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What to Know Before Buying a House on Lake Sunapee

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Purchasing a lake home can be an exciting experience, but it is important for buyers to consider a range of factors before making a decision. By carefully considering the location, property features, desired water access and how they will want to utilize the property, buyers can make an informed decision and enjoy their lake home for years to come.

Lake Sunapee is a 4,155-acre glacial lake located in three towns: New London, Newbury and Sunapee. Each town has its own unique characteristics to consider when buying your lakefront home. Research each town as well as what amenities and services are available.

Type of Lakefront Home
Do you prefer a standalone home or a waterfront association with amenities? There are 8 primary waterfront associations located around Lake Sunapee. Many offer features such as club houses, tennis courts, common areas, beaches and marinas.

Year-round or Seasonal Home
Consider your intended use of your Lake Sunapee home. If you envision using your lake house as a primary residence or for frequent year-round stays, a year-round house would be more suitable. On the other hand, if you prefer using it as a vacation home for specific seasons or occasional getaways, a seasonal house might suffice and may be more financially attractive.

Water Access
When considering the purchase of a lakefront home, it is important to take into account the diverse terrain surrounding Lake Sunapee. The area offers a range of possibilities, from gently sloping land and sandy beaches to steep approaches and secluded forested shorelines. Prospective buyers can choose from different options, including properties with private direct waterfront access, those with direct shared access, or even off-water homes that still provide convenient lake access.

Watercraft storage and docks
Regulations governing construction on and near water bodies prioritize the protection of the natural landscape, water quality, and wildlife habitats. If amenities like boat houses or docks are important features, you’ll want to understand the specific requirements and restrictions applicable.

For example, the number of boat slips you can have is based on the average length of shoreline frontage on your waterfront lot. Shoreline frontage is determined by taking the average of the length of a straight line drawn between the points where the side property lines intersect the reference line and the length of the natural frontage between the same points. If you have less than 75 ft. of shoreline, you may be allowed to have a single 4 ft. x 24 ft. dock. However, placing the dock within 20 feet of the abutter's property line requires obtaining the abutter's consent.

To learn more, please view the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) Docks Fact Sheet here.

NH Shoreland Water Quality Protection Act (RSA 483-B)
This Act was put into effect to help protect one of New Hampshire’s most valuable and natural resources – our shorelands. It establishes a set of standards and regulations for any development including existing structures within 250 feet of public waters. For buyers looking to purchase lakefront property on Lake Sunapee or any New Hampshire Lake or waterbody, it’s important to be aware of RSA 483-B as it may impact your options to modify the property including both the lake house, docks, boathouses and other structures on the property, and the land around the house. The Shoreland Protection Act also includes regulations on the location of septic systems and even the use of fertilizers. For a detailed review, read more about the NH Shoreland Water Quality Protection act on the NH Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) site.

Waterfront Site Assessment
A Waterfront Site Assessment is an evaluation of a developed waterfront property that utilizes a septic system, and is located within 200 feet of a body of water such as a lake, river or ocean. A Site Assessment Study is conducted by a New Hampshire DES-permitted septic system designer, and is required “whenever any part of the property is within 200 feet of the reference line, not merely when the structure or septic disposal system is within 200 feet of the reference line”*.

When buying a lakefront property, the site assessment form is to be provided by the property owner to the prospective buyer prior to executing a purchase and sale agreement.

Water Quality
If you are unsure of what New Hampshire lake you prefer to buy a waterfront home on, you may want to consider how essential water quality is to your purchase. While it may be tempting to assume that a picturesque lake will always maintain its pristine condition, that’s not necessarily the case due to the increased development that has occurred. Harmful algae blooms have been known to pose significant risks to both humans and pets, while invasive species like millfoil can swiftly detract from the enjoyment of your lake or pond. Addressing these issues is not a simple task and is likely to directly impact the value of your property. To learn more about water quality and Lake Sunapee, visit the Lake Sunapee Protective Association (LSPA) website.


If you have questions regarding buying a home on Lake Sunapee, or are interested in exploring other New Hampshire Lakes, give us a call 603-252-6428 or reach out any of our area experts.


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