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Wed, Sep 07, 2011 at 1:50PM

Tips for Buying Waterfront Property

in Lake Mary Florida and Sanford Florida


Its Not All About the View


Whether its in the communities of Heathrow, Magnolia Plantation or River Crest or over in Celery Key , Celery Estates or Chase Groves, Buyers will tell you that they bought their waterfront property for the wonderful views and direct access.  Despite the these, some will tell you that they should have considered more of the issues before buying where they did.   Don’t make same mistakes.  Lake Mary Florida and Sanford Florida waterfront property can be great to own – but take into consideration these tips and make your offer contingent on much of what follows. 

1.  Don’t Stop With The View.   Go out and physically walk the property in its entirety.   Look at the types of vegetation growing – reeds will only grow where the soil is wet much of the time.   Dead trees near the water can be a long term indicator that there is either an erosion problem or a rising water level.  Likewise, small trees further out may indicate the water level is much lower than it looks or there is a long term waning in process. 

2.  Surveys and FEMA Maps.   Insist on seeing the survey and correlate them with the Federal government’s floodplain maps (FEMA).   Determine if your property will be in a floodplain as this may affect what you can build or modify and where you can do it and what kind of insurance you’ll need to carry. 

Use the survey to determine how much property you will really own and if there are public easements for use at or near the waterline.   In Florida many times the property line actually extends out into a lake for some distance and may be used in the lot size calculation but really not be useable at all.   Most oceanfront and many tidal water lots, such as those inNew Smyrna BeachFlorida, have recorded easements for public use.  For these properties, look for the Coastal Construction Control Line on the survey and if it isn’t marked – insist on finding out where it is before you buy and be aware that there are both state and local CCCLs.  

3. Improvements.   Do you want to remodel?  Do you want to add-on? How about a pool?  Do you want a dock?  Do you want a seawall or riprap?  There are now many different restrictions at all levels for dealing with waterfront properties.  Local, State and Federal agencies all have their own environmental guidelines which often overlap and conflict with one another.  Take note of the surrounding properties.  If there are no docks and you want one – there might be a reason no one else has one.   Also, it is generally easier to replace what is there than to build something that was previously non-existent. 

As previously mentioned, look for the CCCLs on tidal waterfront properties.   Lands on the “waterside” of the line” will have far more restrictions up to and including a total ban on improvements of any kind. 

Finally,Florida has a “50 percent rule” which refers to building restrictions in relation to how much has to be spent rebuilding or remodeling a waterfront home in relation to its value.   This is poorly understood by most, but can be used by local governments to try and prevent you from rebuilding a waterfront property.   A real estate attorney should be consulted to determine if this is an issue for you. Generally the rule involves that if the cost to rebuild will add up to more than 50% of the value including what may have been spent on a major past remodel, then an agency may have grounds to deny you rebuilding or further remodeling.  Much of this will depend on what the surrounding area contains already contains.  If you border a rural area you may have a bigger problem than if you are smack in the middle of twenty condo buildings.   Again, consult your attorney regarding this rule as it may or may not apply to your potential property. 

4. Protecting The View.    You are paying a premium for the view as well as the frontage.  Look into what is permitted to protect your investment.  In some areas you cannot cut down vegetation between your home and the water even if it will eventually grow and block your view.  In other areas you can cut Mangroves, Reeds, or other plants to a certain height as long as the roots are left intact.   Check with local environmental government agencies to find out what is permitted. 

5.  Water Depth.    Water which is not clear can be very deceiving in its depth or lack thereof.  Do not rely on sight or a single visit. Lakes, particularly those not spring-fed, can vary greatly from year to year in its depth depending upon rainfall, up to and including drying up completely. If you are going to be boating from your property you will want to know what either the lake fluctuations are or what the tidal range is and what the Mean Low Water (MLW) level is.  If there is a dock or seawall, often you can see the tidal range by the amount of algal or marine growth.   While most ofFlorida has a tidal range of less than 3 feet, this is still enough to make boating possible only on a high tide.   

6.  Additional Costs of Owning.   Two of the most often overlooked costs of owning a waterfront property is the additional maintenance and the additional insurance coverages required.  

Maintenance is often more costly due to the exposure to open water and its elements – primarily wind, waves and moisture.   Properties on saltwater bodies generally experience greater costs.   Wind will eventually and inevitably accelerate structural fatigue and reduce the lifespan of many parts of a home such as railings, gutters, concrete balconies.   Waves, which are wind driven – can cause erosion of the shorelines    The greater the distance over the water,  known as the fetch,  will greatly influence the wave action your property will encounter.   Moisture in the air leads to advanced corrosion and etching of windows and exposed glass.   

Generally two additional policies are required by lenders (those who own a property outright can opt not to carry additional insurance, aka self insure) for loans on waterfront properties.  

The most obvious is flood insurance.   This is a separate policy to cover properties located within certain floodplains which are described in maps produced by FEMA as “the 100 year floodplain” or  “the 10 year floodplain” and so forth.   The more likely your home is to flood, the more expensive the policy. 

The other policy is wind insurance.  This insurance policy covers damage caused by wind including wind-driven rain.  Rainwater which penetrates your home because of the force of the wind in the storm is generally excluded in the normal homeowner’s policy for waterfront homes.   In storm prone areas this insurance coverage alone can cost 1-2% of the home’s value.   

Armed with these tips you should be in better position to judge more than the property’s view.   Good luck and happy hunting.




This blog article  is intended as an educational tool in helping you select the right property for you – its content is generalized and believed to be accurate but not guaranteed.  You should not rely this article as a sole source of information and should consult your legal, financial and real estate professionals before making any firm decision or real estate purchase.
















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New Southern Properties Inc.
4300 West Lake Mary Blvd
Bldg 1010, #415
Lake Mary, FL 32746
Phone: 321-262-6162