It's been nearly four years since my family and I moved to Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia, and it's been amazing to live that lake life! However, there are some things to consider if you're thinking of making a move to a lakefront home, so I'm sharing things I wish I had known so I could have been a bit more prepared.
Almost four years ago, my husband and I decided not to wait for retirement to start living the life we dreamed of, so we sold our house and moved to the lake! It’s truly been a dream, but we were clueless about all things lake-life. I’ve been learning a lot since moving here, so I wanted to share some handy tips with you if you’re considering moving to the lake.
Tip #1: Map Out the Lake Before House Hunting
Now this may not apply to all lakes, but Lake Oconee is a long, skinny lake, which means if you live on one end of the lake, it can take well over an hour by boat to get to the other end of the lake.
We fell in love with the first house we looked at on Lake Oconee…but so did a bunch of other people, so we went into a bidding war.
However, it was a blessing in disguise. The home we fell in love with was actually on one of the northernmost points on Lake Oconee. To get anywhere outside of our immediate cove, we would have had to navigate through some pretty stumpy and shallow lake beds, and then spend most of our boat time getting to our destination to hang out with friends, have dinner, etc.
Getting to know the lake you’re going to call home is a good idea before you go falling in love with any particular area or homesite. Take into account how long of a boat ride it will take to get to the hot spots. And if you have friends already on the lake, find out how far away from them you will be.
Know your target area, then go house hunting.
Tip #2: Understand the Added Cost of Lake Life
It just costs more to live on the lake, and I don’t just mean because you’ll want to buy a boat.
I guess in the back of my head, I knew we’d have added expenses. But when you’re in the thick of moving to your dream home, you don’t consider all the extras.
When you live on the lake, you have to keep in mind the cost of maintaining your dock, boat lift, and sea wall. All of those things are expensive to maintain and have to be kept up so you don’t have serious damage down the road.
For example, when we bought our first boat, a wakeboard boat, we had to have our boat lift changed to accommodate it. We’ve since sold that boat and purchased a pontoon, and now we have to have the lift changed again to accommodate the pontoon. It can get into the thousands of dollars to change the bunks and any additional pulleys to handle the weight and build of your boat.
Also keep in mind when looking at lake houses the age of the existing dock. If possible, try working repairs, if needed, into the offer price. A complete dock rebuild for us will end up costing about $15,000-$20,000, so it’s not something you want to ignore.
Tip #3: Lake Effect Weather is Real
We have family who live on Lake Michigan – a much, much, MUCH larger lake than Lake Oconee. We’ve always heard about “lake effect” weather, but until we moved here, we didn’t realize just how much effect the lake can have on the weather conditions.
When it’s rainy and cold in town, it’s always really windy and even colder at home. The wind blowing off that lake feels like it’s going to cut our house in half sometimes. It knocks over furniture and grills and can really do some damage.
It isn’t something you can avoid, but you can be prepared. We’ve had to run outside many times to batten down the hatches because storms blow up so quickly around here!
Tip #4: Tourists Don't Know Boat Safety
My husband has a bit of road rage on the highways, and he also has a bit of boat rage on the water during high tourist seasons. Boat safety is something you have to take the time to learn when you live on the lake – understanding the meaning of all the buoys, how to properly dock a boat, who has the right of way, no wake zones…
Unfortunately, during busy seasons when there are a lot of people from out of town, you have to deal with stupidity, which makes the waterways extra dangerous.
I can’t tell you how many times we see people blow through no wake zones at a high speed, or ignore right of way and almost cause an accident. We’ve seen boats sink because they ignore buoys that mark sandbars, too.
After living here a while, we’ve learned when to stick to our little area by our house instead of heading out into open water. It’s just easier (and safer) sometimes to avoid the craziness altogether and stick close to home.
Tip #5: Be Prepared to Feel Semi-Retired
I’m not going to lie – living on the lake full-time definitely slowed down our pace of life. It just goes hand in hand! So if you’re not already retired, you’ll feel like you are well on your way!
It’s not unusual for us to hop on the boat for a short trip down the lake to grab dinner on a random Tuesday afternoon. We spend more time outside, even if we’re not on the water.
And every sunset is spectacular. We never miss it. And we also always point it out: “Oh, look at that sunset!” or “Isn’t that sunset gorgeous?!” It’s a daily occurrence to just stare out of the window, completely lost in the beauty of the water.
Living on the lake is a dream come true, and I’m so glad we didn’t wait for retirement to enjoy it. Yes, there are some things we wish we had known, but we’ve learned and adapted.
If you’re considering a move to the lake, I say just go for it. You won’t regret it!
A bad day on the lake is better than a good day anywhere else!
QUICK LAKE TIPS
A couple of last-minute quick tips:
- There are a lot of bugs and snakes. They live here, too, so be prepared to handle it. Mayflies take over and show up by the billions (yes, really) several times throughout the summer!
- When buying a home, remember that you can’t change the water but you can change the home. If you want to be on deep water as opposed to a cove, you may have to settle for a lesser home that you work on over time.
Happy Lake Life!