Ultimate Guide to Buying a Waterfront Home

Waterfront living is the epitome of luxury, rest, and relaxation. There’s something amazing about owning your own little slice of heaven, tucked amidst the beauty of nature and along a gorgeous body of water. This particular type of real estate tends to be more expensive than standard, land-locked homes, but most homeowners will agree: it’s completely worth every penny!

There are so many options that potential homeowners have when it comes to waterfront properties. Canada is chock full of stunning lakes, both man-made and natural, vast stretches of coastline along the ocean, and a myriad of babbling brooks and running rivers. The properties found along these bodies of water are a mixture of quiet cottages, urban condos, and expansive estates. There’s something for every budget and every lifestyle. 

Waterfront properties can also be an excellent investment opportunity. Many people purchase these homes for the sole purpose of renting them out to eager vacationers and can be incredibly profitable! 

Whether you’re seeking a second home to retreat to at your whim or a permanent residence to enjoy, year-round, this guide will prepare you for what you can expect during your search and some tips to aid you during the experience. 

Attributes of a Waterfront Property

When you begin the process of searching for your dream waterfront property, you need to understand the terminology that you’ll come across among the listings. Some properties will be listed as waterfront but will actually be water access. It’s important to know what you’re looking for and the difference between the various water-based properties. 

The three main types of properties you’ll find among waterfront listings include:

A waterview property provides the homeowner with stunning views out over the water, but doesn’t include direct access. This is a very popular choice for those seeking a home along the lake or ocean, as you still get the stunning views but aren’t paying an arm and a leg to sit right along the shore. 

Water Access
A home that boasts water access is situated within close proximity to a body of water and is accessible via a shared pathway, a beach, or a pier. This is a very affordable option for those wanting to indulge in the waterfront lifestyle. Many of these homes include access to a private or public dock, which is perfect for those who enjoy taking to the water for a relaxing afternoon fishing or boating. 

To qualify as a waterfront home, the property must back directly onto the shoreline. This is the most expensive and most luxurious option of the three and offers the ultimate vacation-style home for the owners. Often, waterfront properties include a private dock, a boathouse, or a small beach on site. 

After you’ve become familiar with the variety of properties you’ll find among the listings, you can take a deeper look into the specific attributes that are important to your dream home. There are a variety of fantastic features to entice homebuyers, but it’s rare that a property will have it all. You need to take into consideration which attributes you can’t compromise on. 

The main attributes of a waterfront property include: 

Stunning Views
One of the biggest draws to a waterfront property is the gorgeous view that comes with the territory. There’s nothing like walking out on your back deck at sunrise to watch the colours dance across the gentle ripples of a sparkling lake or breathing in the salty sea air from your private balcony as you listen to the soothing sounds of crashing waves coming from the mighty ocean. 

Private Beach
There’s great comfort in knowing that you’ll never again have to fight for a spot on a crowded beach while you’re on vacation. If you’re lucky enough to have a sandy stretch of beach on your property, you can indulge in this very luxury and soak up the sun along the quiet coastline of your resort-style home. 

Many people desire a home that offers complete privacy. The amount of privacy allotted to each home will greatly affect the value of the property. You’ll find it’s difficult to fully immerse yourself in rest and relaxation if your home is surrounded by a dozen other properties or you’re within close proximity to a busy stretch of highway. 

Level Terrain
A smooth, even lot is the envy of all waterfront homeowners. This allows homeowners to walk back and forth from their home to the shoreline with ease. This attribute is particularly crucial to those seeking a home to spend their retirement years. The more level the terrain, the more appealing a property is to potential homebuyers. 

Proximity to Water - Every homeowner has a different preference when it comes to the house’s proximity to the water. Some people prefer to sit right on top of the water, while others are looking for some space between the structure and shoreline. No matter what you’re looking for, waterfront listings offer a great variety of options! 

Related Post: The Ultimate Guide To Buying Your First Home

What’s Involved in the Process? 

Becoming familiar with the real estate process will make your experience all the more enjoyable. Waterfront real estate is slightly different from traditional home-buying, so if you walk into the process knowing what to expect, you’ll not only feel more comfortable, but you’ll be confident in what you need to look for when you tour potential homes. Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in the buying of a waterfront property

Hire an experienced agent who is familiar with waterfront properties. Not all realtors have the same background or experience. When you’re choosing an agent to help you through your home-buying process, find someone who has lots of experience buying and selling waterfront properties. They will be familiar with the red flags or warning signs of water-induced damages, they’ll help you ask the right questions, and they will be able to provide information about the body of water accompanying your potential home such as the state of the shoreline, rules and regulations of the water, and the demographic of the area. 

Carefully inspect the property and research the shoreline history. Waterfront properties require additional maintenance requirements than a typical home due to the extra moisture in the air, the proximity to the water, and, in the case of oceanfront properties, the salt in the air. When you tour a potential home, keep an eye out for any potential damage that has been neglected and inquire about the base of the structure during flooding or heavy rains. 

The history of the shoreline is important as the shore can shift and change over the years. If the water is slowly receding, your beautiful waterfront home will become farther from the water over time. If the water is creeping up the property, your home may be at risk for a great deal of water damage. 

If a property has caught your interest, book a return visit. Making multiple visits to a property that you’re considering is important as this will allow you to view the home in different lighting and get a feel for how busy the area can become. If you originally toured the property in the afternoon on a weekday, try to return in the evening over the weekend. Not only will you be able to view the home under various settings, but you can more easily envision yourself living there. 

Understand the additional insurance requirements. Waterfront homes require not only the standard insurance needs of homeownership but additional requirements due to the added risk of natural damages. This includes flooding, potential hurricane or earthquake damage, and the natural wear and tear a home takes when located within such close proximity to water. As such, you’re going to want to make sure that you’re protected from any costly repairs you may encounter over the years. 

Be aware of any potential hidden costs. There are often unexpected costs that come with purchasing any form of real estate. This can be anything from roof replacements to uncovering mildew in the basement. These added expenses can derail your budget in a major way and cause a lot of grief during what should be a very exciting time in your life. When it comes to waterfront properties, there are even more unexpected costs that you should be aware of. This can include:

  • higher water and sewer rates
  • boat and dock fees
  • septic tank fees, including the cost of upkeep
  • bulkhead maintenance
  • additional lawn maintenance 
  • rural utility fees

Plan out a strategy to aid your financing. This is particularly important for those searching for a vacation home. Financing two properties can be a challenge and you need to make absolutely sure that you can afford both mortgages, expenses, and insurance fees. For those on a budget, this dream is still easily attainable! If you need a little extra income to help finance two homes, you can always consider the option of renting out the property while you’re residing in your primary home. Waterfront living is a highly desirable lifestyle and people will pay top dollar to get a glimpse into such luxury! 

Fully understand all of the rules and regulations upfront. Every body of water is designated a certain set of rules for the occupants and visitors staying along the shores. Many lakes require guests and residents to adhere to rules regarding noise levels, allowed water vessels, and garbage and waste removal. For those interested in fishing, there are usually strict fishing laws that you’ll be expected to follow. Before you sign any documents or make any major decisions, be sure that you fully understand these rules and are willing to abide by them. 


Making the decision to purchase a beautiful waterfront property can be overwhelming, tedious, lengthy, and frustrating at times. But for those who are determined and willing to stick it out, the rewards are absolutely unbelievable! Whether you’re searching for a tranquil, country retreat on a private lake or a vibrant oceanfront condo along a downtown coastline, the benefits of a waterfront lifestyle will speak for themselves. Finding the perfect waterfront home will take a lot of time and effort, but with the right real estate agent to guide you, the proper preparation, and oodles of patience on your part, the experience can be enjoyable and, of course, incredibly rewarding!