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Most buyers begin their search online and this is an excellent way to start. However, we highly recommend that you include a visit to the lake early in the process to get familiar with the Smith Mountain Lake real estate market. This will help you get a better feel for the various areas of the lake and its neighborhoods which vary quite significantly from quaint areas to refined high end neighborhoods. This will also go a long way toward providing your agent with a strong understanding of your specific needs and desires.
When searching for a property at Smith Mountain Lake (SML), many first time buyers become perplexed because they visit multiple homes within their set price range and notice a significant difference in the size, quality, and condition of the homes. The primary reason for this is that the value of the lot at SML is such a high percentage of the overall value of the property and fairly subtle differences in the lots can lead to large value differences. In a typical non-lakefront residential neighborhood, one might pay $50,000 for a very nice lot to support a $500,000 dream home. In this instance, the percentage of value of land to home is only 10 percent. At SML, it is not at all uncommon for the value of the land to be far greater than that that of the improvements (home, dock etc). For example, I recently sold a property with a modest home for $770,000. The value of the improvements (home and dock) on this property was approximately $150,000. The land on the other hand, ranked extremely high on all of the factors that constitute a premium waterfront lot at SML. The ratio of value of land to lot on this property is 81 percent! At SML, it is just as likely that a perspective buyer will be able to find a $770,000 home where the numbers are reversed- lot $150,000 and home $520,000. To complicate matters, each scenario can easily occur on the same street!
There is history that drives the above information. When SML reached full pond in 1968, waterfront lots were abundant and inexpensive. The $770,000 property described above originally sold for just $38,000 with a $20 cash deposit! Because the value of land was so reasonable in the early days of the lake, many new owners purchased premium lots and built small cabins on them. For this reason, owners that are interested in building a home on a waterfront lot need to be aware that it is not only important to shop for available lots, but also to shop for legacy homes that have premium lots.
Clearly whether you are looking for a home for sale at Smith Mountain Lake or a lot on which to build, it is absolutely critical to understand what factors go into the value of the land. The experience of your agent is
extremely valuable here. Understand that no two lots are alike, and that there is no such thing as a waterfront lot that is “perfect” in every respect. comparing the size of lots and calculating price per acre is virtually meaningless. Every purchaser has a budget and must make tradeoffs.
I always recommend that the buyer of a home consider not only their overall budget, but roughly what percentage of that budget is to be dedicated to the home, dock and other improvements versus the lot. This should be done while keeping in mind that there is typically little that can be done to improve a lot after purchase, but an existing home and dock can always be upgraded over time. I have put together a guide to help educate new home and lot buyers on the factors that go into lot value (See request form below). Keep in mind that not all sellers appreciate these factors either and so it is entirely possible for them to overprice their lot making it a poor investment to the perspective buyer. Your agent’s experience and ability to weed out incorrectly priced lots can be invaluable. Yes, it goes far beyond location-location-location. My guide is divided up into “primary” and “secondary” factors to consider when purchasing a lot. The primary factors have the most significant influence on the value of any Smith Mountain Lake lot. Lots that have excellent qualities in all of the primary factors are rare and can command a very high price. Because the quality of lots can range substantially, the price range of a waterfront building lot ranges from approximately $150,000 to well over $1,000,000 at Smith Mountain Lake.
Experience is needed to help ensure that you purchase the lot with the best features for your budget and do not over pay for what you are getting. Experience also helps avoid potential pit falls such as running into shoreline issues that impede construction of a dock that you had in mind. My satisfaction comes from successfully assisting my clients through this process. I look forward to the opportunity to work with you.