STAGE IT RIGHT: McGuire's oceanfront listing gives buyers the full effect of living on the beach with a well-staged patio and pool area.

WHAT A VIEW: The top selling feature of a waterfront listing is the view. McGuire suggests professional photography for capturing imagery that will attract buyers.


By Deborah Ball Kearns, RE/MAX Times Online Associate Editor

If you have clients who are looking to buy or sell a waterfront property, there's more to the process than meets the eye.

Appraisals, termite inspections, lake levels, zoning restrictions, easements, coastal commissions – all are factors to consider when it comes to waterfront homes. And you have to know the ins and outs of this property type in order to help a buyer or seller in the process, says Lori McGuire.

McGuire, a Chairman's Club and Circle of Legends member with RE/MAX Select One in Dana Point, Calif., says the first step for consumers is finding an experienced real estate agent who can make the process smooth and seamless.

Here are McGuire's tips for waterfront buyers and sellers:

Checklist for waterfront buyers 
McGuire suggests that buyers ask these questions when viewing homes:

  1. Is there direct beach access? A home with direct beach access has a higher value, but you need to find out if the access advertised is direct or if the home is merely a few blocks from the beach.

  2. Is the access staircase or dock shared or private? Find out who's responsible for maintenance and who is permitted to use the access point. Waterfront homeowners, particularly those who live on the beach, are more territorial about access and privacy.

  3. If I'm purchasing the property as a vacation rental, do I need a vacation rental permit? This could be troublesome if you cannot obtain a permit in a timely manner and had planned to rent out the property for income. Zoning restrictions for waterfront properties tend to be strict and if issues arise with a permit, it could take months – even years – to get things resolved in court.

  4. Am I allowed to have motorized watercraft, such as boats, jet skis or waverunners? Is there a place to dock or store such vehicles? This might be a deal breaker for some water enthusiasts.

  5. Are there any remodeling or renovation restrictions? Renovations or features that obstruct ocean or lake views, such as heighted additions, might be prohibited.

  6. Has the seller done a termite inspection? Termites love oceanfront properties because of the salt air, and getting rid of these pests can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Tips for waterfront sellers and listing agents
Assisting a client who's selling a waterfront home? Here are some things McGuire says to consider:

Get an appraisal. An appraisal is a must-have before the home is listed. Appraisers are typically more liberal on pricing when it's done for a seller, which can help the seller get a higher offer price. Also, appraisers often measure more square footage for a home than is on record with the building department, which also contributes to a higher home value.

Ask an architect. Are there upgrades that will increase the home's value at resale? A skilled architect can do a free estimate to suggest renovations that will net more money at closing. New windows, a patio or deck remodel and interior remodeling that enhance water views are smart upgrades.

Clean and declutter. Clean windows and remove clutter from view corridor. The top selling point of a waterfront home is the view and ambience. If windows are grimy or are covered in drapery or blinds that block an ocean or lake view, buyers will pass the property up.

Stage to set the scene. Do you have a listing that's a lakefront retreat? Then out with the old-school deck furniture and in with newer furnishings that create an ambient atmosphere for buyers. Marketing an oceanfront home? Suggest that the seller liven up the patio with beachy decor (but don't go overboard) and make it an inviting place where buyers can actually envision themselves at home.

Market it right. A good waterfront specialist should use an MLS code that indicates a property's waterfront type (beach, lake, river, etc.). That code is key in attracting waterfront buyers. Online marketing is a must; the home should be on luxury real estate websites like or, which both have waterfront property search categories. In addition to a yard sign in the front yard, you should put a RE/MAX yard sign facing the water so boaters or beachgoers will see it.

Enlist a professional photographer. Hiring a professional photographer to help capture waterfront homes in all of their glory is worth the investment. Aerial shots of beachfront properties make a big impression, and photos should include a variety of shots from the interior looking out to show the best views possible. If the home needs a lot of interior updates, then request more shots of the property exterior.

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