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Lake House Guide

What to Consider When Buying a Lake House

I have sold lake properties since 2003 and have loved every minute of it. There is something about a get away place, sand on your toes, towering trees or a water view that is just exciting! I love watching the little lizards go by, the eagles catching fish and the cranes flying overhead. You can be transported to a different world in just a quick drive. For me, my lake house is only 10 minutes from my home. Crazy- but very convenient. I can take care of my business and literally be on the beach ten minutes later.

Buying a lake house does have some specific items that need to be addressed.

  1. Do you own the land?
  2. What type of water system does it have?
  3. What type of sewer system does it have?
  4. What are the lake association fees?
  5. Any other fees?
  6. What will the flood insurance cost?
  7. What type of inspections should I have?
  8. Who maintains the roads?
  9. Who maintains the lake?
  10. Who can use the lake?
  11. Is the septic system adequate?
  12. What type of loan will work for a property like this?
  13. Is the well safe and adequate?
  14. Is there anything about this property that will make it difficult to sell later?
  15. These are all valuable aspects of buying a lake house to consider.  I will work to add details is future postings for each area.  Until then, please read some of the following articles for a good foundation of knowledge.  You are welcome to call , text or email me as well with any specific questions you may have.  Lets get you to the beach!

Vacation Home Primer

Buying a vacation home requires different criteria—and sometimes a different timetable—than a primary home purchase. Help potential clients compile a smart second-home wish list.
November 2014 | By Barbara Ballinger

Owning a vacation home is a long-held dream for many home owners. As a real estate professional, you can help clients who are considering this step weigh their options and understand this market more clearly by considering these nine key factors.

  1. Market outlook: Is inventory plentiful? Are prices trending up or down? Is an area losing its cachet, or is it heating up? Be sure to do your research on local trends so that you can give the best advice to your clients. As for the national outlook: Sales of vacation properties performed well last year, due to affordable prices and low mortgage rates, according to NAR’s Investment and Vacation Home Buyers Survey 2014. The survey also found that the majority of buyers purchased a property to use for vacations rather than to diversify their investment portfolio. They spent a median of $168,700, and favored single-family houses over townhomes and condominiums.
  2. Total costs: Owning a second home can eliminate expensive hotel stays. And with room-service burgers coming in at around $20 plus tip, buyers should calculate the total bottom line, not just the room rate. However, you should prepare buyers for another mortgage at what may be a higher interest rate than what they have on their primary residence. Also, they should consider real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance, maintenance, furnishings, and gasoline or airfare to get there and back. If regular vacation costs aren’t part of their long-term plan of at least the next three to five years, hotels may prove more economically prudent.
  3. Distance from home: The typical distance of a vacation home from an owner’s primary home was 170 miles, according to the NAR report. Some vacation homeowners find that paradise works best if it’s closer—within a two-hour drive or via a direct flight. Otherwise, the home may not be used often enough to offset costs. Real estate saleswoman Barb St. Amant, ABR, with Harry Norman, REALTORS®, in Atlanta, decided that the lakefront home she and her husband selected when their twin sons were 13 years old needed to be around 40 minutes away in order to be used frequently. Because their sons will soon graduate from college, they didn’t go to the house very often last year, but with her husband’s retirement, that may change. “We plan to reassess,” she says.
  4. Nearby attractions: While location is still the mantra, what “the best location” means will vary. Top schools and proximity to work centers may be huge incentives for a primary home, but being on vacation may require proximity to ski slopes or a beach. Michael Degnan, broker-owner of Realty Executives, which oversees sales at the new Heritage Sands development on Cape Cod, says its 63 cottages’ proximity to 630 feet of private beach has been a major draw. For rah-rah college alums, being a stone’s—or football—throw from a stadium may be more key, says Jennifer Fredericks, CRS, GRI, and broker with Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Preferred Living in College Station, Texas. Her buyers come to attend Texas A&M University sporting events. “They want to walk to the stadium in fall for games, have everyone at their house for tailgating, or buy on a golf course so they can be close but use the house for retirement some day,” she says.
  5. Maintenance: Whatever the home’s size and style—single-family, townhouse, or condo—buyers want to spend as little time as possible on maintenance. Going with new construction approaches that ideal, says Robyn Erlenbush, CRB, CRS, with ERA Landmark in Bozeman and Big Sky, Mont., where buyers go to be close to Yellowstone Park and ski slopes. While certain building materials and finishes help make a home more carefree, so do homeowner associations, on-site or nearby property management companies, and concierge services that handle upkeep and repairs. Carefree living was one reason Justin Pallis, who lives in Massachusetts near the New Hampshire border, chose a cottage at Heritage Sands. “We didn’t want to worry about cutting the grass or security when not there,” he says. Advise buyers to inquire about these options when house hunting.
  6. Furnishings: Yet another way for buyers to conserve precious vacation time is to select a furnished home rather than spending time shopping, especially from a distance. “Decorating is the last thing many want to do; and sellers may be wise to sell their home furnished,” says Patrick Jones, broker-owner of Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Sonoran Desert Lifestyles in Scottsdale, Ariz.
  7. Amenities: Besides the location, onsite amenities can increase the appeal of one home over another. If extended family and friends regularly vacation with your buyers, encourage them to ensure they have a sufficient living space — both indoors and outdoors, depending on the location. If socializing is the main goal, you may also want to recommend the advantages of a clubhouse or party room. At Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich., a 538-acre development on Lake Michigan, one clubhouse features a full-service restaurant. Jones in Scottsdale has found that many older vacationers seek a sense of community in these amenities, especially when traveling from afar.
  8. Rules and restrictions: Single-family homes may come with no guidelines, except for those the town dictates — when watering lawns is permitted, for instance. But homes in a development or condo community often have a lengthy list to obey, such as restrictions against pets. Make sure buyers understand their rights and protections before they close.
  9. Rentals: A universally appealing vacation home could add up to a revenue opportunity, and your buyers may already be factoring additional rental income into their second-home plans. However, homeowner’s associations may ban renting or restrict how often owners are allowed to rent out their property. Buyers should also ask their homeowner’s insurance agent and lender for rental guidelines and inquire about tax consequences with their financial professional. Buyers can use FHA loans on only primary residences, not rental properties and timeshares. Also, the down payment typically is higher on vacation property than it is for a primary home, says Tim Lucas, editor of mymortgageinsider, an online mortgage resource. Rules also differ if a vacation home is being used as an investment property.One final tip: If your clients are uncertain, you may want to suggest that they rent for a year before purchasing a second home. That way they can try an area out during different seasons, to test if their fantasy meshes with reality. They’ll be better clients in the long run, once they’ve taken the time to fully understand their vacation the Author

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).

Buying or Selling a Homewith a Well

More than 42 million Americans are served by a private well water system. When it comes to buying
or selling these homes, your customers need the best possible information about their drinking
Most homebuyers would never consider purchasing a home without a thorough inspection of the
structure and its operating systems. Buyers must take the same care to inspect the property’s well
system and the quality of its drinking water. Many mortgage lending institutions, as well as some
local governments, require inspections and tests before settlement. Disclosure laws and customary
real estate practices also may govern well and drinking water issues.
For sellers, evidence of high quality drinking water increases a property’s marketability and appeals
to increasingly health-conscious buyers. Private wells offer a safe, modern and affordable source of
clean water. Even better, the homeowner remains in control of the water supply.
Sellers can avoid delays at settlement by addressing water quality concerns before the house is
placed on the market or comes under contract. Proof of a recent water test and well inspection
reduces the chance of any surprises far along in the sales process.
If your clients object to the minimal costs involved, remind them that a house with a well system in
disrepair or with contaminants in the water will be worth much less than a comparable property
with a properly maintained water system.

Research the Well’s History

Try to get as much information as possible on the construction, maintenance and condition of the
well. Ask the seller or contact the company that drilled the well for the well log or well history (also
known as a water well record or drilling report). Most states require well contractors to file a well
log on each new well drilled. County or town health departments also may have records on when
the well was drilled and how it was constructed.
The well log will include a reference number for the well, the well owner at the time of
construction, location of the well and various construction details. These may include the drilling
method used, depth of the well, amount and type of casing, size and type of screen, and type of
pump. Ask for any records of maintenance and inspection of the well system after construction.
Also request a copy of any water quality tests taken in the years after the well was drilled. Most
states encourage homeowners to test their well water once a year, usually in the spring. If the
homeowner doesn’t have records, check with the well driller or the local health department for
water test results.

Review the Well’s Condition

The well log should help determine the location, age and condition of the well. There are other
aspects of the well to consider. The list on the following page includes the ideal conditions for a
well. Each is a strong selling point for the quality of drinking water available and the proper
construction of the well.
Well location:
• Surface water doesn’t reach or is diverted from the well.
• The wellhead is visible and above ground.
• Preferably, no permanent structure should be located within 10 feet of the wellhead,
allowing proper access for future repairs and service.
• The well should be located as far away as possible from any potential pollution sources, and
these distances should meet or exceed all state, county or local requirements.
Well construction and maintenance:
• Well type – The well is a drilled well, not a dug or driven well. If it is a dug or driven well, it
should be brought up to current standard or code.
• Casing height – The lining of the well (the casing) is 12 or more inches above the land surface.
In flood prone areas, the casing is one to two feet above the highest recorded flood level. This
ensures that no substances can wash into the well.
• Condition of casing and well cap – There should be no visible holes or cracks in the well
casing. Well caps should be vermin-proof, watertight and securely attached to the well casing.
• Casing depth – The casing depth should be sufficient to meet state and local codes.
• Backflow protection – Measures are taken to prevent backflow (reverse flow in water pipes)
and, where necessary, anti-backflow devices are installed.
• Well inspection – The well has been regularly inspected and records are available.
Well capacity and yield:
• The well log or drilling report contains information on the well’s capacity and yield in gallons
per minute.
• Many communities set minimum well yield requirements. Call the local health department or
ask a well professional for minimum well yield requirements in the area.
Water treatment systems:
• Water treatment devices should be appropriate and regularly maintained. These include
point-of-entry equipment, which treats the water as it enters the house, or point-of-use
equipment, which treats the water at an individual tap, such as the kitchen sink.
If you still have questions about the condition of the well, contact a well professional about further
well inspection, water testing and/or the need for well repair. Finally, encourage homebuyers to
schedule future inspection, maintenance and testing to keep their new well system operating at
peak efficiency.

Conduct a Water Test

At a minimum, every well should be tested annually for bacteria. The U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) also recommends testing for nitrate/nitrite and pH, and recommends consulting with
experts about the need to test for contaminants of local concern, such as arsenic, lead or radon.
Home sellers should schedule their annual drinking water test for just before their property is listed.
Buyers should conduct a drinking water test before closing and make sales contracts contingent on
test results, just like a home inspection.
wellcare® information on Buying or Selling a Home with a Well Page 3
well water naturally better… Contact your local water well professional
State and local health departments will have a list of state-certified laboratories qualified to test for
specific contaminants on behalf of the homeowner or buyer. Choose a lab that can return test
results within two weeks in a form that is understandable to the average homeowner. The cost of
testing will vary by state and lab.
The laboratory will provide specific sampling instructions and clean bottles or small plastic bags in
which to collect the water sample. Homeowners must carefully follow these instructions, as a
carelessly collected sample can give inaccurate results.
Compare test results with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum containment levels
for the contaminant, which are guidelines used for public water supplies. EPA does not regulate
private wells. Go to for individual standards. There also may be
state or local standards for contaminants, such as sodium, that EPA does not regulate.
Any positive test for bacteria requires disinfection of the well system. Chlorine, ultra-violet light or
ozone treatments will kill E. coli or other harmful germs. Other contaminants usually can be
reduced to acceptable federal standards through point-of-use or point-of-entry systems installed in
the home.

Review Mortgage Lender Requirements

Individual water wells are owned and maintained by the homeowner, and are subject to
compliance with all requirements of the local and/or state health authority having jurisdiction.
For FHA mortgage insurance, the following is mandatory:
• For new construction, the well must be located a minimum of 50 feet from the septic tank,
100 feet from the septic tank’s drain field, and a minimum of 10 feet from any property line.
• New wells must be drilled, no less than 20 feet deep and cased. Casing should be steel or
other durable material that is leak-proof and acceptable to the local health authority and/or
the trade or profession licensed to drill and repair wells in the local jurisdiction.
• Individual water systems no longer require automatic testing or inspection, unless it is
mandated by the state or local jurisdictions, if it is believed that the water may be
contaminated, or when the water supply relies upon a water purification system due to the
presence of contaminants. The lender also has the option to require testing.
• When testing is required, the water well must meet the requirements of the local authority. If
the local authority does not have specific requirements, the maximum contaminant levels
established by the EPA will apply.
• Individual water systems/wells should be located on the subject property site. If not, they must
be on an adjacent property, and evidence of water rights and recorded maintenance
agreement must be provided for acceptance of the well as a primary source of water, for an
FHA insured property.
For more information on the HUD standards, go to
wellcare® information

For more information on wells for homebuyers

Call the Water Systems Council wellcare® Hotline at 888-395-1033 or visit
Check out the wellcare® Pocket Guide, available for purchase through the wellcare® Hotline.
See the wellcare® brochures, “A Homeowner’s Guide to Your Well” and “A Real Estate Agent’s
Guide to Buying or Selling Homes with Wells,” available on the WSC website. WSC also offers
wellcare® information sheets on well components, maintenance, drinking water testing and
potential contaminants. All of this information is available at
Visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website at

For more information about wells and other wellcare® publications

wellcare® is a program of the Water Systems Council (WSC). WSC is a national
nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the wider use of wells as modern and
affordable safe drinking water systems and to protecting ground water resources
nationwide. This publication is one in a series of wellcare® information sheets. They
can be downloaded FREE from the WSC website at Well owners and
others with questions about wells or ground water can also contact the wellcare® hotline at 1-888-395-
1033 or visit

Septic Systems article taked from UNL

Nebraskans who live in rural areas often must rely on their own sewage treatment systems, called onsite wastewater treatment systems. The most common type of onsite wastewater treatment system used is a septic tank in combination with a drainfield.  Treatment starts in the septic tank where solids and liquids separate into layers and some microbial treatment of contaminants occurs.  The partially treated sewage moves to the drainfield where it is dispersed over soil and final treatment of contaminants (by microbial action, filtration, etc.) takes place.  Treated sewage is returned to the environment and enters groundwater.


There are two basic types of drainfields – gravel and gravelless.
A gravel drainfield system uses a perforated pipe embedded in gravel to accept and spread out sewage. Sometimes a chamber is used instead of the perforated pipe. A gravellessdrainfield system uses a plastic chamber or pipe with filter fabric specifically designed for this purpose. Gravelless is a popular alternative where the cost of gravel is high, or in areas where access is difficult. However, some Nebraska counties do not allow gravelless systems.

Use and Maintenance

Proper use and maintenance of a septic tank and drainfield are crucial for the system to treat domestic sewage. Maintenance consists of periodically having the tank pumped by a certified pumper. Also, protecting the drainfield from compaction and being careful about what goes down the drain will help the longevity of a septic system.  A properly designed, installed, and maintained system should operate for 20 to 40 years or more, treating wastewater to minimize the negative impact on groundwater, surface water and human health.

In Nebraska, only a certified professional, registered environmental health specialist or professional engineer may design, pump, install or repair any onsite wastewater treatment system.

Septic Systems & Residential Lagoons – Made Easy for Homeowners
Click-through screens show everything you wanted to know about how systems operate and how to maintain.

Soil & Site Evaluation
Linked page with further information on the role of soil and site selection, soil permeability and testing.

Soil Survey Maps
Natural Resources Conservation Service maps.
Extension Publications on Septic Systems:
Septic Tank Design and Installation*
Traditional Drainfield Systems for Effluent Treatment*
GravellessDrainfield Systems for Effluent Treatment*
Septic System and Drainfield Maintenance*
*pdf format. Download the free Acrobat Reader

Flood Insurance FAQ

Article take from

What is a floodplain?

A floodplain is an area of low-lying ground adjacent to a river, lake, or ocean which may be subject to flooding during periods of high water. Regulatory floodplains as defined by FEMA are referred to as the 1% Annual Chance Floodplain or 100-year Floodplain.

Is my property in a floodplain?

Visit NeDNR’sFloodplain Interactive Map to locate your property and proximity to a floodplain. You may also contact your local Floodplain Administrator.

My home is in the 1% Annual Chance Floodplain, what is the chance my home will be flooded?

In any given year, your property has at least a 1% chance of being flooded. During the course of a 30-year mortgage, your property has at least a 26% chance of being flooded. The actual risk due to flooding varies depending on your location within the floodplain.

Who can buy flood insurance? When is flood insurance mandatory?

For a community participating in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), any property owner is eligible to buy a Flood Insurance policy, regardless of whether the property is in the floodplain. Under federal law, the purchase of flood insurance is mandatory for properties with a federally-backed mortgage that lie within the effective 1% Annual Chance Floodplain.

How can I get flood insurance?

You can learn more about purchasing flood insurance and finding an insurance agent at You can also contact any local insurance agent to ask about flood insurance.

What can I do if my lender has determined that my structure is in the floodplain but I believe it is out?

In situations where a property owner thinks their property was inadvertently mapped in a floodplain, FEMA provides a process for the public to request a change in the flood zone designation for the property. This request is known as a Letter of Map Change (LOMC). For more information on obtaining a Letter of Map Change, contact your local Floodplain Administrator. To learn more about FEMA’s process, you can check the FEMA webpage on LOMCs.

What will happen if I build a basement in the floodplain?

Basements are often built well below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) and make a structure very susceptible to flooding. When a basement is flooded, the foundation walls that hold the entire structure can collapse and cause the entire structure to be damaged. Nebraska state statutes require new structures to have the lowest floor of the basement elevated at least one foot above the Base Flood Elevation. In most communities that have a floodplain management ordinance, putting in a basement without complying with this standard is illegal. Additionally, flood insurance premiums for new residential structures with basements below BFE will be very high. For non-residential buildings, you may dry-proof a basement (including utilities) to at least one foot above the base flood elevation. The flood proofing methods must be certified by a registered professional engineer or architect.

My house is in the floodway, what can I do?

Nebraska state statutes prohibit any new residential structures from being built in a floodway. Floodways are very dangerous places to live and pose threats to lives, safety, and buildings. Local officials will deny a permit to build a new house in the floodway. If your house is already in the floodway and becomes substantially damaged or if you want to substantially improve your house, the entire house needs to be brought into compliance with your local floodplain ordinance. Depending on the circumstances, the residence may not be allowed to be rebuilt on the current site. If you find yourself in this situation, it is best to check with the local Floodplain Administrator to ensure you have all necessary information on what could be allowed.

I need a floodplain development permit, who do I contact?

To obtain a floodplain development permit, please contact your local Floodplain Administrator.

Do I need an Elevation Certificate? How do I get an Elevation Certificate?

If you want to have your building insurance rated with elevation or removed out of a floodplain with a Letter of Map Change (LOMC), an elevation certificate may assist you in the process. If you are constructing a new building and obtaining a floodplain development permit, you will also need an Elevation Certificate in order to comply with the permit conditions. Elevation Certificates must be prepared and certified by a Licensed Land Surveyor, Registered Professional Engineer, or Registered Professional Architect who is authorized by State, or local law to certify elevation information. Community officials who are authorized by local law or ordinance to provide floodplain management information may also sign the certificate.

How do I obtain a Base Flood Elevation (BFE) Determination for my property?

For basic study areas (Zone A), you can contact U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, or any registered professional engineer to make a BFE Determination for your property. NeDNR can provide BFE Determinations to a local Floodplain Administrator for administrating floodplain management programs in areas with basic flood studies. In areas with Enhanced flood studies, BFE information is published in the Flood Insurance Study (FIS) and the Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM). The FIS and FIRM are free to download from FEMA’s Map Service Center.

I live in a floodplain and can’t have a basement, so how do I protect myself from tornados?

You are safest from tornados in a structurally-reinforced room designed to withstand high wind speeds, even if it is not below ground. You can build a safe room inside your house or ask your community to build a community safe room. Federal assistance may be available in such cases. For more information on residential safe rooms, see the FEMA website on Building a Safe Room for Your Home or Small Business.