Waterfront Considerations

If you're considering the purchase of lake- or riverfront property in Michigan, there are some additional considerations to be made.  Local, state, and federal regulations along waterways are frequently complex and a clear understanding of any limitations of a given property are essential in making a wise buying decision.  Because we deal with so many waterfront transactions, the agents and brokers at HomeWaters Real Estate are very well versed in many of these issues.  That includes putting buyers in touch with the right contractors and professionals who can help evaluate any situation.  Here are just a few items to consider when seeking to buy waterfront property in Michigan:

The Michigan Natural Rivers Act - A number of rivers in Michigan, including the AuSable, Manistee, Pere Marquette, Betsie, and Boardman, have adopted zoning regulations set forth by the State of Michigan under The Natural Rivers Act.  These include restrictions about cutting of trees near the river, building setbacks, installation of docks, rental of properties, and more.  Click HERE for more information on The Natural Rivers Act in Michigan and a list of affected rivers and their zoning requirements.  The agents and brokers of HomeWaters Real Estate have represented dozens of transactions on designated Natural Rivers and are very familiar with most of the regulations.  You may also contact the agent in the area you're considering for more information.

Wetland Issues - The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality maintains jurisdiction over areas considered wetlands by their standards.  These include areas with predominantly wetland vegetation such as cattails and tag alder, areas with high water tables, and areas with very heavy, non-permeable soils.  If you're considering the purchase of a property that has areas that match these descriptions, you'll want to make sure to consider having a wetland delineation conducted by the Department of Environmental Quality or a private contractor who is certified to conduct such a delineation.  Some fill of wetland may be allowed in order to provide access to upland areas or in the absence of upland areas on a given property, but it's important to consult with the DEQ or a certified wetlands delineator prior to purchasing a property which may have these features.  Click HERE for more from the Michigan DEQ about wetlands.

Deeded Water Access - Many properties offer "shared" access to a lake or river.  It's important to gather information on whether or not that "shared" frontage is actually deeded to the property owner.  In some cases properties may be listed as "shared" frontage in an online listing but the property is simply close to a publicly owned road end access or something similar.  Make sure you or your REALTOR® review the title insurance or development documents to ensure that ownership of that frontage is, in fact, included in the deed to the property.

Legislative Issues - In the past 15-20 years there have been a number of court cases which have had a large impact on many waterfront property owners.  Among these were decisions that affected public road end accesses, properties whose frontage is across a public roadway, removal of vegetation along Great Lakes shorelines, public walking access along Great Lakes shorelines, and more.  Make sure you and/or your agent are well informed when it comes to legislative issues that may affect the property you intend to purchase.

There are other factors to take into account, but there's no need to be afraid of the process.  Pair with a solid agent and enlist the services of qualified inspectors and contractors when necessary, and you'll soon be enjoying your own Home Waters in Michigan!