Living on the water is considered one of the most prestigious opportunities to many. Owning on a lake, river or canal can offer a world like no other from boating, fishing, skiing, or just an alternative way to go out to dinner. However, with this also comes some very important questions to ask yourself and your realtor!
- FLOOD INSURANCE: The most common flood insurance is offered through the federally regulated program known as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through FEMA. Most homeowners policies will cover some damage from rain, but if your home is filled with water as a result of rising bodies of lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans, it won't cover you. If you are in a flood zone your insurance can be rather costly, so check if the current homeowner has flood insurance. Only those with Mortgages are mandated to have it. So, If a homeowner says no, it’s worth checking with your insurance provider to verify or type the homes address on the FEMA SITE. You can sometimes remove yourself from the flood zone by having an elevation certificate done by a engineer, and you can then apply for a LOMA
- APPLY FOR LOMA: There are companies that offer services to apply for your LOMA, however, it's actually very easy to do as a homeowner and takes less than 5 Mins. All you will need is the Elevation Certificate from the surveyor, a copy of your recorded deed, and the flood map your assessor uses to determine flood zones. (Your property needs to be highlighted on the map). You no longer need to print the MT EZ forms and mail the documents in. All of this is now accessible online Here is the site to register at and upload these 3 documents. Response takes 30-60 days.
- ASSESSMENTS: When searching for a home on the water ask if there are any assessments on the property for canal dredging. Dredging helps irrigate the canal so it is deeper and in some cases helps water flow better. Assessments are added to the property owners tax bill and is paid over a period of time, in many cases many years. You should also call the city/twp in which you are considering to see if they have any pending assessments.
- BOAT PARKING: Does the property have a dock, boat hoist or well? What size does it accommodate? What size is your boat? How many boats do you own, can they all be parked? Measuring the area and determine if your boat can not only fit in the designated parking area, also make sure your boat can approach and turn within the area.
- SEAWALL: Knowing what kind of seawall is in place will be very important. A new seawall can be costly and permitting can be time consuming. If the homeowner is not aware get a seawall inspector to help determine the age of the seawall, its condition and if its a steal or galvanized wall.
- DEPTH/DIMENSIONS: If you have a large boat, like a sailboat for instance, you definitely want to make sure you can navigate to your home. Ask the depth at the seawall, ask if there are bridges to get to the main water, determine the width of the canal or river to make sure you have turning radius. Also, Use the water level information provided by NOAA to see what the fluctuation is and how that could impact the property.
- MAINTENANCE: Who covers the cost to maintain your new water way? Is it an association? Is it the United States Army Corp. of Engineers? How often is it weeded, dredged, treated? Check previous SADs for the property.
- WAKE/NO WAKE: Many area lakes and canals have wake rules. This means a almost idle speed is required to protect other seawalls and boats from damage. or in some cases in areas of lakes where its shallow or has public beach access.
- HIGH SPEED BOATING HOURS: Many lakes have rules on when a high power boat can be active on the water. Check your local jurisdiction for rules regarding hours.
- PUBLIC/PRIVATE: Is your lake private or public? Many private lakes have additional rules in order to use the lake. Public lakes have at least one access to launch a boat so you may be boating or hosting others who are not familiar with all the lake rules and is encouraged to keep a sharp eye out.
- ASSOCIATION: Does your water way have an association that protects the condition and use? Many times there are fees associated with its use, so find out ahead of time the fees and when they are do. Associations usually are operated buy a board of other homeowners and positions become open for new homeowners who want to protect their investment.
Special thank you to KenMulder from HPHA who contributed important questions to this list.