Photo courtesy FreeImages.com/Morgan Lukas

By Kateri Wozny, GateHouse Media

There’s nothing like living on the ocean shore — the breathtaking views, fun in the sun and the smell of the water.

“Owning waterfront property is a lifestyle and it is important to understand your intended use for the property,” said Liz Levey-Pruyn, with the Seacoast Dwellings Team of RE/MAX Shoreline. “It is a wonderful privilege that should bring you joy and hopefully appreciate in value.”

Before buying your dream oceanfront home, consider these five factors:

1. Determine what type of oceanfront property you want.

Will it be used for beach, boating, swimming, fishing or is living on a rocky coastline with an ocean view your goal? When it comes to purchasing, it all boils down to a person’s preferences.

“Some oceanfront homes border on beautiful, white sandy beaches. In New Hampshire, the beaches are public — so a buyer has to realize that the beach in front of their house can be for everyone’s use,” said Sara Treacy, broker with RE/MAX Shoreline in Portsmouth, NH.

An oceanfront buyer, after looking around, may opt for living on a quiet body of water such as a cove or bay where having a dock is a possibility.

2. Check town and state regulations to determine if renovations are allowed.

Are there regulations regarding future renovations to the home? Depending on the flood zone, the owner may be required to put all heated living space and systems above ground level, said Levey-Pruyn.

“If the home will need renovating, make sure you can make the changes that will be important for you,” she said.

3. Check FEMA maps to determine the flood zone, and get a flood insurance quote.

FEMA maps are helpful and show various levels of flood risks.

“As an example, you want to ask yourself, will this type of construction withstand the big storm? The 100 year flood to which FEMA refers on its website?” Treacy said. “If you are financing your purchase of an oceanfront home your bank will require flood insurance. Although costly, it is a necessary protection for the homeowner.”

Levey-Pruyn also said the different categories for flood zones will determine if any special insurance is required.

“If flood insurance in required, understand the cost and what the coverage includes,” Levey-Pruyn said. “If you are paying cash you may not be required to purchase flood insurance. However, you may want to understand the consequences if you don’t.”

To find a reliable insurance agent, Treacy recommends asking your Realtor for the name of a dependable, local insurance agent or visiting the FEMA and National Flood Insurance Program websites.

4. Check the history of previous flooding and erosion of sand dunes.

It’s critical to know the history of erosion on the beach in front of your house, and the condition of the seawall — and whose responsibility it is to take care of them, so your home will be protected against a large wave or storm.

Treacy recommends asking the seller, the local code enforcement officer and the state’s Department of Environmental Services when researching.

Levey-Pruyn also recommends asking neighbors important questions about the area, such as if cable and internet services are available, impact of storm surges and if there is an association with restrictions or fees.

“It is important to understand the area and also what part of the water frontage you will own,” Levey-Pruyn said.

5. If the house doesn’t have town water and sewer, check the water quality.

A home inspector will inspect the septic system, identify the type of system and diagnose its condition. It’s important to know the type and age of system in case the system has to be replaced in the future.

Local and state requirements have to be followed and may require an upgrade to an old system.

In the big picture, Levey-Pruyn recommends working with a Realtor experienced in waterfront property who knows the local area.

“Work with a professional who can educate you, who understands your needs and who will guide you to ask the important questions — so in the end you’re a happy and satisfied owner of a beautiful oceanfront home.”