In talking with friends the other night, the topic of waterfront properties came up. Curious as always and never one to leave a focus group unused, I asked “what would you look for in a waterfront property… what would be important?”
The answers they gave were as diverse as the group, and I think are helpful in my goal to help my customers find their ideal waterfront home.
I’ve spent the last forty years being directly involved in the bodies of water of the Lakes Region – mainly Lake Winnipesaukee – in the business of selling boats. I worked for most of the major Marina’s and ran my own boat store. In doing so, I’ve met folks from all over the big lake and many from the other smaller lakes and ponds. At the time, my focus was on what type of boat people would want, not on what kind of property they owned, but invariably in the course of our conversations the question did come up as to what drew them here and what they liked – or disliked – about their properties. There were a few common threads from these conversations to add to my “focus group” and after combining my own experience with that of my friends, I thought this information might be helpful to someone new to the area or someone looking to trade waterfront places. Talking with potential waterfront buyers, I often find that they are not aware of the great variety and different characteristics of waterfront in our area. It’s called the “Lakes Region” for a reason.
Folks in my group noted and I agree that- although there are spectacular structures on the lakes- the focus of a waterfront is most often centered on the qualities of the land, with the shoreline being a dominant factor in its appeal. We all felt that every waterfront has a personality of its own and uniqueness described in its (1) WATER QUALITY, (2) LOCATION and ACCESSABILITY, (3) SHORELINE CHARACTERISTICS, (4) DENSITY, (5) PROPERTY TAX RATES, and (6) AMENITIES.
I am truly a water snob. I grew up here on Lake Winnisquam and with the exception of the time when the city of Laconia dumped its treated sewage into it and created “pea soup pond” with its algae blooms, I’m used to seeing the bottom of the lake from a boat or dock in up to 20 feet of water. Visiting the south (Tennessee) on business a few years ago (I sold bass boats); I was taken on a fishing trip and told that the water we were going to fish was “GIN clear”. I was in for a shock. If you stuck your arm into the water up to your elbow, you lost sight of your hand. Either they drink a gin that I’ve never seen, or what I think of a “dirty” martini is open to a new definition. So, WATER QUALITY AND DEPTH is one of the big differences to consider. Most of our lakes and ponds have great quality water but with varying clarity and bottom structure. The larger lakes encompass many different watersheds and will have different levels of clarity, bottom structure, and weed growth. Smaller shallow ponds and lakes tend to grow more weeds and have muddier bottoms, but not always. If you are looking for a property to swim off the shore, you should make sure that the bottom is sandy, gradually sloped, and as weed free as possible. If you are happy to swim off your dock and want your boat moored to a deepwater dock, you would probably want a faster drop with deeper water, and a rocky bottom would be fine. If you want to catch that five pound bass off your dock, you need shallow water and weeds.
A second big consideration is LOCATION or ACCESSABILITY. If you want to leave your home in Boston and have your toes in the water in the least time, you may want to think twice about an Island property or a property on the further shores of Lake Winnipesaukee. Some areas can take as much as forty five minutes to an hour extra to reach. Different locations have other characteristics that are important such as exposure- do you like to see sunrises or sunsets, wind effects- lee shore protection or a breezier site that may require a breakwater, and views- mountains or your neighbors or the development across the cove. Living near a summer camp or campground will be a tad noisier than being among single family homes.
The CHARACTER of the SHORELINE will be an important factor in how you are going to be able to use the waterfront. A steeply sloped lot may give a great view, but lots of stairs or a steep slope to reach the shoreline may not be great for less nimble folks and children. A shallow sandy bottom may not let you dock your boat without difficulty, but is great for the kids to swim.
DENSITY can offer action and activity but may not be for you if you seek a quieter lifestyle. All the lakes and ponds are built up by now. The days of finding a secluded stretch of waterfront for your dream home are mostly gone (however there are a few left). But there are major differences in the level of activity in different sections of the big lakes and on different smaller bodies of water. Wolfeboro Bay, Meredith Bay and the Weirs are busy with boat traffic most of the time in summer. Going out to dinner or for and ice cream by boat is great fun here and you can gas up the boat easily, but this is pretty hard to do on Lake Waukewan (there are no restaurants or gas docks there).
PROPERTY TAX RATES vary wildly from a low in Moultonborough of $8.33 to a mid range of Meredith at $12.65, to a high In Gilford of $18.55. This difference can be significant. The taxes on a home assessed at one million dollars would range from $8,330 a year in Moultonborough, to $12,650 in Meredith to a whopping $18,555 in Gilford. This difference (over $10,000 a year) might make the drive of another forty five minutes to Moultonborough a little more palatable or buy you more house in Meredith. (A personal plug here – let me show you Meredith where I live and get the best of all worlds).
AMMENITIES can be either additions or subtractions. You may feel the desire to live on a large body of water with Town Docks, Restaurants, Marinas, and Shopping to explore, or you may enjoy the quiet and peacefulness of a less congested area of the lake or a smaller body of water. Municipal Sewer is available on certain shores and not in others. Be prepared to haul gas to your boat and your boat to a Marina for repairs and maintenance if there aren’t these amenities on your lake or pond.
So, if you are considering treating you family to a life changing vacation or retirement home on the water in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, do yourself a favor and consider all the different aspects that make up the experience. Ask questions. Make sure the person you buy from knows what YOU want and has the experience and knowledge to get you the home that fits your needs and fits your lifestyle.