Pensacola and the Emerald Coast is renowned for its beautiful beaches and gorgeous waterfront properties, making it an ideal place for real estate investors who are looking to expand their portfolio or home buyers seeking a small slice of paradise to call their own.

However, buying waterfront properties come with their own set of nuances than your typical home real estate. From the different classifications, types of properties, to laws and regulations surrounding ownership rights of the land beneath the water or even use of the water itself, it’s helpful to be as informed as possible before making a hefty investment. 

In this article, we’ll go over many of the things you’ll need to know about buying waterfront properties.

Classifications of Waterfront Properties

Property listings are generally pretty straightforward. If a house is listed with 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, you can expect just that. However, some properties that are listed as “waterfront properties” may not actually be by definition, what you envision as waterfront. It could simply be a home that has a view to water, shared access to water, or even communal water privileges. 

Since “waterfront property” is used as a catch-all term, thus making it subjective, it’s best to understand the four different classifications of waterfront properties to avoid confusion or misleading listings.


The term “waterfront” refers to any property that has a direct connection to a body of water. This includes:

  • Oceans
  • Seas
  • Bays
  • Lakes
  • Rivers
  • Streams

 In some cases, the term is even used to describe rural properties with large ponds or dams. 

Water View

Water view properties are more susceptible to subjective and sneaky listing tactics. So here’s where it pays to know the difference between waterfront and water view.

Water view is having a view of water from your property. Where it starts to get tricky is when you examine exactly where and how much of the view of water you have from your property.

For example, you might have a view of the water from a small side window, between houses, down a street and even between trees. Or maybe you have a house situated on a seaside cliff, overlooking the ocean; if it doesn’t have a direct connection to the water, it’s not technically “waterfront.”

Something to bear in mind with water view properties, is that views from properties can change over time, naturally and due to adjacent landowners and future development. 

Water Access

Water access can “be part of a privilege (community amenity), available by way of an easement or even through your own property. Many times properties may not have water frontage or even a water view but may have access to the water through an easement or community amenity. You may own waterfront property but not be able to access the water reasonably. 

Many times you can have water access even without riparian rights. Having a pier without riparian rights would classify as access as would not having a pier but being granted access through a community or public easement.”

Water Privileged

Water privileges refer to community amenities that allow access to the water either through an easement or community-owned property. This includes:

  • Community boat ramps
  • Beaches, and 
  • Piers

The privileges within these amenities can vary widely and they can also impact the value of your property significantly.

Types of Waterfront Properties in Pensacola

The most common types of waterfront properties are:

  • Beach house
  • Condo
  • Lake house

Pensacola and surrounding areas such as Gulf Breeze, Pensacola Beach, and Perdido Key offer a variety of waterfront options to choose from when buying a property.

These also include:

  • Beach front
  • Gulf front
  • Bay front
  • Sound front
  • Bayou
  • River front, and 
  • Canal front

Since there is so much to know and consider when buying Pensacola waterfront property, the service of highly qualified and experienced real estate agents will help tremendously.

What You Should Consider Before Buying Waterfront Property

Choosing the Right Kind of Water

While it might sound obvious, choosing the right body of water is the first, and most important, decision that you’ll have to make. Living next to the ocean is completely different to living next to a lake, with each person needing to weigh up their own personal preferences with the costs and restrictions involved.

Research the Body of Water and Shoreline History

Whether you’re buying a lake house or a beach hut, buying close to a water body opens you up to a number of potential dangers and unwanted expenses. Shorelines can change dramatically when storms hit, water and dirt don’t always mix in constructive ways, and rising water levels can make your entire home disappear through sand erosion. Always research the history of the water body in question, factor in climate change, and be extra careful when you’re dealing with new properties.

Building Materials and Restrictions

When you’re buying close to water, it’s particularly important to consider the building materials used during construction. Salty sea air can cause major problems if you’re not careful, as can mildew and mold issues from moisture in the air. You should also look into possible building restrictions, with many waterfront properties residing in communities with regulations or subject to legal restrictions which prevent further development.


Check into insurance early because waterfront homeowners in Florida must purchase three policies: 

  • Wind
  • General hazard, and 
  • Flood

Your real estate agent will also have information about the details on insurance requirements for a particular property.


Waterfront specialists are important in the inspection process, and an inspector who has seen many waterfront properties will be invaluable to you. Waterfront homes are often less sheltered from the elements than other properties, so an experienced inspector should be on the lookout for issues associated with moisture, roofing, siding and other components. 

Other inspectors are qualified to inspect:

  • Piers
  • Docks
  • Bulkheads
  • Seawalls, and
  • Shoreline barriers

Be sure to get those checked out before purchasing a waterfront property.

Hidden Costs and Fees

When you’re living on the water, there are other hidden costs to look into other than insurance. Costs such as:

  • Boat, dock and lift fees
  • Permitting fees
  • Water, sewer, and utility rates

Lake properties and other waterfront homes may also be subject to higher property taxes, so don’t forget to research local laws and tax rates or consult with an accountant.

When it comes to real estate, you should never try to do everything yourself. With the added complexities from waterfront properties, having a real estate agent who has the experience and knowledge is crucial to helping you find the right property without the hassle. Contact aDoor Real Estate today!