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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
10. Duke Energy Shoreline Management Guidelines
I really just scratched the surface. To learn more: