Property Search: Why It’s a Must Before Purchasing Waterfront Property

There are many inspections, forms and processes that must be carried out before someone purchases a home or property, especially if it’s on or near the water. One of the most important investigations a potential home or property owner can conduct before considering a particular piece of land for purchase is a property search.

A property search primarily deals with water surrounding a property. It identifies the water that stands on or flows through a property, as well as the probability of flooding based on a property’s vicinity to water sources. While not required, a property search should always be carried out before buying a property that has water running across it, standing water or is located near a source of water. Property searches also consider Riparian water rights, which deal with the ownership of water.

Here’s what you need to know.

What Are Riparian Rights?

Riparian rights are a set of rules that dictate the ownership of flowing or standing bodies of water that exist on privately-owned land. While Riparian rights aren’t standardized across the entire US, the rights do affect Eastern States with a large concentration of wetlands, tidelands and other bodies of water, such as New Jersey.

Riparian rights in NJ deal with public and private ownership of water, primarily including:

  • The rights of a property owner to build out or expand property into the water
  • Protecting navigable waters for use by the general public
  • Protecting multiple landowners who own property that share a water source

One of the most important aspects that Riparian law dictates is a property owner’s ability to expand his or her property onto or into a body of water, such as a dock or pier.

While each case is different, navigable waters—essentially any body of water that’s able to be navigated by boat or other craft—is owned by the state. It’s the state’s responsibility to make sure land owners don’t build out too much into the water to the point that it affects the navigability of it, or the general public’s ability to navigate it with a boat or other craft.

So, while a waterfront property owner who wishes to build a dock off of his or her property into navigable waters may have Riparian rights that allow them to do so, the rights also give the state a say. The state has the ability to decide if a dock is obtrusive to the navigability of the water, or if the structure intrudes on another landowner’s rights to build onto, or navigate the water themselves.

Riparian Rights also pertains to tidelands claims, which deal with the building of structures and property on state mandated tidelands. For more information about tidelands (also known as riparian lands), visit the NJ Division Of Land Use Regulations page.

Flood Zone Identification

A property search can also help identify flood zones and the effects that flooding could have on insurable structures of a property. By identifying flood zones and predicting the effects they could have on insurable structures, an accurate picture of the scope of flood insurance required can be ascertained. It can also tell you if flood insurance is required by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Being knowledgeable about flood zones and their potential effect on a piece of property can influence future construction and expansion decisions, potentially avoiding a disaster if an extension or new structure were to be built in a flood zone. A property search can also tell you if a property will be required to have flood insurance by FEMA—something would be required if the property is in a hundred year flood zone, for example.

Bringing It Back To Dry Land

It’s obvious that a property search must be carried out if you’re considering purchasing a waterfront property, piece of property prone to flooding or a property where you would have Riparian rights as a property owner. Without a property search, home or building owners can be caught totally unaware of the risks facing their property, resulting in a potential loss of property and funds.

Considering purchasing a piece of land that may need a property search? Contact the best in the industry for reliable, up-to-date and quick property searches before signing on the dotted line.