Waterfront home buyers have lots to learn

Castles in the Sand

To say that waterfront living is not for the faint of heart would not do justice to fainting. It’s more like a daily swoon, especially in storms or high tides. But even just plain old daily living can be daring.

Do you think you’re ready?

As soon as you walk through the front door of a Gulf-front home, your first instinct is to get out your checkbook. But buying on the water is not as conventional as buying inland. You need to do a lot of research about the expenses and consequences of water intrusion when you live in a flood zone.

Also, don’t think just because your home isn’t direct waterfront that you’re safe; chances are if you’re living along the west coast of Florida, you’re still in a flood zone. Remember that all of Anna Maria Island and the waterfront areas of Cortez are considered at high risk of flooding, as well as riverfront properties in Manatee County. Waterfront properties in flood zones will have required elevation regulations put in place by the county, state and FEMA for new construction and major renovations.

Finally, flood insurance and homeowner’s insurance are seriously impacted by living in a flood zone. FEMA’s flood insurance is capped at $250,000, which requires most homeowners in a flood zone, and certainly on Anna Maria Island, to purchase additional private flood insurance.

Buyers need to be especially vigilant when buying waterfront properties because of everything from minor corrosion to seriously impaired bulkheads on canal front properties. The average cost to replace seawalls in Florida runs between $500 to $1,200 a linear foot. Even if your seawall is only 60 linear feet, assuming an average price of $800 a linear foot, you’re looking at somewhere in the range of $40,000 to $50,000. There are federal loans available to repair seawalls, which may be the only ray of sunshine if your bulkhead fails.

The point here is that if you’re buying waterfront, you don’t just need a home inspection, you also need a structural engineer experienced with bulkhead and possibly dock inspections and pilings. In addition to the structure, the dock area needs to be inspected for mold, termites and other wood-boring insects.

Just to make life on the water more interesting, you can expect your appliances as well as air conditioning systems to have a reduced life due to salty air and wind exposure, even getting into the interior of your home. The best way to stay on top of this is to set up a schedule to inspect your home regularly for evidence of corrosion, rust, mold and little buggers. This is where hiring a manager for rental properties becomes important and worth the price.

If you live in a waterfront condo, most of the inspection process and replacement of association-owned infrastructure are taken care of. That doesn’t mean you won’t pay for it, but it does take the responsibility off your shoulders and the cost is spread around.

Notice I haven’t said one word about the threat of hurricanes. It goes without saying that hurricanes can be the biggest test to waterfront living and require organization and preparedness.

Living on the water is both a challenge and a blessing. Would you trade the cool evening breeze for a suffocating landlocked property and just a little peace of mind? Or do you want to be one of those people who walk outside every day and marvel at the view and can’t believe how lucky they are? Not even close.