Waterfront, lake properties and wooded acreage real estate for sale in WI and MI

Why Can't I Find My Dream Lake Property?

If you have been looking for vacant lake front land suitable for your camp or cabin, but have been discouraged by the high price, you are not alone. There just isn’t much available anymore under $150,000!

Wisconsin has over 15,000 lakes, in fact, Wisconsin has the third largest concentration of fresh water lakes in the world. Only Alaska and Ontario, Canada have more lakes per square mile than Wisconsin. In spite of this, Wisconsin is nearly out of vacant lake front land.


The October, 1998 issue of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine reported that Wisconsin will be out of undeveloped lake front land before the year 2018! If you do not acquire lake front land soon, there will be nothing to acquire.

Right now, the average lake front property in is about one acre and will have about 100 feet of frontage. Regardless of the size of the lake, the average starting price for that one acre is over $150,000! This is an average price, but if you desire to own land on a large "all-sport" lake, you can expect to pay much more.
As I mentioned above, Wisconsin has over 15,000 lakes (15,081, to be exact), however a full 90% (13,500 lakes) are smaller than 50 acres in size. Only 4.5% are 200 acres in size or larger and only 1.7% are larger than 500 acres! Several years ago, the Wisconsin Department of natural Resources reported that 97% of the lakes 200 acres or larger were fully developed or under public ownership. If you desire to own land on a lake over 200 acres, you are competing for less than 3% of what remains on Wisconsin’s lakes.

Additionally, 80% of Wisconsin’s lakes are located in the northern one third of the state (north of Wausau). There are only 20 lakes over 500 acres located within 3 hours of the Chicago/Milwaukee areas with virtually no vacant land available.

If you are determined to own lake front land, you must not wait any longer. You must acquire it today! In today’s competitive market, the only way to own affordable lakefront land is to be willing to be flexible on some of your requirements. This means that you must be willing to make compromises.

The first compromise you must be willing to make is drive time.
With 80% of Wisconsin’s lakes located north of Wausau, you will have more opportunities if you are willing to drive farther. It is no longer possible to find anything affordable south of Wausau and you most likely will need to go even farther than that to find something worth owning at a price you can afford. This may mean going north of Wisconsin’s border into Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
It may be that the time has come to finally concede that you can find what you want at a price you can afford by driving farther north. Adopt the attitude that your vacation starts the moment you get into the car and not when you arrive on destination. If you do this, you will make the trip part of the vacation too.
Another solution is to split up your annual vacation time and attach an extra day or two at the beginning and end of several weekends. This will have you taking frequent short vacations and you will be traveling before and after the rest of the weekend crowd. You will likely spend more time at your vacation property when the lake is less populated.
Consider a smaller lake.
Another area in which flexibility is helpful is lake size. Many people desire to own land on a large lake that allows all forms of water sports. Remember, a full 90% of Wisconsin’s lakes are under 50 acres in size and over 97% of the larger lakes are already developed. If building a cabin on the lake shore is very important to you and you do not want to spend $150,000 or more to purchase land, then consider owning land on a smaller lake. You will still have to travel farther north to where the lakes are located, but there will be more opportunities to own land on smaller lakes.
Consider other forms of water.
Flowages are areas on rivers that are located above dams. Flowages have characteristics of lakes. Wisconsin’s second largest lake (Petenwell) is a flowage. Flowages are well known for great fishing and some allow boating and other water sports. A small lot on the Petenwell Flowage will cost well over $200,000.00, but there are other, more affordable flowage properties that can meet most of your needs for under $100,000.00.
Is the sand beach absolutely necessary?
Consider properties with less than perfect shoreline. By this, I mean that if you hold out for perfect sand beach, you will likely need well over $150,000 to acquire a one acre or less parcel of land. If perfect swimming frontage is not necessary, consider waterfront land that has some amount of reeds along the shore. Most of the time this reedy area can be crossed with a short board walk leading to a dock and this will get you out to open water and your boat. If your primary concern is fishing, then you already know that beneficial aquatic plants provide habitat for bait fish and that attracts the lunkers! These natural shoreline areas are also habitat for an array of wild life that brings life to your lakefront.
Consider water access.
There are two forms of water access, private and public. With private access, there is deeded access. You can own land that includes deed to a separate piece of land that actually touches water. With deeded access, your building or camp site is close to, but does not touch the water and you may only have to walk down a path or cross a road to get to the water. This situation allows you to privately control the access and use it anytime you wish. You may also be able to install a dock here and keep your boat on site.
Deeded access allows you to enjoy most of the benefits of a waterfront property without the higher purchase price or the higher annual tax bill associated with lakefront land. Often, your building site is larger and more private since it does not sit right on the water. When you get ready to sell your land, the deeded access sets your land apart from others that do not enjoy this form of waterfront ownership.
With public access, you own land that is located close to public access points on lakes and rivers. Again, you do not live on the water so you may end up owning a much larger tract of land at a substantially lower price and tax bill, and you will use public access. Many people have found that by owning acreage near public access points, they are encouraged to use many area boat launches and access sites. They frequent several lakes, rivers and beaches – FOR FREE!
There are many good reasons to own waterfront land, and if it is within your grasp. DO NOT WAIT! Prices continue to go up and availability is going down. The year 2018 is not so very far away. Give serious thought to going into the UP now, while prices are still good and land is more available. Consider land on rivers, streams and flowages. However, if you can not or would rather not afford the cost of property with actual water frontage, then let’s talk about lake access land and wooded acreage near public access points.
Regardless of the type of real estate you end up owning, the first time you hear the mournful call of the loon, witness the deer or bear in your woods, and smell the aroma of a cozy camp fire, you will surely be pleased with your decision to invest in the dreams that you hold dear for yourself and your loved ones.
Call me today and let’s talk about your needs and how I may be of service to you.
Warmest regards,
Otto Ritt
608/290-7390 (cell)
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