What to Know Before You Buy a Waterfront Home

Lucas Haun


East Tennessee is a prestigious and coveted area to live. Owning waterfront property along the Tennessee River and the surrounding lakes is a dream for many. The Tennessee River is a 652 mile long, winding river that forms the boundary between Middle and West Tennessee. 

Waterfront property has unique requirements for financing, and maintenance. Here is what you need to know before you buy waterfront houses for sale in East Tennessee.

How You Will Finance the Property

Financing waterfront property has different requirements than land-locked real estate. It also takes more time for your lender to research the area, determine the floodplain and any associated risks. The mortgage on your waterfront home may be classified as a specialty loan. These loans have different requirements and different terms than your traditional mortgages. If the loan amount you are requesting is over the limit for a conventional loan, then a jumbo loan will need to be used, which has different requirements in order to qualify. Talk with your lender well in advance of shopping for waterfront real estate to make sure you understand the process and are prepared to make an offer on a home.

How to Protect Your Property

Homes near the water take a stronger beating than landlocked homes. Because they are open to the water, there is less to block the winds. The windows and siding on waterfront houses for sale need to be able to stand up to the increased wind and sun. Maintaining your shoreline and any barrier walls between the water and your property will save your home from water damage. You will also need to verify whose responsibility it is to maintain the shoreline and any bulkheads. If it is your responsibility, be sure to talk with your insurance agent to learn what is, or isn’t, covered on your homeowner’s policy. It is important to understand the unique maintenance requirements for your property. Also, be sure to check with the Tennessee Valley Authority to make sure all shoreline alterations and construction have the proper permits.

How the Water Level Varies

Because rivers are constantly affected by the waterways upstream and downstream, the water levels will vary. If you are touring waterfront real estate during the summer season, the water may be at a higher level than in the winter months. If the water level is lower in the winter, will it alter the usable areas of the property? Are there areas on the property that seem to stay wet and soggy therefore unusable? If so, does that matter to you? Seasonality and water levels will affect recreational activities and available stock for fishing. If the recreational activities are what draws you to life by the water, you will want to understand what is available for you year-round. The Tennessee River and its surrounding lakes are famous for smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, and blue catfish. It also has the most diverse freshwater mussel faunas in the world with 89 different varieties. The Tennessee River is home to 35 species of snails that are unique to the area and do not occur anywhere else in the world. Because of this, the Tennessee Valley Authority has water quality regulations to protect the habitat. Be sure you understand how these regulations affect what you can do with your waterfront property.

Primary Home or Investment Property

The requirements for financing waterfront real estate for your primary home or for investment property differ. Waterfront property can provide lucrative rental revenues, even if only used occasionally for Airbnb. Regulations differ by neighborhood, city, county, and state for rental properties and for Airbnbs. Understanding these differences before you commit to an investment will save you time and headaches down the road. Whether you want waterfront property for an investment or for your primary home, you can feel confident in your investment. Due to the select location and limited supply, waterfront properties typically appreciate better over time than landlocked properties. 

Know What is Important to You

While inventory shortages are a nationwide epidemic, there are still houses for sale every day. Knowing what is important to you, and what you want to hold out for, will take the stress out of shopping for real estate. Each waterfront property has a different view. Each property is unique and has different amenities. Knowing what you want in your waterfront home will help you reach your dream. Talk through your goals with your real estate agent and they will be on the look-out for the best property to fit your needs. 

How to Find a Waterfront Specialist

Any real estate agent can sell you waterfront property. An experienced agent will be adept at helping you navigate the unique differences of buying or selling waterfront real estate. If you are looking for investment property, a realtor experienced with investment real estate will steer you in the right direction. They will understand the time commitment for managing investment property and any neighborhood or local regulations for rentals. They will be able to help you attain the waterfront real estate that fits your needs, goals, and budget.

The realtors on Lucas Haun’s Team  are leaders in the Knoxville, Tennessee area. They are happy to help homeowners and investors find the waterfront property that fits their needs.


Our unwavering commitment to excellence & our reputation sets us apart. Lucas Haun & Sharon Laing is a premier real estate agent in Knoxville and has helped hundreds of buyers find their dream home in Tennessee and beyond.

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