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Sep. 20, 2017
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Docks definitely matter (in lake home values)

By Bev Knight
 
 
One of the most often overlooked aspects of a lake home’s value is the dock. While the quality of the dock won’t necessarily sell the house, it is often a tiebreaker when two homes have similar values. You might be surprised at how many million dollar lake homes have deteriorating or even unsafe old docks. The higher the price tag, the more important it is to maintain your dock properly. Here are a few suggestions for ensuring that your dock is an asset, not a liability.

Flotation – As you know, Lanier is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ lake; so, the dock must meet the guidelines they set. They do require that the floats under your dock be encapsulated, not just the naked Styrofoam. When you transfer the ownership of the dock, the Corps will come out for an inspection. If the dock has the old flotation, they are going to require that the new owners get the encapsulated kind before they will transfer the permit. If they do an inspection for your renewal, the same rules apply. Replacing the flotation is fairly expensive, but you are going to have to do it eventually to keep your dock permit. A savvy lake real estate agent will certainly know that and will deduct the cost of replacing the flotation (and probably more) from their offers.  
 
There are quite a few companies who do this type of work, but it is in your best interest to find a reputable, experienced company who knows the Corps’ rules. Be sure to ask them how they dispose of the old flotation. Many just push it out into the cove and let if float away while others haul it to an island and dump it. That creates eyesores all over the lake, and groups like the Lake Lanier Association have to hold clean-up days to remove it. Instead, find a company who follows Corps’ guidelines on flotation disposal. We all share this lake, so we should all do our best to be responsible stewards of its beauty and cleanliness.
 
Safety – Keep your dock safe, well-maintained and in good working order to ensure the well-being of anyone who might use it. Watch out for jagged edges and loose boards that might become tripping hazards. Don’t let any part of the dock break off and become a boating obstacle for other lake users. Control the rust on metal parts so the framing remains strong and durable. And by all means, make sure the boards on your dock are solid and adequate for their intended purpose. Potential buyers will definitely walk out on your dock. Aside from the fact that maintaining the dock is the right thing to do, you do not want the liability of someone getting hurt on a faulty dock. Replace rotting boards and be sure they are well-secured with screws, not nails. 
 
Stay Afloat – As lake levels rise and fall, you definitely want to keep your dock in the water. This is crucial because it has a huge impact on the salability of the property as a whole, and it keeps your flotation from deteriorating. Sometimes it will crack when it dries out. If moving your dock is a physical challenge for you, there are quite a few companies who, for a fairly reasonable fee, will make sure your dock keeps its “feet wet” by repositioning it as water levels change. You don’t even have to call them. Once the contract is made, they just keep up with lake levels and handle it. If you don’t know who to call, ask a lake real estate agent or Google “Lake Lanier dock service.”
 
Appearance – Let’s face it, docks age quickly. They are constantly exposed to the sun, weather, waves, and wildlife. Even docks that are structurally sound often look old and tired. One inexpensive trick is to pressure wash the boards to make them look newer. If you get an inexpensive pump, you can even use the lake as your water source. (It just runs right back into the lake once it washes your dock.) Sometimes you can simply flip the boards to put the fresher side up and make it appear newer. After the boards are clean, apply a sealer to preserve the wood. Also, don’t leave ropes, paddles, floats and other junk on your dock. That clutter just becomes a home for spiders and makes the dock look smaller. Put lake items in a dock box or secure them in a way that looks organized, not cluttered. 

Stairs
– Like just about every aspect of lake living, the Corps has guidelines for the installation of dock stairs. These guidelines exist to make sure your stairs are safe and long-lasting. Be aware that the permission for stairs does have to be added to your dock permit, and there are very specific rules for how they have to be built. Check with your contractor to make sure he knows the guidelines, or you can go to the Corps’ website and read them for yourself. (Google U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lanier.)

In fact, it’s a smart practice to visit the guidelines section of their website periodically to make sure you are in compliance. For example, they do not generally allow ceiling fans under the roof of a dock. If you have an old grandfathered-in boat house, you can’t rebuild it with a newer type of material. You can rehab it but only with the type of material originally used in construction. If you have a party deck, they don’t allow a gate on the lake side (because they don’t want people jumping off the roof). These are the types of issues that come up on a dock permit transfer or a permit renewal if there is an inspection.
 
Double-slip permit – The largest dock currently allowed on Lanier is 32’ x 32’. That does not include older docks that are grandfathered-in. In most cases, a dock that size will be a double-slip dock. If you want to maximize the value of your resale, consider applying for a double-slip (or 32’ x 32’) dock permit. You don’t necessarily have to put that size dock in place before the sale; but, just having a permit for the top size dock is a nice incentive for a buyer who wants a big dock. Be aware that if you decide not to sell the house, you may need to upgrade your dock or lose that designation on your permit at some point. Like everything, the Corps has rules about dock size upgrades. At full pool, the end of your dock (lake side, not shore side) will need to be at least 50’ from the next dock. You can’t impede docks beyond your dock from accessing the path out of the cove. Again, consult the Corps’ site for more information. Note that, because they prefer to take measurements at full pool, you may need to wait for the lake to rise before they’ll let you upgrade. 
 
The lake, dock and view add considerable value to your home, sometimes as much as $250k. It makes sense to take care of the dock just as you care for the home and yard. It’s just part of living on the lake; and in the end, you will be the one who benefits from it.
 
Bev Knight is the lead agent for The Good Life Group, Lake Lanier specialists with Keller Williams Lanier Partners. You can reach Bev through her website at www.HousesOnLanier.net. Many thanks to Joanna Cloud of The Lake Lanier Association and Marine Specialties for their contributions to this article.

Posted online 5/1/17
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