Buying and Selling Waterfront Property in 2020 and Beyond

2020 has been weird so far, and the real estate business is no exception.

At the beginning of the pandemic, people with the means were escaping to vacation rentals outside of major cities. As the pandemic continued, and many companies decided to make remote work a permanent option, those same people decided to take advantage of low mortgage rates and take the plunge into becoming a vacation homeowner.

We know owning a second home isn't always sunshine and rainbows, so what should you look for if you're planning your ultimate escape to the coast or lake?

Plan for floods recently added information about flood risk to their home listings. As climate change continues to worsen, this is going to be a larger and larger issue for homeowners on the water.

The tool should be fairly comprehensive. It uses both FEMA flood maps as well as some privately gathered data that forecasts future flood risk due to climate change and rising waters. 

Maintenance costs

Speaking of flooding, mitigating this risk and repairing the property if it is damaged is going to cost you. Not only will you want to ensure your property is built to the proper elevation, you'll also want to consider building elements like flood vents or flood-resistant landscaping.

When a storm is on the horizon, you'll need to visit your home and batten down the hatches in order to prevent damage. If you're not able to do it, you'll need to hire someone to do it for you. 

Condo or single-family 

Buying a condo will give you some level of protection when it comes to flooding.

For one, it's more likely that you can buy a unit that's well above the flood line. Your condo may also do some of the flood preparation for you when bad weather is on the way. It will also likely have a reserve fund to help pay for any damage to the building, which can act as a safety net by forcing you to plan for the worst. 

We know that flooding is a risk, but what else should you be looking at when you're buying a waterfront home? And does it make a difference if you buy on a coast or on a lake? 

What to know about buying on the coast

The sound of the waves, the call of the seagulls, and the small of the salt air.

The coast has always had a draw for many. You know you have to be prepared for flooding, but what else should you consider when you're buying on the coast?


Living on the ocean means sharing your home with more than just sunbathers. In some areas, you might have seasonal restrictions on what you can and cannot do out on the beach due to wildlife activity.

For example, in many parts of the Southeast, you can't have bright outdoor lights, use flashlights, or have a fire on the beach so that you don't disrupt baby sea turtles as they make their way to the ocean. 


Hurricanes can be extremely destructive on the coast.

Not only are they a flood risk, they also can bring damaging winds that can rip holes in your home, knock out windows, and tear off roofs. 

Winter weather

If you're buying on the coast in the North, you should consider whether or not your home is winterized.

Since many of these homes are not full-time residences, they may only be livable during the summer months, which leaves you out in the cold for a good part of the year. 

What to know about buying on a lake

Lake living definitely seems less risky than buying a coastal homes, but there's still plenty you need to think about. 


Most beaches have at least some public access, but that's not always true on a lake.

You'll want to check who has access to the water and the beach at your lake. If you're not immediately lakefront, you might not be able to use the water the way you want. If you are lakefront, you should know if you can expect to see pontoon flotillas outside your porch every Saturday or not. 

Ability to build out 

If you are lakefront, you might eventually be interested in building a dock or a boathouse out into the water. Before you buy you should check to see if this is allowed and weigh that decision carefully when you're choosing your property. 


Not every lake allows all types of watercraft. Check what the rules and regulations are before you buy. The last thing you want to find out is that your shiny new jetskis are going to go to waste or that you'll never be able to drive your boat fast enough to take up water skiing. 

What if I'm selling my waterfront property?

We know that waterfront property comes with flood risks and we know that those risks will only increase as climate change worsens.

But despite those facts and despite everything that has changed since the beginning of the pandemic, waterfront property is still in high demand right now. Talk with your real estate agent and be sure to price your home competitively. You should also consider highlighting any work from home spaces that someone could use while they're taking advantage of remote work. 

Buying and selling waterfront property might seem appealing right now, but be sure you've thought through all the risks first!