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Last updated: September 4, 2019 • Holiday Real Estate

What Are the Best Places to Buy Waterfront Property in the U.S.?

Water is the substance of life so it’s understandable why we feel so fascinated by it. We could spend a whole day watching a waterfall, the waves of the ocean or a river making its way through the mountains. Caught in its spell, we close our eyes and dream of a waterfront vacation home, somewhere away from civilization. But if you are not sure what are the best mountain lake towns or where you can find the most affordable beachfront properties, just call a real estate agent in your area and talk about the particularities of waterfront properties and how water increases the value of a property.

Before you buy a waterfront property

Whenever water reaches a building or a property boundary, something does not smell good. First time home buyers might be very excited about a property but might soon find out that it’s not what they’ve had in mind. Some of them become motivated sellers who try to get rid of a property that is way beyond their ability to manage, or way too demanding with regard to maintenance and taxes. Living on the coast has its ups and downs, so if you don’t want to fall in a trap yourself, too, here are a few tips to keep in mind when looking for a waterfront property:

  • Inspect carefully – the water table could be high, thus flooding the basement or there might be dampness inside.
  • Walk around the property and inspect the bulkheads. The history of the shoreline could also be interesting and useful. You might find too late that the water level is raising, reducing your property by a few square feet each year. Or the water may withdraw leaving an unaesthetic beach or mud that’s hard to cross.
  • Hidden costs – waterfront properties usually come with higher insurance premiums, higher sewer costs, and even docking fees. Also, even though the house looks perfect outside, the HVAC system might have to be replaced, which could cost anywhere between $3,500 and $7,500.
  • Ask about who owns the shoreline – you might have to lease the land for 20-100 years. Land leasings cost between $200 and $500 a month, a cost that is not included in your mortgage.
  • Make a plan for that property – will it be your primary home or a vacation rental? You may want to winterize your property to keep utility costs at bay. Keep in mind that you might not be allowed to build past a certain height limit. Your neighbors don’t want to lose their amazing view, so if you plan to build or expand the structure, make sure you’re doing it legally and up to code.
  • Choose the right type of water – do you need the health benefits of a salty breeze? Then look for an affordable beachfront property. Are you into extreme sports? Then a property close to a fast flowing river will provide easy access to whitewater adventures.
  • Most lakefront property owners are part of a homeowners association. Ask what the HOA fee covers and what are the rules you should obey.
  • Find out the types of loans you might qualify for. You may purchase a waterfront property with a USDA loan, with 0 down payment, but your credit score should be at least 640 (or 620 for some lenders), and your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) lower than 50%.

When speaking of waterfront properties, most of us limit our imagination to seaside resorts, neglecting other landforms. Leaving prejudices behind, lakeside properties and houses abutting rivers are great investments, as well, but tastes vary by generation. Real estate agents can usually predict your home buying behavior immediately after finding your age.  

Waterfront properties by the sea

Our advice for rookie real estate investors is to go where the big players are. If a huge development is under construction in a seaside resort, it means that someone has already studied the local market and concluded that it is worth investing in it. You won’t risk too much buying a home in the top 10 resorts named by CoastalLiving:

Ocean City, NJ

Ocean City beach full of people

The website dedicated to this resort informs its visitors that Ocean City is the most family-friendly resort in the country. One week in mid-July for a family of four costs as low as $1,000 through Airbnb, which currently features 288 hosts. If properties in Ocean City, NJ are over your budget, why not explore the properties in Ocean City, Maryland?

Cape Charles, VA

Cheapest stay for a family of four for one week in mid-July costs as low as $400, and there are more than 300 hosts listed on Airbnb. Vacant land sells between $50,000 and $60,000 an acre while a 3-bedroom 2-bathroom house sells for $106,500. Another “cape” town you might find interesting is Cape Coral, Florida.

Vero Beach, FL

Located on the eastern shore of the peninsula, Vero Beach is a small town between Jacksonville and Miami. Only 25% of rentals listed on Airbnb charge less than $100 per night for a family of four in mid-July. There’s plenty of vacant land for sale at about $25,000 for a ¼ acre, while a 1-bedroom 1-bathroom condo sells for $64,000. Contact a real estate agent from Vero Beach, Florida right now to find your next investment opportunity!

Traverse City, MI

Traverse City on a map

Have you ever wanted to have a photo shoot among cherry blossoms? This is the place to come for this experience! Besides this, the city boasts acre-upon-rolling acre of lush vineyards which makes it a great destination for wine tasting. Although it borders Lake Michigan, you will still feel like you’re in a seaside resort, but the water might be calmer. 60% of the population owns their home, with a median value of owner-occupied housing units of $182,300.

Bluffton, SC

Named #1 for Amazing Non-­Beach Getaways by Huffington Post, Bluffton is a quiet coastal city, with an estimated population of 21,000. Most Bluffton real estate agents will also cover Beaufort and Hilton Head. The minimum price for a 1-bedroom 1-bathroom condo is $100,000, while rent is slightly above the national average. On Airbnb, only 20 properties ask less than $100 per night for 4 guests in mid-July.

Cambria, CA

The city of Cambria sits amidst native Monterey pines and since the Highway 1 re-opened, expects an increase in the number of visitors. Actually, the Hearst Castle attracts more than 600,000 visitors each year and is only 10.5 miles North of Cambria. As you can expect, homeownership in Cambria comes at a premium price. One acre of vacant land costs $125,000, while houses start at $500,000. Only 60 properties are listed on Airbnb of which only eight would host four guests for less than $150 per night.

Anna Maria, FL

Anna Maria, Fl beach

If you’re looking for world-class white-sand beaches, friendly people and a laid-back lifestyle, don’t hesitate to contact our real estate agents in Anna Maria, FL! With a year-round population of just 1,800, most homeowners here are part-time residents, which explains why there are over 200 properties for rent on Airbnb. About a third of them charge less than $100 per night for a family of four in the middle of July. However, you have to register your vacation rental first. The price of the properties might be quite prohibitive, though. You’ll have to pay more than $500,000 for a rental property in Anna Maria.

Hampton, Hampton Beach, NH

Way up North, 233 miles away from the Canadian border, lays the busiest beach community in New Hampshire. There are only 20 rental properties on Airbnb at the moment, but more than 60% of the properties in Hampton Beach are vacation rentals. Mobile homes sell for as low as $30,000, while condos start at $95,000. Do you need an excuse to visit this beach town? Hampton Beach Seafood Festival will take place on September 6, 7, 8, 2019.

Cannon Beach, OR

Cannon Beach Oregon

A really small community of fewer than 2,000 people on the West coast, Cannon Beach was named one of The World’s 100 Most Beautiful Places by National Geographic. People come here for the scenic surroundings and dramatic shoreline. Haystack Rock is actually one of Oregon’s most recognizable landmarks. Properties here are way more affordable, with 3-bedroom 2-bathroom condos starting at only $83,000. When it comes to rental properties, only 60 homeowners rent through Airbnb, and 11 of them charge less than $100 per night for a family of four in July.

Bellport, N.Y.

Another village where the dream of owning a waterfront property can become reality is Bellport. The streets are full of history. Some houses were built in the Greek Revival style more than two centuries ago. Ho-Hum Beach and Mother’s Beach are two beloved places where families go for a sunbath on a hot summer day. A 3-bedroom 1-bathroom house sells for $169,000 and little more than a dozen properties are available for rent on Airbnb.  

Other resorts worth exploring are St. Marys (GA), Astoria (OR), Hilo (HI), Old Orchard Beach (ME), Beaufort (NC), Oxnard (CA), Pensacola (FL), Galveston (TX).

Waterfront properties near a lake

Minnesota boasts 10.000 lakes on its license plates, but did you know that Alaska has more than 3 million lakes? Lake Superior is the biggest lake in the US, by surface, but it is shared with Canada, so the biggest lake on the US soil is Lake Michigan, with a surface of 22,300 square miles. The second place is occupied by the Great Salt Lake in Utah, while the third place belongs to Lake Iliamna from Alaska. Since the largest natural landforms tend to attract the highest number of residents and tourists each year, it’s worth sticking to the previous rule: if other people are flocking in a particular town or region, it must be safe to invest.

If you know a little bit of geography, you probably know where most lakes are concentrated, and you have probably heard of the Lake County in Illinois. This is a great place to buy a property among the affluent residents of  Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Lake Barrington, and Highland Park. The Sunshine State also hosts 30,000 lakes. Here you’ll find the best cities to become a boating family but also small towns with very good school districts such as Windermere and Bradenton. Here are a few lakes you might be interested in:

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe

Attracting some of the wealthiest people in the world, Incline Village is a top choice for investors who seek luxury at its best. Other towns around the lake where you’d love to own property are Kings Beach, Northstar, Tahoe City, as well as Kirkwood and Heavenly Village – both great destinations for shopping or skiing.  

Lake Champlain

The towns on the Adirondack Coast have a rich history and all styles of architecture are well represented in this area. Lake Champlain is easy to reach by car, train, ferry or bus, and once you wander around Vermont, you may fall in love with one of the ten towns that form this community: Essex, Keeseville, Lewis, Westport, Moriah, Port Henry, Willsboro, Elizabethtown, Crown Point, and Ticonderoga. The website dedicated to Lake Champlain is also very well maintained, which makes the area more accessible for both tourists and real estate investors.

Lake Coeur D’Alene

Named as one of the most beautiful lakes in the world by National Geographic, Lake Coeur D’Alene is a natural lake, no more than 100 ft deep that is refreshed by two rivers. This lake is a magnet for businesses in North Idaho. The main towns are Post Falls, the City of Hayden, Sandpoint, Athol, Hauser, Worley, and Rathdrum.

Lake Chelan

waterfront properties around Lake Chelan

With four seasons of recreation, the Lake Chelan Valley in the state of Washington could become your new home. If you enjoy the feeling of a close community and would like to be greeted by name, then the small towns of Chelan, Mason, and Stehekin might be the right place to start looking for a real estate agent.

Lake Tohopekaliga

Whether you want to experience the old Florida in towns like Kissimmee or St. Cloud, or just to cast your fishing rod and have the best bass fishing adventure, lake Tohopekaliga should not be detoured.  

Flathead Lake

Another lake that welcomes boating families, Flathead Lake is surrounded by the following towns: Bigfork (the best small town for art collectors), Elmo, Kalispell, Lakeside, Somers, and Polson – the first settlement on Flathead Lake.

Deep Creek Lake

waterfront properties around Deep Creek Lake

You can never get bored in the Garrett County, MD and around the Deep Creek Lake! With a well-maintained website, the Deep Creek Lake community is making life so much easier for tourists, real estate investors, business owners, or for everyone who wants to relocate. Deep Creek Lake has 65 miles of shoreline and the lake is swimmable! Towns you might want to explore before investing in real estate: McHenry, Deer Park, Swanton, Sang Run.

By the sea or by the lake, waterfront properties come with challenges and opportunities. The best way to approach this kind of property is by contacting an experienced real estate agent, preferably one specialized in waterfront real estate. Now, let us know if you’ve found our picks interesting. Where would you like to invest?

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