Norfolk, Virginia is known for its incredible waterfront real estate. With the Atlantic Ocean on three sides, the Lafayette River, the Elizabeth River, Lake Whitehurst, and more, Norfolk is an ideal place to find a cottage or full-time residence on the water. If you want to spend your time boating or fishing, you'll find many communities of like-minded water-lovers here ready to welcome you. Whether you want to live at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay or far inland along a river, Norfolk has every kind of waterfront home.
And while you may dream of catching crabs or collecting sea glass, buying waterfront property in Norfolk isn't something you should rush into. Between sea level rise and the dangers of water access, waterfront real estate can be a risk. Luckily, there are a few questions you can ask to make sure you're fully informed and prepared.
1. What Are the Risks of Flooding?
Like many coastal communities, Norfolk has some growing difficulties with flooding. Thanks to a combination of rising sea levels and slowly sinking land, many properties in Norfolk are at a high risk of flooding, and that risk can be costly. The damage from a surprise flood can be devasting, and while you can and should purchase flood insurance, the payments for a high-risk property can be up to $300 per month. If you'd rather spend that money on the mortgage payments for a nicer home than on flood insurance, not all waterfront real estate is will be for you.
Unfortunately, in the state of Virginia, sellers are not required to disclose the risk of flooding of their home. If they're selling a property on a flood-plain with a high insurance premium, it's up to you as the buyer to find out what the risks are. Luckily, you can use the Norfolk Address Information Resource, or NorfolkAIR, to find out. NorfolkAIR is a free public resource available online that includes information about flood zones for every property in the region.
The good news is that, if you're interested in a home with a high risk of flooding, there are steps that you can take to make the purchase safer. You and the buyer and negotiate sharing the costs of renovations that will make the home more resilient to a flood—renovations such as moving the furnace, water heater, and electric panel of an older home from the basement to an upper floor of the house. A lot of waterfront homes in Norfolk were built over the last century, before flooding was a serious issue, and these types of renovations can help to minimize the damage of a flood and therefore the insurance required.
Lastly, don't worry that increased flooding means that the dream of waterfront living is dead. First, many waterfront homes in Norfolk are not at serious risk, especially those built on higher ground. Second, homes can be constructed or renovated to be more resilient to flooding, so you can definitely find good waterfront real estate or work to make your existing property safer. Waterfront living is still the heart and soul of Norfolk—we all just have to take the necessary precautions to keep it that way.
2. Is This Property Safe?
There are other risks to living so close to the water, so it's important to make sure that you've got them covered before making a permanent commitment to a property. For one, proximity to moisture can easily cause property damage, so it's important to make sure you get any potential home inspected to make sure you aren't stuck with repair costs further down the line. While home inspections are a good practice before buying any home, they're especially important when leaking or mould may be going unnoticed or undisclosed in the basement of your new home.
You should also consider the safety of the water access for you and your family. While a steep water access can yield better views and greater resilience to flooding, a more gradual water access is generally safer, especially for families with small children or more senior members. Of course, you can always have stairs built to make a steep water access safer, but you should consider whether that's a step you want to take.
3. Is This the Right Water for Me?
Lastly, think about what kind of waterfront property you want. Lakes tend to provide more privacy, but the water is also cloudier. Rivers may be better connected if your goal is to be able to get around by boat. And oceanfront property is a must if your ideal afternoon involves catching crabs. While all types of waterfront real estate have their appeal, only you can determine which kind is right for you. Don't rush into buying a home that seems nice if you're going to spend the next ten years wishing you'd waited for something better.
Looking for waterfront homes in Norfolk? Chandler Realty is here to help. Contact us today for in-depth advice about finding your dream home by the water!