Finding a waterfront property for sale these days is not too hard. There are plenty of For Sale signs around, and you can spend a lot of evenings surfing the Internet and viewing multiple photos of lake homes and cabins without ever having to waste any gas.
But the one thing I hear over and over, from buyers who start getting more serious about their searches, is that it’s incredibly difficult to get a good feel for what each property has to offer by just viewing it online. And even when they try to drive by lake properties to get a better feel, it can become uncomfortable to drive down long forested driveways – especially with dogs or people outside – or to get out and walk around to the lake side of the structure. So those who do venture out in their vehicles may put on several hundred miles, only to be a little frustrated in the end.
Searching for the right property on water is not quite the same as it is in the city. Not only do buyers tend to come from further away, but there is a whole second tier of criteria that is not generally an issue with in-town homes. Things like the type of shoreline, elevation and access to the water, condition of out-buildings and boathouses, and the extent of views from various rooms are issues that are hard to discern without taking a good look around the premises.
On the other hand, I never discourage early buyers from doing a little driving. Many times they may not be sure if they want to be in Alexandria, Aitkin, Grand Rapids, or Siren, Wisconsin…or somewhere else within a three hour range of Minneapolis. When you are that open in your thinking, it is a good idea to start narrowing things down by getting a sense of what each area has to offer, and how you would feel living or vacationing there. Some people like the idea of a cute little downtown, and others are more concerned about having restaurants and bars they can drive to in their boat. Put together your wish list and see how different communities and lake areas fit into it before getting too caught up in the actual properties themselves.
The other thing that seems to become an issue for many lakeshore buyers is trying to narrow down the right lakes for their needs, along with the properties that fit them best. This is a huge problem, because I almost always find people turning to nicer looking photos online with the hope that it will be a good lake as well…even though they know it isn’t! I even find that, online, they begin to start settling for smaller and lower quality lakes than their needs require, almost like they’re trying to force the lake into being larger and better than it is just because the structure is more modern and appealing.
The reality is that good quality lakes, and especially larger good quality lakes, are more expensive. If someone has a budget of $300,000, it is going to be pretty difficult to find a newer cabin or home on one of Minnesota’s premier lakes. If you do, you can pretty much bet that there is going to be something quite strange about it when you get there, because lots alone on those lakes have historically gone for $200,000 to $500,000 in recent years. And building costs – along with septic systems, wells, clearing, and other required items to put up a decent structure – aren’t cheap.
So even in this time of lower prices and good deals, you don’t want to get caught up in “Internet dreams,” or you will off on a wild goose chase. Good properties are still valuable and sought after, and if that wasn’t the case, you probably wouldn’t want to buy at all. A lake home or cabin should be a good investment, along with serving as a place of enjoyment and family bonding. And a knowledgeable waterfront real estate agent can keep you on track to help you remember that during your search.
I hope that some of this information helps as you begin your quest for lake properties in Minnesota or Western Wisconsin. Please give me or any of my agents a chance to assist you with your search so that we can save you both time and frustration. We will be happy to be your guide so that you focus on all the other enjoyable aspects of purchasing a property on water.