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Jan. 29, 2020
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Finding the right location for your lake house

By Bev Knight

One of the most common questions lake agents hear is, “Where is the best place to live on Lake Lanier?” 
 
There is definitely NOT just one answer to that question. It depends on your budget, commute requirements, neighborhood preferences, and many other factors. The truth is every part of the lake is perfect for someone. Here is a quick primer on how to find the right area for you.
 
Generally speaking, the lake is divided into two sections, north and south lake with Browns Bridge as the dividing line. Some call the area just south of the bridge central lake, but for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll just go with north and south lake. To further delineate, the east side of the lake is closest to I-985 and the west side is on the GA 400 corridor. The northeast quadrant is most of Gainesville, Murrayville and Lula. The northwest is mostly Dawsonville with a few fingers of the surrounding cities. The southwest quadrant is Cumming. The southeast is Buford, Flowery Branch and Oakwood.
 
Which section is right for you depends on your personal constraints and requirements. If you are a sailboat enthusiast, you’ll want to stick to south lake. Why? Because most sailboats cannot get under Browns Bridge (the actual bridge, not the road), so all those marinas, regattas and residences are south of the bridge. 
 
Do you have a limited budget? Don’t we all? Some areas are more affordable than others. The most expensive and most requested area is the southwest quadrant which is basically Cumming. The reason is that so many people work on the 400 corridor and want the easiest commute. If price is your main concern and you need the west side of the lake, consider Dawsonville. It is just north of Cumming and there are some great deals to be had there. We’ve heard buyers say that Dawsonville has a reputation for shallow water. That is simply not true. There are many, many deep-water properties in Dawsonville. 
 
Another often-mentioned requirement is a quick commute into Atlanta. Buyers look at a map and see that Buford and Cumming are closest to the big A as the crow flies; but, here’s something you might not have considered. You’re not a crow. There are parts of the southernmost lake properties where it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get to the interstate. Whereas, a little farther north, you’re on the interstate in a couple of minutes and don’t hit traffic until you get close to I-85. It may take the same amount of time to get into the big city from Gainesville as it does Buford, depending on which location you choose. The best way to know is to drive the commute before you buy the house. Why bother Because you might get a better deal in Gainesville which has a lot of lake houses versus Buford which only has a few. 
 
Are you searching by city but not finding the house you want? This exposes two problems. First, most national sites like Zillow or realtor.com do not have a lake-only search. Consider visiting one of the top lake agents’ sites. Not only do they display their own listings, but they offer lake-only searches of all listings. Most of them don’t make you sign up, so you don’t have to endure the solicitous emails.

Second, are you searching all the cities around the lake? You probably know about Buford, Gainesville, Cumming and Dawsonville. But don’t forget to include Flowery Branch, Oakwood, Murrayville, Lula and there are a few in Dahlonega. You may also use lake sites such as lakehouse.com or lakehomesusa.com. A word of advice: don’t depend on online services to determine a lake home’s value. They are calculated through computer algorithms that cannot take into account water depth, view, path to the lake and other lake-related factors. Ask a lake agent to give you an estimate of value. Most of the top agents will do that for free with no obligation. 
 
Some people move to the lake for peace and quiet, while others are looking for high energy and lots of activities. Generally speaking, there is less boat traffic on north lake and more to do on south lake. That said, there are some quiet coves on south lake and several busy areas on north lake. Your best bet is to find an agent who knows the lake and can tell you what to expect in the areas where you’re looking.
 
If you are not finding a home in your price range, consider this: Deep water, great views, easy walk to the lake and other desirable features carry a higher price tag. You may have to compromise your requirements to get on the lake at a price you can afford. Remember that coves can be dredged to make them deeper, and sometimes the best fishing is in the shallower coves. You can trim the trees on YOUR property to improve the view. And if you have a medical necessity, you can usually get a cart permit from the Corps, so a steep path becomes a non-issue. Trust me when I tell you that living the good life on Lake Lanier is worth the effort.
 
Bev Knight is the lead agent for The Good Life Group, Lake Lanier specialists with Keller Williams Lanier Partners. Her team sells over $40 million in real estate a year, mostly on Lanier. If you want to see other articles or ask her a question, you can visit her web site at www.HousesOnLanier.net. You can also call 678-860-0990 or email bev@housesonlanier.net.

Posted online 12.26.19
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