Unless you live for tearing up the slopes year-round (or you're allergic to the sun), owning a cozy cottage by the water has probably crossed your mind. With the gorgeous coastline and tranquil lakes, Maine offers some of the most amazing waterfront properties in the country. But before you take the plunge and sign the papers, a little research can save you a lot of trouble.

Victorian houses in a fall foliage setting in New England.

First off, let’s talk zoning laws. Maine’s waterfront towns each have their own set of rules about what you can and can’t do with your property. Most towns require a certain setback for building close to the water to preserve natural habitats, as well as flooding purposes. It’s always a good idea to check with the local town office to better understand these regulations. You don’t want to buy your dream plot only to find out you can’t build that dock you’ve been imagining, or even worse, not even be able to build a home on it.

Then there’s the issue of beach erosion. Coastal properties are particularly susceptible to this. Maine’s coastline is constantly changing, and in a lot of places, it’s eroding quickly. This can impact not just the size of your beach, but also the safety and value of your property. I recommend that you look into any historical erosion data that you can find, and talk to local experts to get a sense of what you might be dealing with.

Flooding is another factor to consider. If you’re a Mainer or visit regularly, you are probably aware of the storms that swept through over the winter, causing destructive flooding in areas that never experienced anything like that in the past. Waterfront properties are at a higher risk for flooding, which can lead to expensive damage and insurance costs. FEMA flood maps can give you an idea of the flood risk in the area you're considering. You’ll also want to check if the property is in a floodplain, and what that means for your insurance premiums.


I also want to talk about the water quality. Whether you’re looking at oceanfront or a lake property, the quality of the water can affect everything from your enjoyment of swimming and fishing to the overall health of the local ecosystem. Check for any advisories or historical issues with pollution.

As a realtor here in Maine, I always tell my clients that a little legwork upfront can go a long way in ensuring your waterfront dream doesn’t turn into a nightmare. So, do your research, ask the right questions, and then you can sip your morning coffee on your porch, watching the sun rise over the water.

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