How Much Does It Cost To Build A Small Lake House?

How much does it cost to build a house on the lake?

Building costs are $120-150 per sq ft. Most houses are 3000+ sq ft. At 3000sf and using the lowest price per sq ft the house will cost $360,000, add the lot at $150,000, add a dock (at least $30k and can go over $100k), and you are at $540,000.

What are the disadvantages of living near a lake?

The most pressing concern is the increased exposure to natural risk. Sea levels are rising and can dampen the shorelines or severely impact entire communities. Storm surges can erode property. Often times, waterfront properties are more susceptible to wind damage.


Construction costs

The cost of construction for a lake house depends on many factors. The location and size of the lot are important factors, as are the land requirements and the terrain. Many other costs are involved in the construction process, including architectural and engineering services, permits, inspections, and other fees. A large part of the total construction cost goes to the excavation of the property. The geological engineer will assess the soils to ensure they are suitable for building. Another significant expense is the geotechnical engineer’s review of the existing ground conditions. The cost per foot of a house varies, so include this in your budget.

The construction costs of a lake house are usually lower than those of a traditional home. A lake house is typically smaller than its counterpart, which makes it more affordable. However, a more elaborate design will mean more expensive construction costs. Regardless of its size and style, you can always use online resources to find floor plans and what other homeowners paid for their lake homes. The National Association of Home Builders conducts construction cost surveys periodically and has compiled the results.

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Obtaining building permits

Before building your new house, you’ll need to obtain all the right permits. On average, HomeAdvisor estimates that people spend $1,200-2,000 on permits when building a home — but costs can vary widely depending on local regulations.

In most cases, you will apply for a permit once you’ve obtained a blueprint or drawing from an architect. As long as you start construction within six months, permits are typically valid for however long it takes to finish building your home.

The permit process might seem daunting, but it’s an essential step you can’t afford to skip. Homeowners who fail to obtain permits may face steep fines, a lack of insurance coverage, or even demolition if a home doesn’t meet local standards.

Penalties aside, there’s an even more crucial reason to obtain permits: your safety.

Municipalities require permits to ensure that homes are up to code. In Texas, these codes prevent people from building houses that are poorly suited for the state’s hurricanes, flooding, or other possible natural disasters.


Photo courtesy of Shiflet Group Architects.
Photo courtesy of Shiflet Group Architects.

The average wooden boat dock lasts roughly 20-25 years.

Repairs may only cost a few hundred dollars, but replacement can cost several thousand. Factors such as climate, size, and water depth factor into this cost.

If you plan on owning your lake home long-term and have a dock, chances are it will need to be replaced eventually.

This process will accelerate if your lake freezes over in the winter, too. Freezing and thawing over several years will inevitably deteriorate any material.

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Is a house by the lake worth it?

A lakeside home can be one of your most rewarding purchases, investing in a lifetime of memorable summer vacations, and weekend getaways. Owning a lake home can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work.

What are some ways to build an eco-friendly house?

Living in a rural setting does inspire a respect for the surrounding environment and desire to reduce your carbon footprint. 

“We built our practice on sustainability and new clients are definitely coming around to our way of thinking,” Alper says. “In fact it’s often the first thing that’s talked about. And what’s great about that is we can incorporate sustainable bet practices into the design rather than it being an afterthought.”


Inspired by an abandoned mine, this 1,500-square-foot lake house in Egremont, MA, has siding that enables the solar panels on the roof to blend in more seamlessly.  Aaron Thompson for Red House Design

Triple-glaze windows help lower heating and cooling costs. These overlook Prospect Lake in Egremont, MA. Aaron Thompson for Red House Design

Take solar panels, which are pretty much the standard for providing energy in new constructions. You can be intentional in where they are placed rather than having to retrofit them onto the property in a not-so-great way.

Some of the more common ways to lower your carbon footprint include using recycled and low-impact building materials, low-flow plumbing fixtures, high-efficiency mechanical systems, and triple-glaze windows. “Those do not cost much more than double glazed but will lower your overall heating and cooling costs dramatically,” Moore says. He and Alper also emphasize that by creating a very strong building envelope with insulation and construction, all the other expenses, both upfront and long term, tend to come down.

McKeel employs “passive cooling” to reduce the need for an air-conditioner by using shades and creating cross-ventilation in the summer and then opening up the windows to the sun in the winter to draw in more heat. 

This ethos extends to the landscape. Red House Design uses non-invasive drought-resistant plants, which lower your watering needs and provide a habitat for wildlife. The driveway for the lakehouse above has permeable pavers that serve as a growing medium for a thyme ground cover. 

The Great Outdoors

Photo courtesy of Walton Architecture & Engine
Photo courtesy of Walton Architecture & Engineering.

Remember that you are responsible for the entire property you own, not just the house itself! Lawn upkeep, landscaping, tree trimming, and other costs can be a hefty responsibility.

For homes with forests or large trees nearby, tree trimming is a must.

Limbs overhanging your property or power lines could do serious damage. Spending a few hundred dollars to have a professional remove any overhanging limbs can save you tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Don’t forget the shoreline.

If you own a waterfront property, you may be responsible for the seawall. This structure protects your property line from erosion. Repair estimates vary, but installation can cost more than $100 per linear foot.

If this is not your primary residence, you will need to hire someone to mow the lawn regularly. Your neighbors won’t appreciate having an overgrown field next door!

Many lake properties are also located on hills or steep inclines, too. Don’t assume that your push mower will always do the job.

Summer at The Lake House

There Is Something For Everyone Here

Whether you enjoy a peaceful day at the pool or a full day on the lake, The Lake House on Canandaigua has exactly what you need.

View Activities Calendar

2. Understand the total cost of owning a lake house

You can determine what you can afford in seconds. Then you’ll find a lender and have them dive deeper into:

  • Cash available for down payment, closing costs, and reserves.
  • Total monthly cost of your existing home, plus the total monthly cost of the lake house (including principal, interest, taxes and insurance for both homes).
  • Total cost to manage the lake house, including costs unique to a lake house. One such cost is flood insurance, which is an additional insurance fee on top of your normal homeowners insurance.

You also need to consider budget items that lenders don’t use in their qualifying calculations, but that are still very important for your own financial planning:

  • Total cost for gas, electric, cable TV, and internet.
  • Total cost for furniture and housewares. This is especially important for your budget if it’s a second home or investment property.
  • Total costs to travel to your lake house for your desired number of visits each year (if it’s not a primary residence).
  • Total cost of outdoor gear: kayaks, paddle boards, boats, jet skis, etc.
  • Total cost of property maintenance including dock upkeep, cleaning, and landscaping.

Cash-on-Cash returns

If you are looking to rent your lake house, cash-on-cash returns are a great way to earn an income while away from the property. These numbers are beneficial and can help you decide if renting is a good investment. Cash-on-Cash returns are great if you can earn a decent return on your expenses and income. 

A Cash-on-Cash return is a simple financial metric that compares the amount of pre-tax cash earned to the amount of money invested. For example, if you invest $50,000 in a savings account, you can expect to receive a pre-tax cash flow of $2250. That’s a great return and could make a lake house a great investment.

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