Can You Own Your Own Lake in Ohio? The Pinnacle of Ohio Lake Living
That was a question I asked myself when I first got into the real estate industry and started focusing on the lakefront property. And I thought “how great would it be if I owned my own lake?” It’s idealistic. You don’t have to share any part of the lake with anyone else: you don’t share boating space, all of your views are beautiful lake views, you’ll never see another house whenever you look across the lake, and there are no pesky HOA rules and regulations to follow. It’s the perfect situation if owning a lakefront home is what you want. And after working with several clients who have asked me if it is possible to own their lake; the answer is yes, in Ohio it is entirely possible to own your own lake. BUT…it’s costly. When I say costly I mean anywhere from half a million to several million depending on what avenue you take. The plus is that at a lot of lakefront communities, such as Hoover Reservoir and Apple Valley you a already at that price point, but you share the lake and have to abide by the specific rules and regulations. The downfall is that private lakes tend to be a lot smaller in size. But if a private lake is an option you want to pursue there are three routes somebody can take.
1. Find a home that already has its own lake for sale
Every blue moon there is a house that comes on the market that has its own lake on the property, in the year 2016 there was one. Let’s be clear, if you plan on having a body of water big enough to power boat on, then you will need a body of water that’s at least 50 acres, anything else and it would be too small to efficiently power boat on. Properties with bodies of water of 50 acres and higher are very rare. Now, if you say “I just want to fish and kayak”, then a much smaller body of water will probably work. 5 acres and bigger would probably do the trick, aka a “pond” instead of a lake. But this isn’t going to give you the panoramic views that a big lake will. Understand what kind of body of water you need before pursuing this option as it will greatly increase both the cost of purchase, and (as I will discuss a little later) the cost of upkeep and maintenance. However, this option saves buyers a lot of time and hassle in exchange for the cost, as there is already a home and a lake present, the cost of construction would be minimal. Most properties with its own lake that come up happen to be exquisite properties.
2. Find and buy a quarry or natural lake
This option is a little tougher as properties with their own natural quarry or natural lake filled with watershed are also uncommon. These properties do come up every once in a while, half a dozen this year at least, but some of them are too small or are not filed up with water., which essentially makes it a giant hole in the ground, not a lake. At that point you would have to consult with an engineering firm or developer on how to fill it. Both types of properties also run the risk of being in remote locations with hard ways to get access. But, the great part is that there is little maintenance, these natural sites have no dam to maintain or have regulated by the ODNR. These properties are also hard to find simply because knowledge of them is limited (where we come in) most of these types of properties are usually owned by developers that were using the quarry before it filled up, or have these small natural lakes that were part of mass land buys for projects that were never undertaken. These properties are also often located in the hidden nooks and crannies within Ohio on large pieces of family property mostly used for hunting or logging. So it’s important to have a way to know where these properties are and when they come up for sale. The other thing to remember is that these properties do not have homes and so the cost of building a home will have to be calculated in.
3. Buy property and build a dam / create your own lake
This is probably the most complex option but is the one way to make sure you have an appropriate sized lake, especially if you are looking to have one above 50 acres, possibly 100 acres or more. This option also may save you some time waiting for a property to come along from the first two categories as it may take a while to find one that suites you, whereas the time to build a dam and home may be shorter. The first step of option 3 would be to find the right land for sale; one that has a natural valley in it of some kind and that could have a dam built on it in order to fill up said valley with water. The property will also need to be far enough away from large populations in order to get approved by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (all dam projects have to be approved with ODNR) Now good news is that we work with an engineering firm that specifically works on dams and so the firm would be ready to help find a property that would be suitable. The thing to remember is that a dam is expensive, and you have to also purchase the land separately as well as build a home on the lake after the dam is built. But, although this may be the most complicated option it may not be as expensive as option 1. Although the dam is costly, the cost of the land and new home build would be up to you. However, the thing to understand is that once the dam is built it will require yearly maintenance and inspections done by the ODNR that will lead to repairs needed done after certain periods of time.
So, all in all it is possible to own your own lake here in Ohio, but make sure to talk to your lakefront specialist to see if this what would suite you best or if another option would work better. Also make sure to work with your specialist about which option would be best for you if this is indeed the option you decide to pursue.