Lake Norman waterfront homes, Relocating? Life in Lake Norman

10 Things Lake Norman Waterfront Home Buyers Should Know BEFORE buying

Lake Norman waterfront home at The Point

The ultimate dream of many people around the country and even beyond is to own a waterfront home on Lake Norman.  Whether a luxury estate or a small vacation cabin, waterfront homeowners all share our gorgeous lake and the special lifestyles that blend together to make Lake Norman so popular for such a wide variety of people.

Buying a waterfront home on Lake Norman isn’t a complicated process but it is extremely important that you start the process with a good understanding of the following and, if possible, at least read Duke Energy’s Shoreline Management Guidelines, the 130-page document I have linked at the bottom of this article.

Here are my thoughts:

1.  Private docks: is there one?

Private docks are highly regulated and must be permitted by Duke Energy.  Over the years the process has become much more restrictive so you will find that most homes that can have docks will have them in place and even most waterfront lots will already have permitted docks.  Without a private, permitted dock, the value of a waterfront property is significantly lower than the same property with a dock. That said, it you want to enjoy living on Lake Norman but your budget doesn’t allow for a waterfront home with a dock, look for the lower priced homes on the water without docks.  Most likely you can launch a kayak or canoe from your shoreline and still enjoy being on the lake!  To get a permit today, a waterfront lot must have a minimum 100′ of shoreline and meet other stipulations to gain approval from Duke Energy.  If you must get a permit, do so BEFORE closing!  And, for existing docks, be sure to have the permit changed into your name!

2.  Look for Permit Plate:

If you are looking at waterfront homes with a dock, you should check to make sure there is a permit affixed to the end of the dock like this one:

Photo of an older dock permit fixed on a Lake Norman dock

3.  Measure depth of water and understand possible variations of lake levels

I always bring my tape measure when showing waterfront properties so that we can measure the depth of the water where your boat would be to make sure it has deep enough water for your type of boat etc. I check that morning to find out the current water level of Lake Norman so we can calculate the lowest and highest water depths of your pier/dock/boatslip.  The water levels of Lake Norman are controlled by Duke Energy and vary from full pond, 100′ (760′ above sea level) down to about 94′.  They use the dam at the south end of the lake to help regulate the water levels.

4.  50′ Setback

The most recent regulations established in 2006 establish a 50′ setback from the 760 line.  Within this 50′ setback from the lake to your home there are strict regulations outlined in detail in the Shoreline Management Guidelines.  They are meant to protect the 50′ closest to the lake by prohibiting removal of trees and native vegetation, planting of lawns, and size of footpaths.  Older properties may violate these rules but they are “grandfathered in”.

5.  Types of views/locations and their impacts/waves, noise, wear and tear on docks and boats

So, do you want to live on the Main Channel and enjoy wide-open expansive views of Lake Norman or do you have enough Mark Twain in you to prefer a quiet cove where you can kayak and enjoy more privacy.  There is no doubt that Main Channel views are highly sought after but with these properties know that you will experience waves and more overall wear and tear to your dock because of the boats going by and wind.  Large coves like the one in the photo above are ideal of boaters who want shelter for their docks/boats.  Here is an example of a “main channel” view:

Lake Norman waterfront home on the main channel

6.  Grandfathered boat ramps, boat houses and extra large/long docks

The last significant changes to the Lake Norman Shoreline Management guidelines were in 2006.  They have become quite a bit more restrictive over the years so if you look at older homes with lawns that go all the way to the shoreline or have extra large docks, boat ramps or boat houses know that these are “grandfathered” in and can’t be replaced if they are torn down or destroyed.  There are rules about how to maintain and repair these docks etc. so before doing any work check with Duke Energy.  You don’t want to loose your grandfather status.  Here is an example of an old boat ramp that has been grandfathered in.  The owners were allowed to repair it.

Concrete boat ramp on Lake Norman

7.  Shoreline Stabilization like Seawalls and rip rap:

One of the focuses of the Shoreline Management Guidelines is to protect the water quality and achieve some environmental conservation goals.  They have specific rules about what you can and can’t do to your shoreline.  For example,  a sea wall will only be allowed now where an eroded bank is less than 3′ high.  Bio-engineering or enhanced rip rap are the only stabilization techniques allowed in areas where the eroded bank is less than 2′ high.  Again, check the guidelines before undertaking any work on your shoreline.  Here is an example of a rip rap shoreline where the owners added a pretty stone stairs and a beach:

Lake Norman riprap shoreline on waterfront home

8.  Lake water irrigation

One of the bonuses with a waterfront home on Lake Norman is that many have permitted pumps to use lake water for irrigating your gardens.  Look for white pvc pipes at your shoreline.

9.  North, South, East or West?

I always take a compass with me to help my waterfront home buyers determine what sort of views they will have.  Sunsets are the most popular but sunrise views are also great.  Keep in mind too where you will have afternoon sun in the heat of summer.

Lake Norman Sunset view from waterfront home

10.  Duke Energy Shoreline Management Guidelines

I really just scratched the surface.  To learn more:


20 thoughts on “10 Things Lake Norman Waterfront Home Buyers Should Know BEFORE buying

  1. Elaine Cook says:

    When you have a boat dock that has enough space between the gazebo (on the dock) & the beginning of the railing down to the actual dock which is high enough for a boat to actually pass under the gazebo depending on lake level: it it illegal?

    Who is responsible for the intruder? It it the Home owner or the boater?
    Thank you. The Cooks

  2. Cindy says:

    Can you tell me where I can find more about the 50ft setback rule and where to find out if something is grandfathered?

  3. Hi Cindy,

    You just need to go to the Duke Energy Shoreline Management document which is on their website. It is about 150 pages long but it should answer your questions. If not, I would call Duke Energy and talk with on of their Lake Norman inspectors.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!

  4. Joe says:

    i’m looking to purchase a waterfront property with the dock that has a permit affixed to the dock. What document should I have before I purchase the property in regards to the dock?

  5. Hi Joe,

    The small, metal permit number should be attached to the end of the dock. They are attached by Duke by boat so are usually the closest option from the water for them. You must have this plate on your dock. If there is a permit but not plate, you will have to request a new plate for the dock and that can trigger some code changes. So make sure the permit plate is on the dock before you buy!

  6. Barb says:

    We just purchased a home with a permitted dock. Do we need to transfer ownership by name? Also, who do we need to contact to add a deck to the existing dock? Do we get a permit from Cornelius or Duke?

  7. This is a great question. More and more closing attorneys are now asking for the dock permits to be transferred into the new owners name. There is a fee involved. The permits are issued and transferred by Duke Energy’s Shoreline Management. I provided links below in comments but if you Google it you will also get their information. I hope this answers your questions!

  8. Hi, You should call Duke Energy’s Shoreline Management department for the answer. I know they prefer for trees that actually fall into the lake to remain but I have never heard of them allowing a tree to be disposed of in the lake. Let me know what they say!

  9. Charles r yount jr says:

    I’ve a question as I’m disabled I’ve fished and boated and kayaked from what we have labeled the penutula and the owner s drive is the access to this property so the new land owner has stopped us from accessing this fishing area buy useing a complete gate system that cant be opened except by code and it’s completely closed off to the people around there is this legal or illegal?

  10. Wendi says:

    How many boats and/or watercraft can be secured to my shared dock? Where can I find these details?

  11. For private docks, there are no rules about this that I am aware of. However, if you live in an HOA, they may have specific rules to your neighborhood. Also, you mentioned a “shared dock”, you may also want to review whatever easement or document that provides the shared status. Hope that helps!

  12. Vito Sparone says:

    What is the rule on the neighbor’s dock crossing over the property line running out into the water? Is there an encroachment law saying he cannot cross over that boundary in the water?

  13. Beth Baldwin says:

    Where can I find any information about neighbors building a covered dock obstructing our lake view?

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