10 Questions To Ask When Buying on Waterfront
There is nothing like having your own waterfront property on a lake, river or ocean. As a child I remember my family having a camp on Unity Pond in Maine. I have long lasting memories of days playing near the water, fishing, swimming, eating grilled hot dogs or just going out on the boat for a sunset cruise, and yes running out of gas in the boat! Today, when I am not selling real estate on the weekends you may find me near a body of water enjoying whatever it has to offer.
10 Questions to Ask:
1) Why do you want to purchase waterfront property?
This my be a funny question however it is an important question to ask yourself. Many people dream of having a camp or vacation home on a lake, only to never really use it. You need to ask yourself how often am I going to use the property? What are my future plans? Will I live here one day? If I plan on living here full-time someday, will I need a generator? How and when is the road plowed in the winter? Is cell phone and internet services available? When I am not here, who is going to check on it?
2) Is property tax higher on waterfront property?
Many landowners in Maine, particularly those near on coastal and lake front properties have witnessed dramatic increases in property taxes. Rising demand for waterfront land drives up selling prices, which in turn leads to increased property valuations and shifts the tax burden to shore-front owners.  It’s important to know the tax history of the property. The local tax accessor can help you with understanding the tax on the property.
 Source of information from The Maine Coast Heritage Trust
3) What is Mud Season in Maine?
What is Mud Season in Maine? Well have you ever tried driving through chocolate pudding? Ya that’s it! The ground freezes deeply in winter, it’s covered by snow, and thaws in spring. Dirt roads become muddy because the deeply frozen ground thaws from the surface down as the air temperature warms above freezing. This could make the road non-passable. It’s best to have a 4-wheel drive vehicle and sometime a 4-wheel drive will not work!
4) Can I use this property all year round?
So you just got that deal on a lakefront property. Guess what? You can not use the road year around! Its extremely important to find out if the road will be open all year around. Try to find out who plows it and what time is it plowed. You can ask a landowner on the road who normally will tell you information about the road conditions during the changing of the seasons. Some roads are gated closed in the winter. So if you plan on using your lakefront property all year around, make sure the road is actually open and passable.
5) What are association fees?
It is important to understand that many waterfront properties around lakes have annual association fees. As the land owner you are obligated to join that association and pay these fees for the upkeep of common areas, normally the road, ditching, clearing brush, fixing holes, new gravel and winter plowing. You can find out this fee by contacting the association. Check the town office for a telephone number or ask a neighbor. Before you buy you need to be aware how the association works and what your rights are.
6) What is Maine shoreland zoning?
In Maine the Mandatory Shoreland Zoning Act (MSZA) requires municipalities to adopt, administer, and enforce local ordinances that regulate land use activities in the shoreland zone. The shoreland zone is comprised of all land areas within 250 feet, horizontal distance, of the
- normal high-water line of any great pond or river;
- upland edge of a coastal wetland, including all areas affected by tidal action, and
- upland edge of defined freshwater wetlands; and
- all land areas within 75 feet, horizontal distance, of the normal high-water line of certain streams.
The purposes of the MSZA are as follows:
- to prevent and control water pollution;
- to protect fish spawning grounds, bird and wildlife habitat;
- to protect buildings and lands from flooding and accelerated erosion;
- to protect archeological and historic resources;
- to protect commercial fishing and maritime industries;
- to protect freshwater and coastal wetlands;
- to control building sites, placement of structures and land uses;
- to conserve shore cover, and visual as well as actual points of access to inland and coastal waters;
- to conserve natural beauty and open space; and
- to anticipate and respond to the impacts of development in shoreland areas.
Since, shoreland zoning regulations are administered and enforced by each municipality through municipal specific ordinances, the local code enforcement officer is typically the first point of contact for shoreland zoning questions. Shoreland Zoning Staff at the MDEP assist municipalities with shoreland zoning related questions and issues, as well as provide technical assistance and training on the shoreland zoning rules.
 Source from the http://www.maine.gov/dep/land/slz/
7) What can I really do for improvements?
Many times waterfront property has more ordinances and zoning to follow then a building not located on the water. You should consult the town’s Code Enforcement Officer to make sure you understand what you can and can not do to your property.
8) Where is my drinking water coming from?
Let’s hope its the well, but the fact of the matter is many camps do not have running water or if they do it is drawn from the lake only to be used for bathing. Check to find out if the camp or home you are purchasing has running water that is drinkable? If the water is drinkable find out is there a filtration system used and what is it filtering? If the camp does not have drinkable water and this is an important feature for you to have, then you will want to check to see if a well can actually be installed on property. You can also speak to abutting land owners to see if they have drinkable water to gauge if systems have filtration systems or in some case we have a well but you can not drink the water.
9) Do I have a waste water disposal system?
If your camp has running water, shower, washer or a toilet you will want to make sure where the waste is going? Does it have a Subsurface Wastewater Disposal System? You can check with the town office on this. Based on your location and when/ if a system was installed, it is possible that the Town may not have any records. If you want to install a system then you should contact a site evaluator to see if it is possible.
10) Can I fish and use my jet ski?
A person is required to obtain a valid fishing license prior to fishing in inland waters or transporting fish taken from inland waters. A person is required to keep his/her fishing license with him/her at all times while fishing or transporting fish and must exhibit their license for inspection by any warden, department employee, guide or landowner upon request. See Fishing Licensing
If you would like to learn more about a certain Maine Lake see information on Maine Lakes
Some Maine Lakes and Ponds have rules as to the size and type of watercraft that can be used on the water. Check to see if there is a lake association and find out the rules. Maine Watercraft Rules
Gary Jordan Jr. is a REALTOR® located in Bangor, Maine and travels through out Maine. He provides real estate solutions for Buyers and Sellers. His clients are provided with unparalleled services. You can learn more about Gary and real estate in Maine at his website. You can also directly email Gary .
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