one of the most sought after types of property in our market and holds
its value better than any other kind because they just donít make it
anymore. It is also a big responsibility because ownership means you are
effectively an environmental steward as well as a property owner,"
says Mike Ruzicka, president of the Greater Milwaukee Association of
referring to waterfront property ó the Cadillac of all properties.
Luckily for us, thereís a clear abundance in southeast Wisconsin,
spanning from Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee River to Lake Country. But
be forewarned: Waterfront living isnít simply a pretty view. Hereís
what to know before you buy.
Choose a real
estate agent with waterfront experience. Like any home purchase, start
with the right agent, and in this case, one with waterfront experience.
"A real estate agent should understand setbacks, DNR requirements,
(and) be familiar with the differences in the types of waterfront
properties and know about things like pier restrictions, etc.,"
says Judy Hearst, senior regional vice president at Coldwell Banker
Do your due
diligence, and visit the property at varying times. Hearst recommends
that buyers check out the property at different times of day and night
to ensure they know what to expect. "And remember, Lake Michigan
properties enjoy sunrises, but inland lakes can be either sunrise,
sunset or sometimes both," she says. Also, know that your view is
never guaranteed or permanent ó that is to say, you are not buying the
view. This is a point buyers, especially those with river view condos in
rapidly developing areas like the Historic Third and Fifth Wards, need
Make sure the lake
fits your lifestyle. "All the area waterfront properties are
different with respect to how the water itself can be used by the
homeowner," Hearst continues. "If itís an inland lake, check
with the DNR to find out if water-skiing is allowed, if it is a no-wake
lake, or if wake is only allowed during certain hours. If you fish, then
ask about what kind of fishing it offers. If you are buying on the
Milwaukee River and you are interested in boating, then find out if
there is a boat slip available, and if there is one, if itís
yourself with local codes, rules and regulations. Each municipality has
its own set of rules for property changes, like adding a dock or a
seawall. According to Tom Smith, a homeowner on Lake Michigan, there
were major differences between what is permitted in Whitefish Bay,
Shorewood and Milwaukee. "Shorewood was very accommodating,"
resources include the DNR and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which
governs the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Be aware of
possible maintenance hurdles. Hearst says that when purchasing a
waterfront view, buyers should remember that the view can also bring
some exciting weather and its corresponding maintenance concerns.
"I canít give you a dollar amount of how much more the cost for
maintenance would be," she says. "However, buyers should take
into consideration how weather and wind affect paint as well as how they
insurance premium will be high. Insurance premiums are not typically
affected by being on a body of water, but insurance companies will raise
premiums if the property is considered a higher than normal risk based
on other factors like risk of erosion. "If the risk is too high,
the insurance company may not even insure the property," says Mandi
LoCoco of American Family Insurance. "If the property is located in
a flood plain, the homeownerís mortgage company will require flood
insurance to protect the home against flooding. Flooding is not a named
peril on a home insurance policy, so any homeowner should add it if they
want to protect themselves against flood damage. Lastly, if the
homeowner owns a dock, they should consider coverage because it is not
automatically covered on most policies." M
ó Consider a
complete tear down and rebuild. If you do find the perfect property, one
option is to tear down the existing structure and build your own. In
this case, Todd Rabidoux, director of Architecture at Lakeside
Development Company, says that initial steps need to be taken to
identify who has jurisdiction over the shoreline. "It is important
to understand your lake access, ability to maintain or increase your
views, and ultimately, your property setbacks and what you can do within
those setbacks in terms of walks, patios, decks, etc.," he says.
"Understanding the water level will serve in setting the homeís
foundation above the water table, and identifying the prevailing wind
patterns off the water may aid in choosing exterior materials, proper
flashing details and insulation types. From a design standpoint, the
goal is always to design the floor plan in a way that allows all of the
interior spaces to enjoy the view."