What to Know Before Buying a Waterfront Property

Kris Lepore


From a quaint primary home along the shores of Bodega Harbour to a spectacular secondary oceanfront compound overlooking the Pacific, waterfront property is the height of homeownership. Bodega Bay is a natural draw for those seeking panoramic water views and outdoor pursuits both on and near the water. Enviable views and an abundance of activities are just two of the rewards of waterfront ownership.

Buy in the right place along an ideal stretch of water, and the ROI potential is exceptionally high. You can earn income on the home by renting it when you're not there. Should the time ever come to sell, location and a few targeted improvements can result in a highly profitable sale.

First, though, you need to focus on acquiring the property. As with any other home purchase, there's plenty to consider when buying along the shores of Northern California. Let's dive headfirst into Bodega Bay's wonderful waterfront market and explore what to know before buying a waterfront property.

Identify your lifestyle

Waterfront living means different things to different people. For some, it's the luxury of walking out their back door and burying their toes in the sand. Others appreciate the calm setting of a protected bay, an adjacent boat slip, and easy access to seafood restaurants and nautical-themed shopping. There's also a large contingent who don't need to be on the water at all. A sweeping, set-back ocean view and beach access either by car or bike are sufficient to classify as waterfront living.

Whatever your particular desire, it's critical to identify the lifestyle you want before investing in a waterfront home. Unlike more traditional housing set further inland, sea or bayside property is, on average, much more expensive. These homes are subjected to the elements with greater frequency and come with higher insurance and maintenance costs. However, they also open up a world of possibilities—from partaking in your favorite waterborne activities to generating income when you're away.

To make the most of your Bodega Bay or greater Coastal Sonoma purchase, determine your goals for the property before beginning your search. Does your passion include equestrian or golfing pursuits? Or do you hope to live adjacent to state parks and open spaces? All are available along the Sonoma Coast and may alter your home search beyond a pure waterfront view.

If it's ocean views and direct beach access you seek, you'll want to look further north or south of Bodega Bay to find the best possible locations. Boating enthusiasts will appreciate living in and around Bodega Harbour, where unique abodes and access to docks and slips are abundant. For those who crave water beyond the Pacific, the homes set along the Russian River offer their own distinctive waterfront lifestyle. 

Waterfront Buying Tip #1: 
If you want a property that generates income, location is crucial.

Waterfront homes closest to beaches, state parks, or commercial districts may cost more, but they'll also prove more popular with short and long-term renters.

If you're buying with the intent to one day retire to or pass down a property, factor in the long-term prospects of the neighborhood. This can include its location, amenities, and proximity to the water. Also, account for items such as boat type or size to ensure your home dock or included slip will accommodate your craft.

As there remains plenty of available raw land, building may prove another potential avenue to land you close to the water in a home constructed specifically for your needs. Ultimately, you want to weigh your individual requirements versus the potential to oversee a lucrative money-making property.

Understand climate risks

Arguably one of the most significant selling points for waterfront property is the climate that comes with living by the water,  particularly in California. Especially when basking in the oceanfront breezes and cool temperatures that float in off the Pacific Ocean and over Bodega Harbour, it's difficult to imagine a downside of this lifestyle and location.

However, living adjacent to the water also means dealing with the elements: rain and wind and flooding and erosion. While Bodega Bay and its nearby environs up and down the Northern California coast are not as susceptible to the wrath of Mother Nature, the risk is ever-present. When purchasing waterfront property, proper due diligence is even more critical versus homes further inland.

First, secure the knowledge of an experienced Coastal Sonoma real estate agent. Someone who understands waterfront property and the pros and cons that come with buying on the bay or within walking distance to the beach.

Next, with the help of your agent, closely examine your target home's construction and location. Is it built at a proper height? Does it meet city, county, or state building codes given its proximity to the water? Examine tide levels if you're buying near the ocean or flood history if your purchase is along a bay, canal, or another inlet of water, such as the Russian River. Also, look at how frequently major weather events do occur.

As we noted, Bodega Bay offers its residents a remarkably placid lifestyle, but even here, major weather events that result in flooding or landslides can upend daily life. Before purchasing a house on or near the water, vet its history and construction to determine your climate-related risk factors.

Waterfront Buying Tip #2: 
Secure the proper insurance.

Based on their idyllic location, with their stunning views and access to endless water-based activities, waterfront homes tend to be more expensive than their inland counterparts. They also require more insurance.

Based on a home's location, you may be required to carry certain types of coverage. For your own peace of mind, you may want to carry more than the minimum required.

Waterfront homes are more susceptible to wind and water damage. Though tropical cyclones are extremely rare along the coast of California, flooding isn't. Waterfront homes may require extensive and complex policies. Accommodation may be necessary to cover the sea or retaining walls or piers.  Coastal homes are also subject to the state's other natural dangers, earthquakes, and wildfires among them.

Of course, for those who aspire to live near the water, the climate risks are already well understood. But don't overlook the need to protect yourself. Seek advice from both your real estate agent and a trusted insurance broker to determine the proper insurance for your coastal home before you buy.

Anticipate maintenance needs

From brand new construction to historic resales, every home, regardless of age or condition, possesses some level of maintenance. Waterfront property, however, may require a bit more attention than homes set far away from the coast.

We've already noted the potential for significant weather events to impact your coastal home. But just the presence of water can increase a home's maintenance needs. Those increased needs translate to increased costs.

Sporadic heavy rains necessitate inspections for leaks and water intrusion throughout the year. You'll need to seal holes and avoid promoting the growth of mold. Declining water tables can result in erosion and a loss of land near or around your home. It's vital to monitor the ground just as much as you do the physical house.

Though it maintains a relative calmness for much of the year, the salty water of the Pacific Ocean, and in turn, the accompanying salty air, is very corrosive. Its impact is widespread and includes your home's facade, windows, and any comfort or electrical systems that regularly face the elements. Periodic inspection and upkeep of your home's exterior are necessary to maintain it. 

Waterfront Buying Tip #3: 
Plan ahead.

If you're a seasoned owner of waterfront property, the extra maintenance comes as no surprise. New buyers, however, may want to set aside additional funds to address any repairs or improvements that may arise in the first few years of ownership.

The home inspection will identify any pressing concerns before you buy; however, a coastal home's everyday wear and tear accelerate faster than a standard home. Having funds on hand to quickly address any issues ensures the home avoids any catastrophic repair needs.

Don't neglect the landscape either. Especially if you plan to purchase more rural waterfront property, grounds upkeep proves more demanding than homes bought in a planned neighborhood. Develop a plan and budget for how you'll address your land's maintenance. Reach out to one of the area's landscapers to have the work done for you; your trusted real estate agent will know the best ones to call.

Are you interested in buying Coastal Sonoma waterfront property? From Bodega Harbour homes for sale to the unique offerings that lie both north and south of Bodega Bay, contact Kris Lepore today and allow his years of experience and expertise to help you navigate the best of Coastal Sonoma luxury real estate.



Grounded in professionalism, honesty and integrity, my approach enables me to deliver on my commitment to providing the best real estate services to our clients in the Greater Sonoma County and Coastal Sonoma areas.

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