5 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Waterfront Property


Purchasing a waterfront property is not a walk in the park. Studies have shown that the buying process is more nerve-wracking than acquiring a traditional Seattle real estate. There is need to fully understand the waterfront property.

Waterfront living is an American Dream for many. Since most people intend to acquire one, it is prudent to consider all the necessary factors before finalizing the buying deal to ensure the shift to waterfront home is seamless.

Whether you plan to buy waterfront homes Seattle or anywhere in the united states, there are a few features to keep an eye on to avoid getting duped. Here are five things you must know before purchasing a waterfront property.

Shoreline Permits

Most waterfront properties have one unique feature; they extend close to or into the water. Most home buyers are unfamiliar with the issues the water closeness proximity brings.

Majority of property improvements that stretch into the water such as boathouses and docks are subject to legal approvals. Conducting a thorough research on such areas is mandatory lest you bear regrettable consequences or even financial losses.

Before building, rebuilding or repairing a structure that stretches beyond the shoreline, homeowners must show proof of approval permits from the relevant authorities. In most cases, the permits are processed and clearly by the city council following the state regulations. In some instances, the Army Corps of Engineers stipulations apply, especially at the federal level.

Getting the required permit might take time, more so if you need clearance at the federal level. In order to make the process smooth, here are a few factors one must examine.

  • Are the existing structures approved? Don’t fall into the trap of assuming they must have been approved to be constructed or you are permitted to utilize.
  • Can you renovate them? Repairing waterfront structures is carried out according to the set rules and regulations. Also, new materials may prove costly.
  • Can you expand or add new waterfront structures? Expanding existing structures or adding new ones must fulfil the set guidelines. Therefore, before taking the bold step to construct a new boathouse ensure you have done your homework.

Bulkheads and Shorelines

The waterfronts edge is a perfect place for shoreline improvements. Most communities residing on a shoreline prefer natural beaches because they enhance habitat for wildlife whose lives depend on the waters. Such natural beaches need replacement or refurbishing once in a while due to erosion. If you love enhancing the shoreline, take time going through the guidelines and regulations required.

You may have to ask neighbours on the history of shoreline recession to ascertain how often you may need to do repairs. Another way to find out is by conducting geological survey research.

Most waterfront homes shorelines are either bulkhead or seawall. Usually, they are consisting of large stones, concrete slabs, logs or a modification of many materials.  Bulkhead is commonly preferred by most owners because they develop an amazingly clean finish of the yard. Bulkheads also create a good spot for jumping off in areas with high water levels.

The regulatory agencies involved may limit you from designing your bulkhead the way you like. It is paramount to find out what you can do to maintain, renovate and refurbish your shoreline.

Water and Sewer

While some waterfront property owners enjoy irrigating their surroundings with lake water, others are banned from it. Similarly, some homes use city sewer system while others use on-site sewage system.

If your sewer system is on site, take time to check its condition. In case it requires repairing or upgrading find out the legal requirements for the undertaking. It is worth mentioning that upgrading a sewer system is a huge investment that requires finances to acquire new materials and construct. Moreover, the impact of a sewer system on the environment makes important to regulate.

Bluffs and Cliffs

Are waterfront structures built on a bluff overlooking the water body regulated? Also, constructing structures to improve the bluff’s edge may be regulated.

If you are interested in buying a property located on a hillside, a cliff or a bluff top on a waterfront, you may need to investigate the following:

  • Wildlife
  • Sewage systems beneath
  • Beach conditions

Your seller may provide you with property’s history. However, if you need additional information, your neighbours are resourceful. Get satisfactory information from all relevant regulatory bodies in case there are new changes. If erosion is working on your bluff, consult a geotechnical engineer to have a peace of mind during your stay.


Weathering of waterfront materials affects the longevity of waterfront homes Seattle.  Shorelines near saltwater bodies experience heavy wear and tear. This significantly affects you waterfront structures and exterior home décor. You need to consider all these factors before embarking on any improvements.

That is not to say that waterfront structures close to freshwater bodies are safe. They are still susceptible to wind, storms and waves. Your home and waterfront structures require obstruction to act as physical protectors.

Other things you must know include:

  • Flood insurance
  • Activity on the water
  • Home improvement regulations
  • Waterfront inspections required

Seattle real estate revolves around waterfront properties in one way or another. Even though the process of buying may appear complex and numerous pitfalls to avoid, living on the water is rejuvenating. An experienced agent and an inspector are all you need to get a clean deal. 

About Christian Nossum

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