For many individuals the thought of owning a lake home is a dream. For others it becomes a reality…a dream come true.
For some it is a weekend getaway, for others, a permanent year-round residence or semi-retirement home.
During my 36-year career in real estate I’ve often found we are motivated by fond childhood memories of vacationing at a lake or ocean cottage. The sounds of waves lapping gently at the shoreline of a lake or the chilling call of a loon and days spent on the water—reminders of our early years at the lake.
Or the sounds of crashing waves, the scent of salt air, long sandy beaches, and seafood…childhood memories at the ocean.
There are so many choices: lakes, ocean, ski resort, or golf course. So many clients have commented over the years the #1 reason they selected the Lakes Region was pure location. They found they got the best year-round value for their money to enjoy all 4 seasons. Sure, everyone loves the ocean. But what do you do during the winter months? You can’t ski, snowboard, cross-country ski, snowmobile, or ice fish at the ocean. What about boating, water-skiing, kayaking, and swimming. It’s simply a lot harder and colder at the ocean and not as “user friendly” as the lake.
Here’s the answer:
The Lakes Region is only an hour’s drive to NH’s seacoast (Rye Beach and Hampton Beach) and is only 1 hour and 15 minutes from Ogunquit Beach in Maine. So on those days when you’re looking for a change of pace, salty air, crashing waves, and fried clams it’s an easy day trip back and forth. That’s the beauty of our stunning Lakes Region area…pure demographics and distance, a taste for all seasons: lakes, rivers, mountains, golf courses, skiing, hiking and the ocean nearby. The Lakes Region is less than a 2 hour drive from the Boston market, which is very appealing. The White Mountain National Forest with its 750,852 acres of forests, towering peaks, rivers, and ski areas is just up the road. Vermont and Maine attractions a day trip away, and the aura of Canada is only 3 hours away. Try getting this combination in Colorado, Florida, or Utah. Great states, but bring your airline tickets or plan on a lengthy road trip.
So now that you’ve defined your search for a lake house, what’s the next step?
- Decide the distance. How far from your primary home?
Lakes are all over the U.S. A lake in NH will likely freeze over in the winter offering you different sports like ice skating, ice fishing, ice boating, snowmobiling, and cross-country skiing. While a lake in Florida, Georgia, or the Carolinas may be warmer, you limit yourself to no winter activities and the plant growth and habitat will not be as pristine as NH due to the extreme heat.
The consensus is that a 2-3 hour drive from home seems manageable. If you purchase something 6-8 hours away will family and friends use it as well? So driving distance and traffic concerns must be considered for others. How close is the nearest airport and how’s the schedule look for incoming flights? Manchester NH Airport is so convenient and easy to use. For private planes Laconia/Gilford Airport is perfect.
- What size lake is important?
If you’re an avid boater and love exploring different towns, islands, and restaurants a lake the size of Winnipesaukee offers more variety and places to visit than a 300-1,000 acre lake. For others, the peacefulness, tranquility, and calm waters of a small lake or pond fit the bill better. You can still enjoy playing with your grandchildren on a small beach, go fishing with them, and take in some aerobic exercise while kayaking.
In addition to Lake Winnipesaukee there are 273 lakes, ponds, and rivers to enjoy in NH’s “Lakes Region.” www.RocheRealty.com is a great resource to start your search…Simply click “NH Lakes” for photos, lake statistics, and listings to provide you with a great overview, from 79 acre scenic ponds to the “Big Lake” with 44,568 acres and 274 islands.
- Find an agent who “knows” the lakes intimately.
Think about it. There are hundreds of Realtors® out there. They all sell real estate. How many of them have lived on a lake, lived lakeside in a water access community, or lived on an island? When you select a doctor I’m sure you research how many procedures they’ve performed in their specialty. There are many Realtors® who have never driven a boat, never mind own one. There are many technical questions relating to the Shoreland Protection Act, dock permitting, and aquatic lake plants that need explanation. So to ensure a seamless closing and ultimately a sound investment seek the services of a professional Realtor® with a solid background in “Lake Property Sales.”
There are so many things to consider when preparing to buy a lake house in the Lakes Region, such as:
- What type of boat traffic?
Tranquility, quiet lapping of the waves or boat turbulence and congestion—important considerations. On NH’s largest lake you can still find peace and tranquility, depends on location, weather, and peak periods. Some locations offer long range panoramic views and large open water, while others offer scenic, quiet coves in less traveled locations. Many ponds and smaller lakes have certain boating or Jet Ski restrictions. Study the rules carefully before purchasing. You might want the pond or small lake for canoeing, kayaking, swimming, and fishing only. On the other hand, if you’re big into boating and socializing the variety of restaurants, activities, towns, and islands to explore on Winnipesaukee are unlimited. Talk with future neighbors and residents and get their valuable input on boating traffic in the immediate area.
- Research nearby amenities.
Are there any marinas nearby? What if my boat breaks down or I need gas? Can friends find a nearby launch for their boats? How close is the nearest supermarket, convenience store, gas station, or restaurant? Activities for the children and proximity to cultural activities like music venues, summer theatre, concerts, movie theaters, craft fairs, etc. could be very important. Also, study the future impact of neighboring properties, zoning regulations, and commercial properties nearby.
- Lake/boating regulations.
Speed limits on the lake? Horsepower restrictions? Are Jet Skis allowed? No wake zones? Will bridges limit sailboats? Water-skiing regulations? Dock size regulations? Are breakwaters allowed? Can you install a “perched beach”? Setback requirements and tree-cutting to conform to the NH Shoreland Protection Act? All of this information is helpful to make an informed real estate decision.
- Understand the difference between “Lakefront” and “Water Access Communities”.
There are many choices. Most of us have a vision of a cozy lake cottage sitting right on the water on its own lot and lake frontage. There are however many alternatives that make a lot of sense. There are many fine “water access communities” throughout the Lakes Region that offer beautiful beaches, boat docking facilities, and other amenities like clubhouses, tennis courts, indoor/outdoor pools, etc. Some of these communities are beautifully landscaped and offer all sorts of product choices, architecture designs, and different price ranges. Some offer boat storage racks with boat fork lifts, individual deeded boat slips, or mooring fields. The prices of the water access communities are very appealing when compared to private lake homes. But the choices are there. With 240 miles of shoreline on Lake Winnipesaukee alone…the choices are unlimited. Another reason why you should seek the guidance of a qualified “Lake Professional Realtor®” to help you navigate through the “waters”.
Post written by Frank Roche, President, Roche Realty Group, Inc.
A few more things to research before you settle on your dream lake home:
- Fishermen—know your lakes!
Visit the Fish and Game website (www.wildlife.state.nh.us), visit local bait and tackle stores, talk with the locals. All of the lakes are different. Lake salmon, rainbow trout, small mouth bass, brook trout, perch—there are so many “special spots” how do you find them on the charts? How about fishing derbies and ice fishing derbies as well as bass tournaments. Which lakes and when are they held? Also, who stocks the lake with fish and when?
- Understand water depths.
Be informed and understand the difference between a gradual sandy beach or a drop off of 20 ft. right from the shoreline. What’s important: young children on a gradual sandy beach or teenagers who love to “dive in” to deeper water? Will a mooring accommodate your sailboat? Are there many rocks or outcroppings in the immediate area? How safe is the docking from the “prevailing wind”? Will a stone breakwater be necessary for safe docking while you’re away? How about boat lifts? Will access to your dock be difficult because of shallow rocks? Will you need a dredge permit? Try out the water front before you sign on the dotted line and see what the bottom feels like. Is it deep enough? I’ve had clients use an ice auger in the middle of the winter and drill a hole in the ice to see the depths and if it was a sandy bottom.
- Research water quality and aquatic plant growth.
All lakes are different. Winnipesaukee’s deepest spot is 215 ft. Crescent Lake’s deepest spot is 15 ft. Millfoil and other invasive lake plant species can be found on many lakes and especially in shallow coves where there’s a lot of boating traffic or no circulation. Water clarity is often better in deeper sections of the lake or where there’s an active current. Newfound Lake has crystal clear waters generated from numerous underground springs and water inflow. “The Broads” of Lake Winnipesaukee are similar. Some sections of the lakes may have a brackish water color due to minerals in the water, logging, plant/tree decay, water circulation, etc. A good source for information is the NH Department of Environmental Services (www.des.state.nh.us) and the Lake Winnipesaukee Watershed Association (www.winnipesaukee.org) as well as www.winnipesaukeegateway.org. In any case, know the water quality and the best way is to try it out, walk around, feel the bottom, take a swim, and use a depth finder on your boat (a valuable tool). Extensive aquatic growth may be fine for naturalists, fishermen, kayakers, etc. but for swimming it can be a nuisance and take away from property values.
- Don’t purchase a boat before your home!
I’ve seen some over anxious clients make this mistake. 1st Pick a lake that fits your lifestyle. There are 10 horsepower limitations on some small ponds and lakes. Pontoon boats are popular on some lakes, while 23-28 ft. boats and cabin cruisers might be preferred on larger/rougher lakes. Know the maximum size boat your dock will accommodate. Also check the permitting of the dock or mooring. Modifications or enlargement of the docking system made without obtaining the necessary local and state permits at the wetlands board—you don’t want to find out after the fact. Do your due diligence 1st with a qualified Realtor®.
- Understand the difference between southwesterly exposure and northern or eastern exposure.
This is probably one of the most important issues for many buyers. Westerly exposure will add 3-4 hours of sunshine to your day—sometimes more—and will also extend warmer days as fall approaches. Blazing sunsets will also prevail. On the other hand, if you have fair skin and prefer to be out of the sun, cooler in the summer, and enjoy the sunrises and wake early, facing north or easterly might be the perfect solution. Also, where are the prevailing winds coming from? All important decisions.
In summary, rely on the experience of a professional Realtor® who specializes in the sale of all types of lake properties. At Roche Realty Group our professional Realtors® will make the process as effortless as possible with the ultimate goal your satisfaction. Let us help you make your lifetime dream become a reality. Enjoy those sunrises and sunsets, loon calls, gentle breezes, and the lapping of the crystal clear water with your family in this cherished lake environment.
Post written by Frank Roche, President, Roche Realty Group, Inc.