Austin’s river system is one of its most important natural beauties and greatest attractions. Owning waterfront property in Austin is a dream shared by many and it’s unique characteristics pose more potential traps than any other type or real estate. Whether you are looking to buy waterfront property on the Colorado River known around Austin as Lady Bird Lake or Lake Austin, Lake Travis and the chain of Highland Lakes in northwest Travis County and Burnett County, the Blanco River running through Wimberley, the Guadalupe River west of New Braunfels or the San Marcos River just south, this guide is designed to help you avoid many of the potholes that can impede the realization of your dream. Here are the 9 questions you must ask before you purchase waterfront property.
Know How Will Drought Impact Waterfront Property
One of the primary considerations about buying and owning waterfront property is the potential impact of drought, especially considering recent water shortages in Texas and particularly Austin. The quality and availability of water is becoming a critical issue for Texans, and it’s going to get more so. Plan on doing some serious research about historical water levels – maximum, minimum and average. Find out about how the part of the river affecting your property has fared during times of both drought and flooding. Ask yourself how those changes may affect your enjoyment of the property and its value.
How Private is the Waterfront Lot?
For most people, privacy is one of the main reasons for owning waterfront property in Austin. Smaller parcels will usually be located in areas of higher density, but large acreage does not necessarily translate into privacy and seclusion. Orientation of the structure on the property both present and future must be evaluated realistically.
How Much Water Frontage and How is It Calculated?
Determine how the water frontage was calculated. Frontage as measured in linear feet is a vital component of the property’s valuation. A property with a meandering flow through the property may appear to have a significantly greater frontage because the calculation is based on the twists and turns of the river instead of the width of the land itself. Typically the most valuable properties are those which are relatively square (or rectangular) with the river frontage across an entire border. Find out the current average sales price per linear foot and the formula reflecting how the listing agent and seller have set the asking price.
How Much of the Property is Useable?
Most rivers flow through low land areas so larger parcels will have some wetlands which generally come with restrictions and limitations. For example, a riverfront home with 50 acres listed for a relatively cheap price may have only 5 acres dry land. Find out how much of the property is, in fact, useable. Verify whether the property or any part of it is located in a flood plain. Lenders are allergic to property in flood zones which can change periodically and flood insurance can be costly.
Water Views Command Higher Prices
Flowing water stirs many positive emotions one being a strong desire to own a part of it. Fight the drive to buy just because you get an overwhelming feeling. Property with a spectacular view of the water may be deliberately overpriced to capitalize on such emotions. Generally the better the view, the more valuable the property – all other factors being relatively equal.
Zoning Issues – Consult Real Estate Attorneys
Consult a real estate attorney to understand the zoning restrictions that may impact the property. Water is involved in a variety of governmental agencies and there are are varying degrees of jurisdiction about the usage of a waterfront property. Matters concerning wetlands, conservation and environmental impact will affect what you can do to and on the property. A REALTOR cannot help you with these matter as they are not licensed to render a legal opinion and interpret legal documents.
Can I Live With the Deed Restrictions Placed on the Property?
Don’t ignore deed restrictions placed on the property by a previous owner or utility companies. Again consult a real estate attorney to understand the deed restrictions spelled out in the title insurance policy. Don’t buy Austin waterfront property – or any other type of real estate – without obtaining title insurance from a major carrier. Then ask yourself whether you can live with the limitations and restrictions imposed on the property.
Learn the History of the Property and the Area
What is the history of the property, and the area? Find out what may be going on that you think should should know before you buy. How has the neighborhood’s value increased or decreased over the past 10 years? How has the neighborhood performed as compared to other neighborhoods in the area? What is the rate of sale? Learn something about the demographics of the community. What are the development plans for the neighborhood and the community as a whole?
Can the Property Be Easily Accessed by Maintained Roads?
A property that can be accessed over a maintained road is generally more valuable than one that can only be accessed on a seasonal 2-lane track of dirt and rock. Consider your time and convenience to go to and from your waterfront property, and how easy or difficult is it to get basic services, such as, medical and grocery.
Looking to Buy Waterfront Property in Austin?
Buying waterfront property is complex, far more complicated than the mill-of-the-run subdivision property. Find a REALTOR who will candidly discuss the issues we spoke to in this post. If you think these things are matters of importance, we can help. Check out our Austin Home Buyer Representation Program to learn more about our team and how we are different than the average Realtor. Then, call us at (512) 827-8323 or email us at info@11OaksRealty.com to schedule a no obligation consultation.