The Best Destinations to Buy a Lakefront Home in the U.S.
Lake towns have always provided a welcome reprieve from the stresses of city life. Surrounded by nature and home to diverse wildlife, natural and human-made lakes help us slow down and relax while enjoying various outdoor activities. Whether you're a fishing enthusiast or enjoy ice skating in the winter, lakes are a year-round playground that keep your body active and your mind at ease.
So if you'd like your weekend lake escapes to become more of a permanent situation, investing in a lakefront or lake-view property might be the way to go. Fortunately, our country has no shortage of scenic lakes and quaint lakeside communities to choose from.
To help you narrow down your choices, we spoke to real estate experts and broke down the best and most popular markets for luxury lakefront homes right now.
New Buffalo, Michigan
Set along the beautiful sandy shores of Lake Michigan, New Buffalo is home to just shy of 2,000 residents. But this charming town, with its many breweries and a thriving artist community, is the preferred vacation destination of many visitors from Chicago, northern Indiana, and Michigan looking to escape the hustle and bustle of big city life.
"The second home market is booming in New Buffalo and other lakeside towns in southwest Michigan, with homes selling in eight weeks on average, and many selling much quicker than that," Mike Golden, co-founder and co-CEO of @properties, Christie's International Real Estate, said.
Just prepare to deal with a very limited property supply. Inventory in New Buffalo is low — down 30 percent compared to January 2021 — with a double-digit price increase over the last year. Still, you can find stunning properties to turn into your lakefront home, like this contemporary $4.125 million home with 125 feet of waterfront.
Harbor Springs, Michigan
With its picturesque towns offering top-notch dining, gorgeous waterfront views, year-round cultural events, and seemingly endless water sports offerings, Northern Lake Michigan has proven incredibly popular with families looking to make lifelong memories.
Harbor Springs, overlooking Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay, is a quaint waterfront community, home to many art galleries, restaurants, shops, and the deepest fresh-water harbor in the Great Lakes region.
"With the recent desire to spend more time at home and the ability to work remotely, the love for the Great Lakes and waterfront living has grown exponentially," wrote Chris Etienne of Harbor Sotheby's International Realty in an email. "The beauty of northern Michigan in particular, which has more small towns and is less congested, has attracted many new affluent buyers looking for recreational opportunities, space, and a sense of community."
If you are drawn to lakefront living, keep in mind that these homes are in high demand right now, with properties starting at $1.5 million.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
"I think what people find really appealing about Coeur d'Alene is that it's a year-round, four-season destination with extraordinary scenery, a charming downtown, and a down-to-earth culture that, simply put, is a very special place to be," Sarah Griffin, a realtor at Tomlinson Sotheby's International Realty in Northern Idaho, wrote in an email.
The beautiful natural landscapes and exciting activities that the area offers, including golfing, boating, fly fishing, hiking, skiing, and snowboarding, make Coeur d'Alene and the nearby Lake Pend Oreille popular destinations for vacationers. There are also plenty of great options to choose from when it comes to selecting your second home here — from restored early 1900s craftsman and Queen Anne-style homes that are full of character to the sleek new developments popping up along the north shore of the Spokane River and along the west side of Coeur d'Alene, which, according to Griffin, will be "a strong source of inventory for more of the median pricing housing options."
Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
The real estate market in the Lake Tahoe region is absolutely sizzling hot right now. The lake and the scenic Sierra Nevada mountains offer the perfect backdrop for year-round fun and activities like skiing, hiking, and golfing. A property here also has excellent rental potential. Located close to several big cities in California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe attracts many city dwellers looking for a long-term remote work location or simply a spot to unwind and take in the gorgeous scenery for a weekend.
"We have seen unprecedented increases in value of real estate in the area over the last two years, specifically in the Incline Village/Crystal Bay market," Jason Kirby of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Drysdale Properties explained via email. "Incline Village and Crystal Bay are two of the most popular locations along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe for vacation homes and full-time residences. As of January 2022, the median sales price is $3,700,000! This is the first time we've seen prices averaging this high for the area."
Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
The second-largest freshwater lake in Virginia treats its visitors to jaw-dropping Blue Ridge Mountains views, over 500 miles of pristine shoreline, a variety of year-round water sports activities, and friendly communities that make it so easy to fall in love with this area. No wonder even A-list celebrities and athletes have invested in properties in Smith Mountain Lake over the years.
"I feel there's a blend of many things that make Smith Mountain Lake so desirable," Glenda McDaniel, a real estate agent in Long & Foster Real Estate/Luxury Portfolio International's Smith Mountain Lake office, said in an email. "It's only a few hours drive from D.C., Richmond, Raleigh, and other cities that have high traffic and noise, so Smith Mountain Lake provides a peaceful retreat with minimal traffic, noise – and low taxes."
Because lake elevations here are pretty stable, lakefront homeowners can build covered boat docks as additional entertainment space or storage, which adds convenience to lakefront homes.
Lake Norman, North Carolina
Southern hospitality and dreamy lakefront views, what could be better than that?! Located just 20 miles north of Charlotte, North Carolina's largest human-made lake caters to visitors craving a laidback lifestyle, close proximity to an international airport, and access to major sporting and cultural events and facilities.
The region is also popular among retirees who move here for the moderate climate and easy access to the lake, mountains, and the ocean.
Interest in the Lake Norman area has surged in recent years, with the median home price increasing more than 22 percent since 2017.
"Clients are seeking a quality of life that mimics a vacation with gorgeous views of the lake and recreation at their doorsteps. Work from home and the completion of the toll road has eased the commute into Charlotte and driven the demand for lakefront homes to an all-time high," said Catharine Pappas, vice president of relocation at Dickens Mitchener/Luxury Portfolio International.
Waterfront properties in the region usually come with a price tag from $2 - $5 million.
Lake Austin, Texas
"Having grown up on Lake Austin, I've always known this lake to be the gem of Texas. To have a constant level-lake in the heart of the city where people can live and recreate is very special," Eric Moreland, a broker associate at Moreland Properties, said in an email.
If you're after postcard-worthy lakefront views and would like to stay close to all the modern amenities that a city such as Austin offers, then consider investing in a home near this human-made lake.
A major development, the Four Seasons Private Residences Lake Austin, is slated for completion in 2025, and it will add 179 new luxury residences to the area. All properties will overlook Lake Austin and offer stunning views, along with high-end amenities such as access to a private marina, tennis courts, and an 82-foot-long indoor pool.
"Since the project's launch in late September, over half of the residences have been reserved (by square footage, gross sales volume, and number of transactions). The incredible reception shows just how deep the demand for waterfront property is now and will continue to be, as people put down deposits three to four years in advance. Overall, it is truly a special project to watch as it reflects the market-wide trends for waterfront property throughout Austin," added Moreland.
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