There are many Realtors who refer to themselves as “waterfront specialists” but when you ask them about the local waters or water depth and bridge heights, they begin to fumble for an answer.
For those coming from another part of the country that may not have had previous experience owning a home on the water, or who may be new to Florida boating, there are many things to consider that are often overlooked when purchasing a Florida waterfront home.
A true waterfront home specialist is going to first ask the type of boat you own and its draft (depth) or height as this will determine whether you will require a sailboat (no fixed bridge) or power boat (fixed bridge) location.
Another consideration is the construction and maintenance of the canal and seawall systems, as in one area they may be maintained through property taxes where in other areas they are not. The canals that are maintained in areas such as Punta Gorda Isles and Burnt Store Isles average a minimum of approximately 10 ft. in depth but can be as deep as 20+ feet. Bridge heights will typically give you a good 10-11 and possibly 12 ft. clearance at high tide, so a person owning a sailboat or powerboat with a flying bridge may not want to consider a home in the “power boat section” as a viable option.
Another consideration is the distance to the harbor. The person referring to themselves as a “waterfront specialist” asks not only the type of boat you have, but what kind of boating you like to do. If you are an avid fisherman, the last thing you want is the location of a home that will take you an hour to get to the harbor from your dock. For the day sailor or weekend cruiser, I often hear the distance to the harbor is irrelevant as it is “Part of the journey,” so knowing a client’s style of boat and their boating interests is the first step in determining a location best suited to their particular needs.
While knowledge of water depths, bridge heights and the potential costs of canal and seawall maintenance is critical, having an appreciation for the effects of weather conditions on tides and water depths is information that is vital to anyone looking to purchase a waterfront home in Florida, especially when they plan on boating during the months of January, February and March. During these peak tourist times of the year, water depths can be affected by as much as one to two feet and more depending on the temperatures and wind direction. Cold winter blasts characterized by strong winds coming out of the east or north can reduce water depths significantly and any prospective buyer should be made aware of these occurrences as they could be a determining factor whether the existing water depths at the prospective home site are adequate, or if the boat the buyer is considering to purchase would be best suited for those extreme conditions.
While the location of the property, backyard “exposure,” and size of the seawall are common considerations in the purchase of a home, having an intimate knowledge of the local waters and how they may compare to the characteristics of waterfront locations in other parts of the country will enable the buyer to avoid the pitfalls and get the most enjoyment out of owning a Florida waterfront home.
Lastly, budget will be a major determining factor on the type of home and its location. Typically homes with the quickest access to the harbor and gulf islands beyond will command the highest price, so don’t be surprised to see high sticker prices on even older homes that have very close proximity to the harbor as you are paying for location!!! It is also not uncommon for someone with a strong boating desire, but a limited budget to consider the purchase of a home off water, but within a reasonable distance to the many new and upgraded public boat ramps found throughout the county. A true waterfront specialist will be able to quickly determine the best solution to your boating needs, while giving you a great insight to the many unique opportunities that Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands have in store for you!!!