Top tips for buying a waterfront home

There’s something very special about a waterfront home – and even more special if it comes with a private berth for your boat.

But acquiring a home “on the water” can also be quite a complicated process, says Richard Gray, CEO of Harcourts Real Estate, not least because there are so many different locations and types of waterfront property to choose from in SA.

“We have several marinas, both on the ocean and inland; at least two island developments with waterfront homes that have their own docks or jetties; secure estates around large dams with both shared and private boating facilities, and of course many freehold properties right on the beach or riverbank, some in remote, very quiet locations and some close to bustling holiday resorts and even within easy reach of a major city.

“So it’s very important to do thorough research and find the home that most closely matches the lifestyle you envisage, ideally with the help of an agent who specialises in waterfront homes and will understand your priorities.”

Some factors to consider before you commit to a waterfront purchase, he says, are:

*On the coast or inland? If you love to go open-water sailing or deep-sea fishing, the answer is obvious, but if you prefer calmer waters, an inland location might suit you better.

*How deep is the water? If you have a boat, water depths and tides are essential considerations. The depths or drafts required for different types of boat can vary widely, as can the length of those boats and the size and strength of the dock required. You will need to inspect any property in a tidal location at both high and low tide and also establish where the channels and any sandbars are.

*Do you like the house? It’s all very well to find the perfect home for your boat, but you should also consider whether the house on the property suits you. Just as with homes in ordinary estate or suburban locations, you also need to think about the condition of the property and the floor plan as well as security and privacy. A spot on a dam popular with weekend watersports enthusiasts won’t do if what you really enjoy is a peaceful, natural environment where you can watch the birds or savour the sunset from your front veranda.

*Do you like the view? Uninterrupted views are paramount for most waterfront purchasers, so it’s important to check what the water looks like at low tide or high tide, or in winter as opposed to summer when there is more vegetation, or in the rainy versus the dry season. You will also need to be comfortable with any restrictions there may be on building height so as not to block someone else’s view, or removing trees that block your sight lines.

*What’s the weather like? Waterfront homes tend to take more abuse from the elements than the average property, and if you live on the beach, you can expect to have to deal with corrosion due to the salt air.You may have to take additional measures to protect such homes, such as installing storm shutters and stainless steel locks, and they may require more maintenance. In addition to that, of course, the weather will have a major effect on your ability and inclination to go boating.

*Will you need additional insurance? You should establish whether you will need any policies for a waterfront property in addition to your normal home owners’ insurance (HOC). Your lender may require special flood or wind insurance, for example.

*Are there any other restrictions or responsibilities? Find out whether you would be allowed to make any changes to your waterfront property, such as adding a seawall or buffer to counter erosion. On the other hand, if the property is in an estate, you’ll need to know what you would be expected to contribute to the upkeep and maintenance of the communal waterfront.