A Cottage Should Be Worry-Free

Q: I am thinking about buying a cottage by a lake. What do I need to consider?
A: You need to consider all the things you would for buying any other property, plus some things unique to waterfront property. They are all important and some complex. If you plan to build there are additional concerns.

Q: OK. What things apply to all property?
A: Before signing the purchase agreement decide if you are ready for a large investment, this is the property you want, and it is worth the price. After signing the purchase agreement but before closing review all aspects of the property’s condition, the seller’s title, easements and restrictions on the property—or the absence of restrictions on neighbors, whether there are any boundary issues, and the closing documents to assure they are properly prepared.

Q: And what things are unique to waterfront property?
A: There is something about the water. Those who own the waterfront want to block others from using it and those who don’t own it want to find a way to use it. If you are buying right on the water, you should verify that you actually will have control over the waterfront, what easements or access rights others might have, and special things that apply to frontage on the Great Lakes such as restrictions on building too close to the bluff and sand dune restrictions. If you are buying a “back lot” but banking on access to the water, you should verify what rights you actually would have to the water and beach, both that they exist and what limitations apply—you might have only a right to get to the water, not to sit on the beach or to moor a boat—even if you see a dock sitting right there.

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