This week, I decided to focus on tips for buyers of oceanfront property and as I started to gather intel for this blog post, I realized that the best people to give advice to prospective buyers of BC oceanfront are people who already live on the ocean and have experienced the lifestyle. So, without further ado, here are 5 (sometimes unconventional) tips from the BC waterfront homeowners I interviewed:
1. "Look at the logs."
Log build-up and windswept trees on Dallas Road, Victoria: This part of the road and beach is hit hard by winter storms.
Strange, you say? Ok, I know it sounds funny, but this is a general piece of advice for all things weather related. Obviously, being on the ocean leaves your property more exposed to the elements, so winter storms and high winds can take a greater toll on your home.
Most homeowners have heard of a "weather wall" and take extra precautions to inspect it before purchasing a home. The same goes for waterfront properties; only why not take this one step further by inspecting the log and debris accumulation on the beach? Looking at the slant of the trees and talking to other homeowners can also help you find out about direction of the prevailing winds and give you a clue as to whether your prospective home is in a less protected area or will be more sheltered from storms.
Note: Features like quality double-paned windows and weather stripping around the doors will come in handy to keep the sound of wind and rain out during storm watching season.
2. Be a Psychic.
Try to forecast changing tides, scenery and views.
Trees can block views and also contain eagle and heron nests. Nests can trigger building setbacks.
When my husband was a kid, he lived in a home in Metchosin with a fantastic panoramic ocean view. We recently went back on a nostalgic drive to see his old house only to find it covered in moss and surrounded by trees. In the last 20 years, the neighbours' trees that were relatively young when my husband was a kid have grown up in front of the house and completely nixed the ocean view. Not such a good thing for property value. Stories of people poisoning trees to improve their views abound, but who wants to be caught red-handed doing this?
In an oceanfront home, you will most likely have control over the trees on your lot, but trees also help to reinforce the bank and protect your property so try to forecast how these trees will look in 10 or 15 years - will they block your million dollar view? Are you looking in the winter? What will that view look like in the summer when the trees are full?
Likewise, it's a good idea to look at where your neighbours' trees are situated in case of the dreaded "your are trees blocking my view" predicament. No one wants to get in a skirmish over issues like this but protecting your view also protects your investment so keep this in mind when looking at prospective properties.
Also, try to keep and eye out for nests of birds like eagles and herons if you are planning on building. In certain cases, these can trigger building setbacks or "protective buffer areas" which could change the location of your future home. See section 6 of this document for more info and check with the local city, town or regional district for more information.
Along with changing water views, the tides will be changing daily. Perhaps you went to look at a house on a muddy bay and didn't like the look of it. Later in the day, that property might be spectacular and the water super warm for swimming. Try to view the property at both high and low tides so you can make a mental note of how the scenery changes (and how high the tide comes up).
3. Investigate Regulations and Setbacks.
I recently heard an anecdote about a wealthy oceanfront homeowner who recently started construction of a new retaining wall only to have a nearby neighbour get upset about protection of the foreshore, causing endless headaches for both parties. Here is an example of a similar case that made the local news.
All to say it's a good idea to make sure you look into local regulations about building retaining walls and erosion protection prior to purchase. Does the home you are interested in have a retaining wall that is crumbling? Permits are often required to build new walls so check with the city or district to ensure you are following the correct rules and precautions. It is advantageous to have a lot of knowledge in this department prior to purchase.
Note: Ensure you are aware of building setbacks, particularly in the case of lots with riparian zones along a stream or river. Existing septic systems should also be inspected and in the case of new builds, it is a good idea to get a quote on adding a septic system as there are sometimes additional challenges in building them on waterfront lots.
4. Check out the Public Access.
Privacy or Party Central?
As a waterfront home owner, how will public beach access affect your privacy?
Something that my homeowners mentioned which didn't occur to me right away was the aspect of privacy. Are you picturing yourself sitting on your oceanfront patio at the end of the day with a glass of wine and a good book and enjoying your fantastic view in your pajamas? Hmmm...maybe you didn't count on the group of 6 teenagers who decided to make their beach base in front of your house for the evening?
As the majority of beaches in BC are public (save for private islands and the like), this means that you will likely experience members of the public walking past and using "your" beachfront from time to time. For the most part, this should not be an issue; however, properties close to public beach accesses are obviously going to be closer to the coming and goings of beach-goers. This is another case where walking around the neighbourhood and speaking to a few homeowners about their experiences might be advantageous.
5. Scope out the Beach Activities.
Boating, crabbing or kayaking?
Now that we've investigated some of the more serious aspects of waterfront home ownership, let's look at the fun stuff! Owning an oceanfront property in BC enables you to take advantage of a myriad of outdoor opportunities at your doorstep. In many cases you can hop out and down your front (or is it back?) yard to the beach and partake in tons of recreational activities. Find out about crabbing or clamming at your beach, kayaking, rowing, windsurfing and other pursuits that might be possible.
Imagine yourself sitting down with guests to a dinner or freshly caught crab, kayaking at sunset (or sunrise if you're not me) or rowing out to your boat moored right in front of your house and going on a day trip to a local island. It doesn't get much better than that, does it?
Take your time to find that perfect waterfront home or property and you will reap the benefits for many years.
Oh yes, and don't forget to check out some of the spectacular oceanfront for sale on our site by clicking here.
Any other advice or comments on this post? Please share.