In storms or sunshine, fresh water or coastal, relaxing inside or enjoying the breeze rippling in off the water on a dock, there is nothing that can match the feeling of a home on the waterfront. Whether it’s your retirement dream, vacation spot, or your primary residence, there are a few caveats that can come with the purchase of waterfront property, but they’re worth working through. Here’s what you need to know before settling on the shoreline.
Water Not Included
By law, bodies of water are not considered a part of private property in Canada. Your ownership rests between the upland and aquatic land at the normal high water mark, or the high tide mark in coastal locations. Of course, this barrier line can vary year to year, so if you’re after a sprawling home on a craggy, mountainous shoreline, it’s best to bring in a surveyor to access the perimeter prior to purchase.
To Dock, or Not to Dock
Looking to dock your sailboat next to your modern waterfront property? If you’d like to set up a dock for boating or relaxing, make sure to follow protocols. Materials, building method, and size are all subject to approvals from provincial or federal agencies.
Review guidelines from your province’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and familiarize yourself with changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act (regulated by Transport Canada) to start. You’ll also want to look over zoning bylaws (which will vary by municipality) to better understand dock size and coverage potential. In some cases, you may only be able to upkeep an existing structure instead of building a new one.
Shelter From the Storm
From the Great Lakes to the shores of the Pacific and the Atlantic, storms can be frequent and amplified by tidal patterns and concurrent weather. Some places in Canada are famous for their storm watching. Residents of Tofino and Ucluelet on Vancouver Island, B.C. and other stormy areas can appreciate the wild wind and waves from the shelter of their getaway.
The weather may influence your choice of building materials, placement of a new home (high tide is a big factor here), or whether you develop a basement. Consider adding storm-proofing essentials such as storm shutters, and stainless steel locks and finishings to fight corrosion from salt air.
While some of the dryer areas of the country may be incorporating humidifiers into their new builds or renos, excessive moisture from large bodies of water can take its toll on even the most structurally sound estates. Consider your maintenance and groundwork load and speak to neighbours about the effects of annual weather or salt water.
All Are Welcome
Natural waterways through your grounds or near the property may be considered public property. Shorelines may also be considered public land by the government, so in some cases fencing and certain builds are not allowed. If you love the idea of chatting with fellow kayakers, fishers, hikers, or neighbours as they pass by your property, then living along a public shoreline is no sacrifice. But if you’d prefer absolute seclusion, perhaps a home with a water view is a better fit for you than one right on the waterfront.
Waterfront property owners know the serenity that comes from sunsets reflected over lakes, spotting sea life in the distance, or just listening to the sounds of nature is well worth the due process to realize the dream.