Questions to Ask When Buying Waterfront Property

5 Questions to Ask When Buying Waterfront Property

What are the most important questions to ask when buying waterfront property?

Without a doubt, Hilton Head’s shorelines are among the most beautiful in the world. So it makes sense that many islanders—and potential future islanders—dream of purchasing homes on the water. While the appeal of these properties is undeniable, buying them comes with a few unique challenges. Fortunately, interested buyers can simplify the process by asking the right questions and taking a few precautions.

If you’re thinking of living along Hilton Head’s shores, read our top five tips for buying waterfront property.

1) Ask when the bulkhead was last inspected

If you don’t know what bulkheads are, you’re not alone. Put simply, they’re barriers or walls built along the shoreline. They prevent erosion and protect properties from water damage. Replacing one can cost thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars, so the last thing you want is to learn that yours is on its last legs.

When you look at a property with a bulkhead, ask about the last time it was inspected. It’s usually also wise to arrange for an inspection of your own. If you discover that a bulkhead is in bad condition, you may be able to negotiate with the seller for a lower price. Your agent can help at every step of this process.

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2) Inquire about permits for existing water structures (especially docks)

When you’re considering a home, look into whether existing water structures were built legally. Some homeowners are less-than-diligent about acquiring proper permits and following local construction rules. In our experience, docks are frequent offenders.

The bad news? Buying a property with unpermitted or improperly-done work may lead to future consequences. If your dock was built without receiving the all clear, you may be forced to remove it, upgrade it, or pay a fine. You may also have to deal with some major headaches if you one day decide to sell your property.

Trust us: it pays to ask the right questions. Be sure that any dock you buy as part of a home purchase is in keeping with municipal and state rules, along with those set out by your property owner’s association.

3) Determine what kind of improvements you can make

Unfortunately, when they’re looking at homes, many buyers forget to think about the major upgrades they’ll want to perform. That’s why determining which improvements are allowable is one of our top tips for buying waterfront property.

For each property you’re considering, learn the applicable rules. If you have your eye on a place in a new subdivision, be aware that you may not be able to build a dock (depending on the developer’s plans). The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management can also prevent homeowners from building the docks they want (for example, they can restrict length).

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4) Ask if there’s a history of flooding

On Hilton Head, flooding happens. It can damage homes, reduce property values, and force those affected to file annoying insurance claims.

Let us be clear: if the property you’re looking at his been seriously impacted by flood waters, the seller should disclose this information. That said, it never hurts to do due diligence. Discuss any concerns that you have about a property’s flooding history with your agent. They can ask the right questions to get as much information as possible, which will help you make an informed decision.

5) Find out what the maintenance is like

Here’s one of the most overlooked tips for buying waterfront property: find out what the yearly maintenance costs are like. Homes along the shoreline are often more impacted by the elements than those further inland. We’re talking not only about floods and major storms, but regular wear and tear.

For some waterfront homes, siding and pipes may have to be replaced relatively often. It all depends on the construction of the house or condo you’re looking at and the geographical conditions surrounding it.

These are just a few of the questions you should ask if you’re touring homes near the shoreline. An experienced Hilton Head real estate agent can go beyond providing tips for buying waterfront property to guide you at every step of the purchase process.

Looking to buy a home on Hilton Head? We have the experience and local market knowledge to help you through the process. Send us a message—we’d love to discuss your needs!