As the home-buying season transitions into the fall market, prospective homeowners thinking of buying a waterfront home should ask certain questions before submitting an offer. Anne Arundel County has a unique geography compared to other waterfront markets. Annapolis, Severna Park, Edgewater, and similar cities are located on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
Over the past year, we have seen a noticeable increase in requests for Annapolis waterfront home searches. One of the most important things to know about buying waterfront property in Anne Arundel County is knowing the rules and regulations that control what you can and cannot do with the land.
What Is Considered a Waterfront Property?
At some point, you might wonder what determines if a property is “waterfront”. Generally speaking, a waterfront property pertains to any land on the edge of a body of water. While that may seem simple, there are variables on the quality, quantity, and usability of the water.
Properties on the Chesapeake Bay, for example, describes land that is located on or adjacent to the Chesapeake Bay. So, the two terms are not synonymous, meaning not all waterfront property is considered a Chesapeake Bay waterfront. Does the backyard of the property lead to usable water access? Or are there large trees obstructing the view? Is the water safe for swimming?
What are the rules and regulations regarding land use?
When searching for the right waterfront property, there are many things we help our clients verify. First and foremost, is the land buildable? Will you be able to meet any additional setbacks, buffers, or zoning requirements from Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, and Maryland federal agencies?
Regulations surrounding waterfront properties can be very strict and can impact everything from what you can do in the water to what sort of structures you may build on the land.
Does the property have a deep water slip?
Annapolis is known for boating and water activities on the Chesapeake Bay. Boaters always want to know how deep the water is. Water depth is a common question our Client Advisors are asked when showing waterfront listings on the Chesapeake Bay, rivers, and tributaries.
If you own a boat or going to purchase one, this should be high on your list of inquires. But potential homeowners who want water access and views may need to ask more questions once they’ve learned if there is depth enough for a sailboat or speed boat.
Will the boat need a lift or is the waterway protected from waves to keep a boat in the water? What is the condition of the pier – and if there is one – there are costs and federal restrictions to consider. Is the bulkhead in good shape or will it be transitioned to a more natural border? Those who are looking at waterfront homes on the Severn and Magothy river should make sure their sailboats can pass under local bridges.
Will the property change over time?
Understand That Things Change. Over time, rising or falling water levels can alter the shape of the property and change how much land you have access to. Changing rules surrounding the Chesapeake Bay water use could impact how you use your land.
Waterfront properties can include natural resources and conservation buffers, so plan to explore mitigating factors that could influence your potential purchase. Identifying parts of the land that may qualify for restrictions can help you plan the layout of your land.
For example, if you are concerned about water levels rising on the usable land on your property, researching the history of the shoreline can give you a clue as to what to expect from the property in the future.
Do I need to purchase flood insurance?
Depending on whether or not the property is in a flood zone, you should inquire about flood insurance. Some properties in Anne Arundel County have controlled water levels while others can rise quickly and submerge docks and terrain during heavy rainstorms.
There is no guarantee that the builder of the home actually did research before constructing the home. Far too often, homes were built by people who purchased land and needed to build a house – not people who were following modern building codes with access to flood or weather predictions. Can the home stand up to a hurricane if hurricanes are a possibility? Can it handle the wind that comes off of the water?
A properly licensed home inspector can examine the home and alert you to any issues. Moist environments, in particular, can cause deterioration in building materials in ways you might not be aware of. A good inspector can tell you if the home is built and maintained correctly in its environment.
Some properties have a high likelihood of being affected by weather-related issues resulting from high tides and swells which can cause damage to the home. Some homes are elevated enough so that the structure itself does not qualify as being in a flood zone—even if the property is. An engineer can determine if this is the case and tell you if you need to consider flood insurance. It’s important to be completely aware of any potential problems negative water-related issues can pose.
What is included when you purchase the property?
The term waterfront can mean very different things to buyers. When you are looking at a property, verify that it actually extends all the way to the water. You should clarify who has use of your property along the water’s edge, and what roads, docks, and other areas might be used by others in the community.
The vision of owning your own private beach may not be the case without realizing it. Ask to view a survey of the land, a plat map, and possibly a real estate attorney – to get completely clear on what you are actually buying.
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If you are interested in buying a waterfront property, you should seek out real estate agents that have experience in waterfront real estate. A good agent will interview you to determine what you are looking for and can help guide you to properties that will fit those requirements.
An experienced waterfront realtor should present the facts on what owning the property entails, which allows you to make an informed buying decision. Selling a waterfront property is no different – you want to hire someone who knows how to sell the lifestyle!