Vacation home sales are up nearly 30% over last year but inventory isn't keeping up with demand. If you're planning to buy a lakeshore home in Minnesota or western Wisconsin, come prepared with the right questions so you can make an offer when the right property comes along.
Here's a quick guide:
1. Who manages the lake weed?
Does the Minnesota or Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) control the lake weed? If not, then ask the seller how they have controlled the lake weed in their area of water, and how much they spent annually on these efforts.
2. What is the lakeshore like?
Is the shoreline rocky, mucky or sandy? Does the depth of the water progress gradually, or is there a steep drop-off after a few feet? When buying a lakefront property, consider who will be enjoying your new home - if you want to spend time sitting right on the beach, you’ll want it to be sandy and flat. If you have small children, you won’t want a deep drop close to shore.
3. What use do you get out of the lake?
Make sure you can use the lake for your preferred activities. If you want to fish, ask the seller what types of fish can be caught on the lake, and where (if any) the quiet areas for fishing are located. If you know that speed boating and skiing will be your primary reason for buying a waterfront property, ask the seller about the traffic on the lake. Remember that it’s difficult to ski on lakes that are under 150 acres. Swimmers should ask again about weed control to ensure they can swim freely without getting caught in the greenery below. Last, ask how big the waves get on windy days – extremely large lakes can generate waves so large they make recreational activity difficult.
4. Does the water level fluctuate?
Be sure to ask if the water level has ever fluctuated dangerously when the winter runoff melts. How does a fluctuation in water level affect access to the lake? Has the property ever been in danger of flooding? Does the area have flood plains restrictions, which make it difficult to secure flood insurance? Do the owners currently have flood insurance in place? Do your due diligence on the issue of water levels – it’s easy to fall in love with a property mid-summer, but you must consider what the property is like year-round.
5. Are we buying the dock, too?
If the seller is moving from one waterfront property to another, they may plan on taking their dock with them. Ask if the dock is included, and then ask for further information on installing and taking the dock out. Is the dock on posts or wheels? How many people does the deck installation require? Is there a place on the land that can easily store the dock in the winter, or did they previously rent a storage locker?