- Write your must-have lakeshore home features in detail, and refer to this list throughout your property search.
- To learn more about the area you’re interested in, research your desired community on local tourism sites, Nextdoor and Facebook groups (and ask your REALTOR®).
- A waterfront property can be a large investment. Look into associated costs and mortgage loan options well in advance.
Are you ready to invest in a home away from home? Buying a lakeshore home has different considerations than a primary residence. Keep the following factors in mind as you search for a waterfront property in Minnesota or western Wisconsin.
1. List your requirements
The first step in deciding whether you should purchase a lake property is to make a list of everything you want from your lakeshore home experience. Ask yourself these important questions about waterfront homes, including:
- Are you hoping to have a ski boat?
- Is your main priority fishing or ice fishing?
- Do you want a smaller, no-wake lake for kayaking?
- Do you want to be able to eat at waterfront restaurants you can access by boat?
- Do you want neighbors close by or something more remote?
Once you narrow down your lake criteria, start researching different lakes to see what they have to offer. You’ll want to consider everything from the sunset views, down to the types of fish in each lake.
In addition to listing your preferred lakeshore features, start ranking other home characteristics that are important to you. Whether you’re most excited about having a home large enough for hosting visitors or living on a chain of lakes so you can spend all day on the water, it will help to narrow down your options.
2. Hire a trusted agent
Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred area and home features, find a lakeshore specialist you trust who can provide insights on the following:
- Quality of the lake lot
- Elevation of the land
- Lakeshore experiences in different communities
- The right type of lake for you
- Lake homes versus cabins
In an ideal world, the perfect waterfront property will already be listed. But it’s possible that your agent will have to help you over the course of a few months, or longer, to find the perfect lakeshore home for your needs. During this process, rest assured that they will work with your best interests in mind.
3. Tour waterfront properties in person
While it may seem like you can get a good idea of a home from photos online, it’s especially important to see waterfront properties in person. Therefore, it’s important to work with your agent to schedule in-person home showings. Block off an entire day or weekend to tour several lakeshore homes in your preferred areas. When looking, consider details like:
- Lake size
- Shoreline structure
- Elevation of the property
- Natural light in the home
- Condition of the house
- Potential or necessary renovations
As you peruse houses, remember to go back to your ranked list — this will help as you narrow down your choices. And, keep in mind that lakeshore homes, like any segment of the market, come in varying sizes and conditions. If you have your sights set on a particular lake, and a fixer-upper house with a shoreline property pops up on the market, it may help to stay flexible with your search. Just remember to factor in the time and money that renovations would require.
4. Apply for a mortgage loan
If you’ll need to finance your lake home, get in touch with a mortgage consultant early on in the process. These experts can walk you through the various options of purchasing a lakefront property. And, read these tips on securing a vacation home loan if this will be your second mortgage.
5. Factor in outside costs
Your real estate agent and mortgage consultant can also help you factor in the costs of owning a lakeshore home, including:
- Mortgage, tax and lake home insurance payments
- Homeowner’s association fees
- Property repairs
- Winterizing services
By planning for these expenses in advance, you’ll be able to spend more time on the water, and less time fretting over unanticipated costs.
6. Start the duplications process
Once your offer has been accepted, it’s time to start planning for the future. If your lakeshore home will be a second property, you’ll need to buy duplicates of many household items, including:
- Kitchen and bath towels
- Table settings
- Cooking utensils and flatware
To stay budget-friendly, consider upgrading the small kitchen appliances in your primary residence, or other furniture and home accessories. Then, send the extras to the cabin. In addition, keep an eye out for flash sales and deals at discount stores that still carry high-end products. Or, make a fun day of shopping estate sales and garage sales of other waterfront properties to furnish yours.
Keep in mind that in some cases, lakeshore home sellers are willing to include furniture, décor and even their kitchen and dining items with the sale. This is especially common if the seller isn’t planning to purchase another waterfront home. Talk with your agent to determine if this is common in your local marketplace, and how you can incorporate this agreement into the terms of your contract.
7. Get to know your neighbors
Many lakes, depending on where they are located, have community meetings or neighborhood groups that discuss upkeep, water trends and testing, and residential and commercial growth of the area. By attending one of these meetings, you can learn more about the community you’ll be moving into, while meeting neighbors and new friends that you can invite out for happy hour once you’ve moved in.
On top of meeting face-to-face, online neighborhood groups have grown in popularity and allow you to get integrated in a new area even before you move. To see what your future neighbors are concerned about and celebrating, try searching your prospective community on:
- Facebook groups
8. Check out local festivals and customs
You’re about to enjoy your first full summer as a lakeshore homeowner, so make it count. Once your closing date approaches, start researching local customs and festivals and make sure you’re in town for them. Websites like Explore Minnesota and Travel Wisconsin offer great guides and calendars of events.
Make a point to visit the in-town bakeries, shops and restaurants, too. While there, ask the proprietors for insider tips on the best places to boat, hike, fish and more. Soak it all in — you’re a weekend warrior now!
Purchasing your lakeshore home
Edina Realty has local market specialists serving every neighborhood and lake across Minnesota and western Wisconsin. To get in touch with a lakeshore specialist, reach out to Edina Realty or your agent. Can’t wait? Start your lakeshore home search now.