know what kind of lake property is best for you?

Most buyers gravitate first toward lakefront because of the convenience and excitement of living right on the water. However, after you factor in location and price, lakefront may not be the best option for you.

First, you need to figure out which is most important to you. Is it living on the waterfront, sticking to your budget or finding the perfect neighborhood?

As you consider these options, you will want to think about how often you will be visiting your lake property and how you envision the time you’ll spend there.

Cost

Lake-view/Lake-access

lakeview home in idaho
Photo courtesy of Hendricks Architecture.

If you have your heart set on a particular lake and have a tight budget, lake-view properties could be your best option.

Prices will vary greatly from lake to lake, and each lake will have lakefront properties at a wide range of prices.

Generally, lake-view properties will be considerably less expensive than lakefront lots nearby.

If you are open to considering several  different lakes, you can often find a lake-view property within your budget.

An advantage to buying lake-view or lake-access property is that most can offer buyers the majority of the conveniences enjoyed by lakefront properties, but often at a fraction of the cost.

Lakefront

lakefront house with family

When looking at lakefront property, the biggest advantage is that they are an increasingly scarce resource. After all,  there is only a limited amount of shoreline on each lake.

A lakefront property will appreciate most quickly, especially if the lake in question has historically low inventory of similar properties.

Upkeep is a potential con when considering a lakefront property for purchase. The cost of maintenance from erosion, dock repairs and other weatherproofing expenses can certainly add up to a great deal.

These are costs that you will incur the entire time you own the property, most of them can be avoided with a lake-view or lake-access home.

Activities on the Lake

You should also seriously consider how you plan to use the property and the activities you see yourself spending the majority of your time engaged in.

If you love boating, you will want a house with easy access to a dock, whether your own on your property or a community dock nearby.

If swimming is one of your favorite activities, a waterfront property may be best for you.

You will need to consider the depth of the water surrounding your property, and if the lake is not at full pool year-round, what the variance has been historically.

three boys sitting on raft at lake

Swimming fans should also consider how rocky the bottom is near their shoreline, the amount of boat traffic and safety record for the area you plan to use.

It is important to be mindful of the location you are considering. Some houses sit on main channels, which often have high levels of boat traffic. Others are tucked into quiet coves, more secluded and with less traffic.

If you are someone who loves a busy lake and enjoys having people around, then a main-channel lakefront property could be ideal for you. But if you prefer a secluded spot, you may be interested in a property seated in a cove that could be either lakefront or lake-view.

All in All

Whether your best choice is a lakefront, lake-view, or lake-access property depends on your unique needs and circumstance.

Considering all of your options and knowing which property types are available in your area are important parts of the buying process. Are you ready to start enjoying lake life? Begin your search here!