By Freddy Marks
Buying waterfront recreational property in B.C. is the dream of many homeowners. Luckily, B.C. has thousands of different waterfront landholdings, from seaside properties on the Sunshine Coast and Vancouver Island, to beachfront in the vibrant Okanagan, to cozy cabins and R.V. lots on lakes up north through the Cariboo.
Waterfront property is special for its shoreline access, and is always more expensive to purchase and maintain. But the benefits of waterfront views, the connection with nature, and years of family fun is worth the extra time and money for many. The waterfront lifestyle is an amazing one — finding the perfect shoreline for your needs and lifestyle is the key to fully enjoying your recreational property.
First, get specifics about the lake or river you want to purchase on, as water bodies can vary considerably. Some excellent questions include: is the bottom rocky, sandy or muddy for swimming? Is the lake stocked with fish, and are there any motorized restrictions for boaters? Are you allowed to have a launch site and dock right off of your own property shoreline, or do you travel around the lake to an access to launch? Does the lake freeze solid and offer winter activities like fishing, ice skating and snowmobiling?
Remember what type of recreational user you are, and find a water body that suits your recreational needs. If all the kids wakeboard, then you need a big enough lake that you can run a large ski boat and make that type of wake action safely away from other boaters and sensitive shorelines. Be very specific about your needs; it is important for your property success and happiness!
Purchasing waterfront property warrants a comprehensive examination of more than the property itself.
Find out if there is a homeowner’s association or other organization that controls the lake area where you plan to buy. The last thing you want as a buyer is to find out there are things you were counting on being able to do that are not allowed.
Having a lake association can be a good thing, as they are formed to protect the lake’s future and resolve any issues that potentially could threaten the lake’s health. They apply for grants to protect or improve the lake, as well as monitor the lake for invasive species. A great deal of waterfront land in the province is developed and privately owned, and having local associations can help owners upgrade boat launches and create swimming areas with trash collection that helps the lake ecosystem handle the increased recreational usage.
Due diligence should be carried out when purchasing any landholding. Vetting an existing recreational dwelling with older services takes even further careful critical examination.
In some lakefront communities the housing can be a mix of seasonal vacation-style cabins and cottages that have been turned into more permanent residences. If not kept in good repair with regular maintenance, the close proximity to the lake can lead to property damage.
If you want to use the home during winter months, make sure it was built for year-round use with insulated floors, walls, water pipes and heating options, as upgrading an existing seasonal residence for winter living can be very costly. Quite often, local zoning can vary on a lake. You may have grand visions of adding a large addition and discover it’s just not possible. Find out what you can and can’t do before purchasing.
If you are purchasing for recreational use now and planning to eventually live there full-time when you retire, make sure you have given special consideration to things like proximity of the hospital, medical care, grocery stores and restaurants. Getting out of town into the middle of nowhere may be great for a few months at a time, but not everyone enjoys such isolation on a year-round basis.
I urge you to take the time to really investigate all the components of each unique property you are interested in. If possible, go talk to the neighbouring property owners. Talking to your potential neighbours can give you valuable information that a viewing with a realtor cannot. Ask what they like and dislike about owning property there, and you may find circumstances you might not have thought of — like the public lake access beside the property that gets busy on weekends. Firsthand information is very valuable and can help you avoid a purchase in a location that will not meet your expectations.
Freddy Marks, together with his daughter Linda Marks, runs Agassiz’s 3A Group Sutton Showcase Realty. He has been a Realtor in Canada and Germany for more than 30 years, and currently lives in Harrison Hot Springs.