Recently I had a phone call from a Bastrop agent who had run into a problem while handling a waterfront sale on Lake Travis. Unfortunately, the agent had never sold property on Lake Travis and had no idea of the many pitfalls. I am not sure if I was able to help him recover his fumble, but it did remind me how complicated real estate can be on the Highland Lakes. In fact I have said many times that I consider waterfront transactions on lakes Travis, LBJ, Marble Falls. Inks, and Buchanan to be some of the most complicated in Central Texas.
One friend and past client mentioned a while back that I told him a major truth when I sold him his place on Lake Travis. He reminded me that I said buying waterfront was all about compromises. He said the more he has learned about the lake, the more he understands what I meant. It is so difficult to find the entire package. So, why is it so complicated? Let’s take a look at the three biggest factors that must be considered on Lake Travis, for example.
The first consideration is the flood plain, which is now 722′ above sea level . . . six feet higher than it was when most homes were built. In other words, a great many of the homes are now located waist deep in the 100-year flood zone. The irony is that buyers scarcely think about the flood plain in times of extreme drought. Looking at a largely, empty lake (623′) from a lofty 722′ elevation just makes the very idea flooding seem ridiculous. Even if a buyer is willing to risk residing in the flood zone, any institutional lender is going to require flood insurance. After a couple of misfires, Congress has instructed NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) to steadily increase rates over the next five years until the program is self sufficient. Homeowners in the flood plain are in for a very unpleasant shock.
Secondly, and just as important, are waterfront rights. Many of the docks on Lake Travis are floating over some other owner’s land. This is a growing problem as the water retreats and homeowners add stairways to land they do not own. The waterfront may be owned by LCRA, the HOA, the developer, or a neighbor.
Lastly, is the question of water depth. On Lake LBJ, most of the shoreline is silted up, making it difficult to have deep water under the dock. On Lake Travis, the wildly fluctuating water level only intensifies the challenge. A prospective property owner must consider what the depth would be at flood stage and at drought stage. Currently, Lake Travis owners are discovering that buyers have little interest in hiking one hundred vertical feet to and from the water’s edge. They REALLY have no interest in what was once waterfront that now has no water.
Having served on numerous committees and panels for the LCRA, as well as having been a waterfront owner on Lake Travis for thirty plus years, I have the experience to guide buyers who are interested in lakefront properties.
Jeff Stewart, CCIM, SRES
Stanberry & Associates, Realtors