Buying a Vacation Home – Lakefront Property

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wooden chairs by waterSunny weather and spring flowers bring on a burst of buyers looking to purchase their summer vacation home. For most in Michigan is means a lakefront property. Michigan is home to some of the best fresh water lakes. In addition to the GREAT lakes of Michigan our inland lakes offer a great way of life, family time, and relaxation. Here are some key points when considering a lakefront property:

1. If this is your second home or vacation home is it within a reasonable traveling distance of your primary home? If its too far away you may not use the property as much as you would like but also if it is too close you may not be able to distance yourself from the daily grind.

2. What activities would you like to be able to enjoy? Not all lakes are created equal. Very large and deep lake lakes allow for sailing and bigger or different species of fish. Smaller lakes may not allow personal water craft or motorized boats. As a rule of thumb a lake smaller than say 30 acres in size is not great for jet skiing, fast speed boats and skiing however this might be ideal for the fisherman, nature watcher and quieter lakeside enjoyment. Typically a lake of this size will not have a public access point or a beach. Lakes ranging from 30 – 100 acres may be more accommodating to speed boats but not too many at one time and there may be additional restrictions or home owners associations on what is allowed. Lakes with 300+ acres of surface water are ideal for most lake activities – except boat racing and sail boats. For these activities you may want to consider a very large lake that is over 2,000 acres of surface water and a large portion of the lake should be at adequate depths.

3. When looking at lakefront property you should consider the general shape and shoreline of the property. Pure sand beaches can be found on most shorelines along Lake Michigan but on the inland lakes each lake can be different and even along one lake the shoreline can change. A good starting point is to look at an online satellite image of the lake. Does the lake appear to have a lot of weeds and are there docks or how long are the docks in the lake. Consider how many steps down to the water but also consider if the property is in a flood plain.

4. Financial considerations would include taxes, maintenance, etc. If this is a second home or vacation home then the principal resident exemption rate would be calculated higher than if it were your primary residence. Are you prepared for the annual taxes? In Michigan, if the property has been owned by one party for a long time, the taxes have been ‘capped’. When the property transfers ownership it is ‘uncapped’ and the taxes can significantly change.  Review Proposal A from 1994:

Also, if you indent to purchase the property with a loan, consult with your lender prior to searching for property. Lending rules and the ability to pay back the loan have significantly changed over the past couple of years. A lender can provide information to assist in the price range.

5. Some people even consider if they will enjoy the sunrise or the sunset on the lakeshore. As well as which way the wind blows.

But for many people the goal is to find the right location, right lake, right square feet, and right price. I recommend driving around the areas and lakes as much as possible to narrow down the location before the property search starts and enjoy the search!

About the Author
Leslee is an associate broker of United Country Michigan Lifestyle Properties based in Richland Michigan, just outside of Kalamazoo. Learn more about Leslee at http://www.MichiganCountryHomes.com

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