Minneapolis Real Estate Attorney Advice: Five Questions to Ask Before Buying a Lake Home

Since you live in Minnesota, you likely have a favorite outdoor winter pastime, such as cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, or ice fishing. But many Minnesotans would rather spend the frigid months indoors dreaming of summer. If snuggled up with a cup of coffee and a good book is more your speed, you may be fantasizing about your dream lake home.


If 2018 is the year you’re hoping to turn that dream into a reality, Minneapolis Real Estate Attorney Morphew Law wants to make sure you’re making an informed decision. Many real estate sites say you should ask if the lake bottom is muddy, sandy, or rocky and what the mosquito situation is. And while it’s good to know if flying insects will be bothering you, there are more serious questions to answer. Here are five things you should know before purchasing your dream lake home.

1. Will you be exasperated by easements?

An easement is the legal right for someone else to access your property. More often than not, easements exist for the government or utility companies to maintain and repair infrastructure. But in densely settled lakefront areas, you may find an easement allows your neighbors to drive right through your beautiful view of the lake. 

Or, perhaps a public beach or boat launch is part of your lakefront. A right-of-way easement allows the public to use your land to access the beach or launching area. How comfortable will you be with the public on your land?

2. Are you counting on lake association angst?

Did you know that lakes often have homeowners’ associations that govern lake use? They are similar to your neighborhood’s homeowners’ associations and may require you to pay a monthly fee and attend regular meetings. Before buying, you’ll want to discover the answers to these questions, understand the rules in place for your lake, and how the association handles neighborly disputes.

3. Will you have dock placement difficulties?


While some homeowners purchase lakefront properties just for the views, most want access for their watercraft. Often, that requires a dock. But having lakefront property does not entitle you to build a dock right off the shore.

Many lake associations have rules governing dock placement and boat access to the water. Some stipulate length of the dock, while others limit the number of slips. You may be allowed to build a dock house, a cozy gazebo, or no structure at all. If you plan to store your fishing boat or ski boat at your lake home, ask how you’ll access the water and if you can build a dock.

4. Are you on the hook for flood insurance?

When you buy a home on a body of water, it’s imperative to know if you’ll be required to purchase flood insurance. This type of insurance can be costly, but if your body of water is subject to seasonal flooding, it could mean the difference between rebuilding and bankruptcy.

Even if your home does not require flood insurance, you may want to consider adding it to your homeowner’s policy in case a 100-year or 500-year event causes your basement to flood. Most homeowner’s policies do not automatically cover loss due to flood.


5. How about local ordinances?

Lake associations have rules about your lake’s use, but so does the local and possibly county and state government. The federal government or Minnesota DNR may protect portions of your lakefront as wetland. Your town may have placed “Do Not Disturb” signs along a shoreline lined with cattails and marshland. If that’s the case, you won’t be able to remove or alter the landscape. For some folks, that’s a benefit. But if you’re dreaming of a sandy beach and dock, it’s a red flag.

Other local ordinances may govern noise on the lake and whether you can raft your boats together like they often do on Lake Minnetonka. Before you buy, make sure you understand these rules, laws, and regulations.

A good Realtor® may know the answers to most of these questions, especially if they focus on the particular lake you’re looking at. But laws and rules change frequently and the terms of an easement may be outdated or unclear. That’s why it is wise to seek the advice of a real estate attorney like Morphew Law. Contact Jon Morphew and the Morphew Law Office, PLLC at 612-790-9189 today for a free consultation.