Want a Georgia lake house? Here’s what you need to know.

Three pro pieces of advice for having your own place on the lake

Lake Lanier at sunrise
Lake Lanier at sunrise

Photograph by iStock/Getty Images

It’s Labor Day weekend, and Atlantans are hitting the lake. Looking to get in on the action? Here’s what you need to know to get a lake retreat of your own—or even to live there full time. (Yes, it’s possible.)

Know where the water is: “Lake Allatoona is a large recreational lake, but since the majority of it is owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, direct lake-front property is harder to come by than other lakes in metro Atlanta,” says Eric Baker, a Realtor with Keller Williams. “On the other side of town, Lake Lanier is by far the largest place for lake front and lake access property.” Smaller lakes include Lake Arrowhead in Cherokee County, Berkeley Lake in Gwinnett County, and community lakes such as Lake Windward in Alpharetta. Lake communities a bit farther, such as Lake Oconee, Lake Blue Ridge, and Lake Burton used to be primarily second homes, but work-from-home opportunities have turned them into a mix of primary and vacation residents.

Do your homework: “Owning a lake home is very different from owning a city home and there are many factors to consider before purchasing,” says Craig Kettles with The Lake Team. A few items to take into account: going lease lot vs. fee simple (do you own it outright or lease it from Georgia Power or another entity, which is common on lakes); are you seeking a sunset or sunrise view; how far is the lake and what depth is the water; is the property on well water or lake water? Baker adds other considerations including restrictions on watercraft and more maintenance on a house because of water damage. His advice is to talk to neighbors in prospective lake neighborhoods to find out about lake levels, number of boats that come by, and other inside scoop. “Be sure to consider traffic to and from your lake house,” says Baker. “While the drive to Lake Lanier may be usually under an hour from Atlanta, it’s not uncommon for it to be upwards of two to three hours each way on busy or holiday weekends.”

Expect to pay: Tiffany Cooper, a Realtor with The Morrell Team knows all too well that lake homes come at a premium cost, since she and her family have been looking for a bargain on Lake Allatoona for several years. “Most of Lake Allatoona shoreline remains undeveloped, and many of the homes on the lake aren’t for primary residence but are vacation homes only,” she says. “They’re leased land from the Corps of Engineers with a monthly association fee and very few homes with direct water access.” The average list price on Lake Allatoona is $415,000, she says, ranging from small fishing cabins (300 to 500 square feet) for $125,000 up to luxury homes on deep water access with incredible features for $700 to $1.3 million. For north Georgia bargains, Craig Kettles recommends Seed Lake, between Burton and Rabun, and relatively less than the other two. “Current Seed Lake offerings range from $335,000 to $750,000, with an average over the past two years of $550,000,” he says. Lake Burton homes on the market currently range from $500,000 to $5,900,000, with an average for the past two years of $1,390,000. Lake Rabun homes also start at $500,000 to $3,500,000.