By Cindy Atoji Keene
While hunting for waterfront property for his real estate clients, Scott Freerksen quickly discovered that it was difficult to sift through multiple listings to find homes directly situated on a lake. With terminology such as “across the street,” “within walking distance,” “riverfront” and “oceanfront,” it was hard to find actual direct lakefront property– in fact, said Freerksen, one such advertised listing merely had a pool. So nine years ago, the Mansfield broker created Lakefrontliving.com as an agency specializing solely on the purchase and sale of pond and lakefront property in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. “There are 15,000 properties coded as lakefront in the Multiple Listing Service, but of those, just 2,000 can be considered direct lakefront,” said Freerksen. Freerksen, who lives on Bungay Lake in Mansfield and North Attleboro, a 110-acre private lake, said that nothing compares to lake living. “It changes the way you live. Every morning, the lake provides a backdrop to recreation, wildlife, and pure relaxation.”
Buying lakefront property is unlike any other real estate, from conservation and water quality issues to flood insurance and dock maintenance. “You don’t want to find out after the sale that someone else has control over draining the lake, or that your favorite sport isn’t allowed,” said Freerksen, who has created a searchable public database of freshwater information to help with more precise property searches, compiled from MLS (Multiple Listing Service), conservation commissions, lake associations, and fish and game data.
Q: What are the hot lakefront properties at the moment?
A: Webster Lake is really popular. It’s the one with the crazy long name, also called Lake Chaubunagungamaug. This lake was mostly undiscovered for a long time but now is one of the largest fully recreational lakes in Massachusetts, with restaurants and marinas and a plethora of recreational activities. In New Hampshire, Lake Winnipesaukee gets a lot of attention, but there are two to three lakes that are just as spectacular and smaller and more intimate, such as Newfound Lake and Lake Wentworth.
Q. If you buy a lakefront home, do you also own a part of the lake itself?
A: Usually your property would end at the “high water line.” This height is usually determined by the top of the dam spillway. But there are certainly lakes where you have a deeded extension into the lake, sometimes 25 to 50 feet. There are also a couple lakes in Massachusetts where the lakefront residents own the lake in common.
Q: What’s the most unusual lakefront home that you’ve seen?
A: A really cool house on Big Spectacle Pond in Lancaster had a deck design and was really unique. It was very Frank Lloyd Wright-ish with an open design, exposed beams, and extended balconies.
Q: You helped location scouts find an isolated lake setting for the Martin Scorsese film, Shutter Island. How did that come about?
A: They found me from a Google search and asked me to help them look for a particular period piece. They wanted an isolated lake setting with shallow water and no modern houses in the background. I took them around to various lakes, and it was fun to see their selection process. They choose a little stone cottage on Borderland State Park in Sharon.
Q: How has real estate for lakefront property changed in the last few years?
A: Five or six years ago, it was out of reach, since prices were out of the world. Now it’s more affordable, and some buyers are purchasing and hold a lakefront cottage for future retirement. We’re also seeing a strong interest in seasonal lakefront resorts, such as small, but upscale single-family homes (cottages) in cluster developments with a condo format.
Q: How did you discover the lake that you live on?
A: I was born and raised on this lake; my wife also grew up here. You’ll find that once people move onto a body of water, they tend not to move away. It becomes an intergenerational family compound.
Q: What’s the biggest fish that you’ve caught here?
A: A five-pound, large-mouth bass. There are bigger ones out there – I just can’t seem to find them.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
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