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5 Questions to Ask When Buying a Waterfront Home

They don’t call Rhode Island the Ocean State for nothing.

From Oakland Beach to Narragansett Bay and beyond, real estate opportunities continue to grow. That’s why it’s so important you have key information when scouting for property along Southern New England’s coastlines.

We’re getting house hunters ready for summer with 5 questions to ask when buying a waterfront home.

Keep reading for bonus resources that will give you an edge as you dive into this unique market.

1. How important is your privacy?

People buy waterfront properties for different reasons. Some are attracted to the vacation aspect, including good times with family and friends.

Others may be looking for a more secluded vibe. These buyers would rather hear waves rolling onto the shore than music blasting at a summertime barbecue.

If you identify with the latter category, then you should consider the following when talking with your agent:

  • Does this home have a public beach or lake access? This could mean big crowds, more noise, and increased traffic.
  • Is this property near a busy road? Road noise is something that could bother you all year long.
  • Does the property abut a walking trail or popular scenic destination? If you’re attracted to a certain area, then others likely will be, too. Check with your agent to learn about what may draw people near your location.
  • Are there restaurants and shopping options nearby that would increase the crowds during high seasons? While it may be nice to have options nearby for yourself, lots of people in town can make your waterfront getaway feel like a fishbowl.

You may find yourself augmenting your search once you discuss these issues with your agent. Setting boundaries early will set you up for success in the future.

Bonus tip: When viewing a home in the off-season, be sure to keep privacy top of mind. Things may seem calm in the off-seasons, but once summer hits, you could be in for a surprise.

2. What insurance requirements are there?

Flood insurance is only the beginning of answering this question. Do you need additional storm coverage or maybe even hazard insurance?

Depending on the area you choose and your home’s proximity to the water, then you could be facing a complicated answer. The differences can grow even wider between homes in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.

We advise clients to get a head start on what insurance types they’ll need. Requirements can vary from property to property. A knowledgeable agent is a great resource in connecting you with the information you need to be prepared.

Bonus Tips:

Ask your loan officer about additional loan requirements and categories your waterfront home could fall into.

Inquire whether the seller has an active flood insurance policy. Their policy may be grandfathered in, and if transferable, would make it dramatically less expensive.

3. Is this a second home or income property?

Maybe you’re looking for a summertime retreat, or maybe the earning potential of an income-generated property is catching your attention.

The bottom line is that if you’re not going to make a waterfront home your primary residence, you’d be wise to start planning your best use of this space.

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • What will the maintenance be like when not used regularly? If you’re only using the property a few times a year, how much preparation will it take to get the house ready to be used again? Also, what’s the plan when it’s not being used?
  • Ask your agent about the area’s rental market and the home’s potential. They have insights and resources that can give you a clearer picture.
  • If renting it out, how hands-on do you intend to be? Think about whether you’d hire a property management company to facilitate payments and cleaning. Are you a DIY kind of landlord who will use platforms like Airbnb? Are the rentals long-term or short-term, and will they continue into the off-seasons?

Any list of questions to ask when buying a waterfront home is bound to get longer, especially if it’s an income property. Having an idea of the income opportunities upfront will help refine your search.

Bonus Tip: Ask whether the seller has ever rented out their home on Airbnb or through another method. Inquire about the terms, season, and pricing.

4. How will you access utilities?

Your agent will tell you more about utilities and other quirks when you view the home. You’ll get documents describing everything from electricity to waste.

Keep these things in mind, as they can add more to your plate, especially if the home is in a rural area:

  • Is the property connected to public sewer lines, or does it utilize a septic system?
  • How reliable is the electricity?
  • Is the internet and cellular service patchy?
  • What are my options for cable or satellite?
  • Is the property restricted to seasonal use, or can it be used year-round?

A quick visit to a town hall website or a friendly chat with a future neighbor could help save you a lot of time and money.

Bonus Tip: When visiting the home, check your phone from time to time to see the strength of the service you’re getting. Try sending a few texts and making some calls while you’re in the area.

5. What about the “little” things?

Small things can create big issues if you’re not aware of them.

For example, you may need to replace door hinges and other metal hardware in your home when living by the ocean. Saltwater can rust metal, which could increase your maintenance costs.

But that’s far from the only thing you need to think about.

Here’s a more thorough list of what we mean:

  • Wind and outdoor furniture don’t mix
  • Hard water is common near coastlines
  • Generators are a solid investment
  • Are you a member of an HOA?
  • How does the heating & cooling work?
  • Are there water rights, beaches, & docks?

It’s best to check these “miscellaneous” items off now rather than have them sneak up on you later.

We make it easy to buy, wherever you are

Wherever the path home leads you, our team is here to help you every step of the way.

We know there are even more questions to ask when buying a waterfront home. That’s why we’re inviting you to explore our free community guides custom-made for house hunters in Southern New England.

Click here to explore Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Eastern Connecticut.

Reach out to us with any questions you have about purchasing a waterfront property. Our team is here with the expert solutions you need to navigate the coastal market. In the meantime, check out our FREE guide – Public Access to the Rhode Island Coast!

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