Posted in: Lakeshore, Buying a home, Luxury homes

Eight steps to buying a lakeshore home

buying a lake home

Key insights:

  • Understanding what to include on your dream lakeshore home checklist is essential.
  • Waterfront properties are best judged in person, but it’s important to know what you should be looking for.
  • Although you can greet your new neighbors with a delicious pie, there are many ways to introduce yourself and become involved in a new community.

Is it time to invest in a home away from home? Buying a lakeshore home has different considerations than a primary residence. Here are some insights you can use as you consider purchasing a waterfront property in Minnesota or western Wisconsin.

1. List your requirements

The first step in deciding whether or not you should purchase a lake property is to make a list of everything you want from your lakeshore home experience. Ask yourself:

  • Are you hoping to have a ski boat?
  • Do you plan to spend your days fishing or kayaking?
  • Do you want to be able to eat at waterfront restaurants you can access by boat?
  • Do you want neighbors close by or something more remote?

Once you narrow down your lake criteria, start researching different area lakes to see what they have to offer. You’ll want to consider everything from the sunset views down to the types of fish in each lake.

In addition to listing your preferred lakeshore features, start ranking other home characteristics that are important to you. Whether you’re most excited about having a home large enough for visitors or living on a chain of lakes so you can spend all day on the water, ranking your criteria will help you narrow down your options.

2. Hire a trusted agent

Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred area and home features, find a REALTOR® you trust. By hiring a Realtor who understands your buying goals, you can work together to find the ultimate lakefront property.

Your agent will be a trusted guide who can provide insights on the following:

  • Quality of the lake lot
  • Elevation of the land
  • Lakeshore experiences in different communities
  • Right type of lake for you
  • Lake home versus cabin

In an ideal world, the perfect waterfront property will already be listed. But it’s possible that your agent will have to help you over the course of a few months, or longer, to find the perfect lakeshore home for your needs. During this process, rest assured that your Realtor will work with your best interests in mind.

3. Tour waterfront properties in person

While it may seem like you can get a good idea of a home from photos online, it’s especially important to see waterfront properties in person. Everything from the lake size and the home’s natural light to the shoreline structure and elevation of the home is important to consider when buying a lake home — and almost impossible to gauge from even the most beautiful listing photos.

Therefore, it’s important to work with your Realtor to schedule time to view homes in person. Block off an entire day or weekend to tour several lakeshore homes in your preferred areas.

As you peruse houses, remember to go back to your ranked list — this will help as you narrow down your choices. But, keep in mind that lakeshore homes, like any segment of the market, come in varying sizes and conditions. If you have your sights set on a particular lake, and a fixer-upper house with a shoreline property pops up on the market, you may begin to channel your inner DIY skills. It can be helpful to stay flexible, as long as you also remain realistic about how a different type of property would affect how you spend your lakeside time.

4. Apply for a mortgage loan

If you’ll need financing for your lake home, work with your Realtor to get in touch with a mortgage consultant. They are able to walk you through the various options of purchasing a lakefront property.

And, if this is will be your second mortgage, read these tips on securing a vacation home loan.

5. Factor in outside costs

Your real estate agent and mortgage consultant can also help you factor in the costs of owning a lakeshore home, including:

  • Mortgage, tax and insurance payments
  • Utilities
  • Homeowner’s association fees
  • Property repairs
  • Winterizing services

By planning for these expenses in advance, you’ll ensure that your first year of memories as a lakeshore homeowner will be marked by coffee on the deck and sunset cruises to end the day, instead of emergency repair calls.

6. Start the duplications process

Once your offer has been accepted, it’s time to start planning for the future. If your lakeshore home will be a second property, you’ll need to buy duplicates of many household items, including:

  • Furniture
  • Bedding
  • Kitchen and bath towels
  • Table settings
  • Cookware
  • Cooking utensils
  • Flatware

To stay budget-friendly, consider upgrading the small kitchen appliances in your primary residence, or other furniture and home accessories. Then, send the extras to the cabin. In addition, keep an eye out for flash sales and deals at discount stores that still carry high-end products. You can also make a fun day of shopping estate sales and garage sales of other waterfront properties. While shopping around, you can channel a unique “up north” decor style to help you decorate your lakeshore property.

Keep in mind that in some cases, lakeshore home sellers are willing to include furniture, décor and even their kitchen and dining items with the sale. This is especially common if the seller isn’t planning to purchase another waterfront home. Talk with your agent to determine if this is common in your local marketplace, and how you can incorporate this agreement into the terms of your contract.

7. Get to know your neighbors

Many lakes, depending on where they are located, have community meetings or neighborhood groups that discuss upkeep, water trends and testing, and residential and commercial growth of the area. By attending one of these meetings, you can learn more about the kind of community you’ll be moving into while meeting neighbors and new friends that you can invite out for happy hour once you move in.

On top of meeting face-to-face, neighborhood Facebook groups have grown in popularity. Try searching your prospective community or lake name in order to get a feel for the area and to see what your future neighbors are concerned about and celebrating. Or, you can type your address into Nextdoor. This platform allows locals to build connections and strengthen their communities through conversation, advice and recommendations. With a little online community-building, you can get integrated into the area even before you move.

8. Check out local festivals and customs

You’re about to enjoy your first full summer as a lakeshore homeowner, so make it count. Once your closing date approaches, start researching local customs and festivals and make sure you’re in town for them. Visit the in-town bakeries, shops and restaurants and ask the proprietors for insider tips on the best places to boat, hike, fish and more. Soak it all in — you’re a weekend warrior now!

Purchasing your lakeshore home

Edina Realty has nearly 2,400 local market specialists serving every neighborhood — and lake — across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. To get in touch with a lakeshore specialist, reach out to Edina Realty or one of our agents, or start your lakeshore home search now.

For more tips on buying a home, follow #BuyerInsights on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Join over {{'43232' | number}} subscribers

Status Definitions

For sale: Properties which are available for showings and purchase

Active contingent: Properties which are available for showing but are under contract with another buyer

Pending: Properties which are under contract with a buyer and are no longer available for showings

Sold: Properties on which the sale has closed.

Coming soon: Properties which will be on the market soon and are not available for showings.

Contingent and Pending statuses may not be available for all listings