Dan’s Tips on Buying A Lake Property…Lake Home or Lake Cabin
Boats and lakes go hand in hand, and there really isn’t any way around that. A large part of the attraction of living on water is the ability to float on top of it when you want, and a boat of some sort is a good way to accomplish that task.
But boats come in all varieties…as do lakes. And certain boats just seem to go better with the right kind of water. So it is always good to poll yourself on your boating preference before jumping into to any type of waterfront real estate.
After dealing with thousands of buyers in Minnesota and Wisconsin over the years, I can tell you that the vast majority of lakeshore property owners want to use their lake to the full extent. That means going as fast as they want when they want, and buying on as big of a lake as they can to fit those desires. However, many times the size and depth of the lake — and the quality of it — affect the values, so not all waterfront real estate prospects can get what they would like to have. It becomes a “give and take” scenario on almost every buyer…even those in the upper price ranges.
But in this article I would like to focus mainly on which boats go with which kinds of lakes. I’ll leave the personal desires for a later date, because there are many other factors that are involved with that.
Here are a few types of lakefront buyers and their boating choices:
A small percentage of buyers tell me they want peace and quiet, and are more concerned with having wildlife and serene views out their windows. They are fine with canoes and kayacks, and should probably focus on shallower lakes under 100 acres or so. However, if they are also interested in swimming, shallow lakes can be a problem because of poor water quality, so make sure you gauge that as well. Prices on these lakes are the lowest, so you can generally find larger lots and nicer homes and cabins here.
For those that are mainly interested in an evening pontoon ride now and then, lakes in the 150 acre range and larger give you a little bit of time to get around the entire shore without getting too dizzy. You will see smaller pontoons on very small lakes at times, but I can’t imagine they are used for much more than a swim raft most of the time.
Large lakes of thousands of acres can also be appealing for pontooners, but be careful when there are expansive areas of open water — such as you would see on lakes like Mille Lacs — because winds can come up quick and you may need to get to shore in a hurry. If you are 30 miles up the lake on Rainy Lake, you may just end up camping on an island for a couple of days if you don’t have a boat big enough to handle what it can dish out.
Watch out for the water skiiers!
Water skiiers tend to like lakes that are long and narrow to keep out the winds as much as possible. Serious skiiers and barefooters may go out every day, and many times at dawn when the waters are quietest. Some skiiers will even purchase lake homes on water bodies as small as 50 acres, so make sure to use caution when purchasing if you are more on the peace and quiet side. It is a good idea to scan the shoreline and talk with neighbors about common uses of that particular lake.
Fisherpeople obviously have to have lakes that can support a good supply of fish. Panfish and bass tend to be found in small water bodies, and many times those that are quite clear are very good fisheries for these species. Many lakes that are much shallower than about 15-20 feet can freeze out in the winter, and not really sustain a lot of good fishing possibilities.
Small fishing boats in the 12-16 foot range are fine for small lakes and casual fishing, but when it comes to walleye, northern and muskie hunting, you will probably want to buy a lake place on larger waters where fish can move around…and so can you. You, of course, will then need a boat to match the type of water you choose. Larger, rigged-out fishing boats in the 16-21 foot range and above are common on most lakes over 1,000 acres or so. Even large lakes like Rainy and Leech, which can see six or seven foot swells, can be generally handled quite well with a good 21′ boat…and a knowledgeable driver.
Now, the big lakes…
If fishing isn’t your thing, but boating long distances — perhaps from resort to resort — is, then you will need a lake that has some room to roam. Many times it is also desireable to find lakes with interesting scenery like islands and bays. Lakes like Big Sandy and Vermilion can be fun places to do major boating, and they also have resorts and public lands where you can go from one destination to another. For pleasure boating, a nice riding inboard outboord is ideal if you have enough depth at your dock for the motor, since the lower units may drag on bottom. Outboords come all the way out of the water, so they tend to be better in shallower areas…and there are plenty of nice cruising varieties in those as well.
If you are in to sailing — especially larger sailboats — you will need larger expanses of open water to make it enjoyable. If you can go a few miles in one direction, it gives you plenty of options for a great ride in strong winds without worrying too much about running into other boats…or land. Make sure you also buy on a deep enough lake to accomodate getting the boat close enough to shore when you need to.
There are lots of other types watercraft, such as cruisers, houseboats, yachts and jet skis, and sometimes you just have to do a little thinking about your boating preferences before you take the plunge. If you enjoy houseboating, and think you might want your own private one to park at your dock, you might be a little frustrated cruising around on a 1,000 acre lake. And if you are going to use it for destination adventures and to stay overnight, make sure you are on a water body that has public places — or at least available private docking — to park easily. Lakes such as Lake of the Woods, Rainy and Vermilion can be great for houseboating because of the large supply of public lands. And the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers — along with Lake Pepin — are wonderful places for long trips on houseboats, cruisers, or yachts.
And finally, if you like the idea of buzzing around on your personal watercraft, make sure you find a lake large enough where you can stay away from the shoreline a bit so you don’t have neighbors coming over to read you the riot act. It’s probabaly more enjoyable to start out your first day at the new lake cabin meeting a bunch of neighborly friends…instead of a hostile gang of ticked-off lakeshore owners.