The Intracoastal Waterway: How do you know what it’s worth?

Experience has taught us that homes sell for so much a square foot. That’s what an appraisal and a comparable market analysis of your home gives you and it is the most accurate method of valuation in most all communities and neighborhoods.

But when it comes to the Intracoastal Waterway, experience has taught me that you cannot take shortcuts when estimating the real value of Northeast Florida’s most interesting and diverse properties.

ICW properties, due to their unique characteristics, require 3 separate valuation methods to determine true value and each is rather complex in their own right.

They are:

  1. The land.
  2. Improvements upon the land
  3. The house.

Here is how I view them.

Today I am going to talk about  The Land:

1) Width

Lots vary in width (front feet on the water), determining the number of rooms and square footage you can design with a water view as well as privacy from your neighbors, ease of ingress and egress along with parking. The market value of ICW properties based on the waterfront has fluctuated between $4,000 – $9,000 a linear foot over the past decade. However, that is just one part of the equation.

2)  Depth

Depth usually ranges anywhere from 200’ to 500’ which will determine the amenities you can include on your lot such as an 8 car garage instead of a 2 car garage, whether or not you can add a guest house or tennis court, swimming pools, outdoor dining and entertainment areas, as well as landscaping, entrance features and parking for guests. Currently most of the more shallow lots have no access to sewer so the need for a drain field leaves precious little room for much else. The value of land is determined by usage so depth and zoning play a significant role in estimating the value applied to the linear foot price.

3) Elevation

Because the topography varies greatly along the ICW, some lots are high and dry while others may be considerably lower requiring extensive fill, grading and drainage improvements. While starting at the middle of the road and walking to the rear of the property a trained eye can tell you the cost required to bring the level of that property up to a manageable height and what trees you will lose in the process. Typically this could add another $25,000 to $50,000 in additional developmental costs.

4) Tree Cover

With most ICW lots facing west you cannot under estimate the value on 1 or 2 mature Oak trees on the rear on the property to shade you from the setting sun allowing you to enjoy the view you are so dearly paying for. Without this natural filtration of sunlight in summertime, you will be closing the blinds or shutters on all your rear windows by 5pm and your patio will get less usage. This lack of trees will cause you to redesign both your summer kitchen and the rear elevation of your home including the roof line and windows so don’t underestimate the value of a few mature hardwoods.

5) Location

Yes, location is always a factor. Most ICW lots require a septic tank and drain field which diminishes the usable land you wanted for guest parking and those amenities we discussed like out buildings, recreational area, and landscaping. Currently, only about 1/3 of ICW properties can tap into a sewer system which gives much added value to these properties. Certainly the septic tank and drain field offers one advantage over sewer (no monthly utility bills) but having the choice is priceless to many buyers, as tapping into the sewer line is optional, not mandatory.

Location also affects the depth of the water you will have under your boat lift at low tide as well as your commute time to your favorite fishing spot and to work. Just like the ocean and the St. Johns River, values along the ICW can fluctuate every mile for an assortment of reasons that just boil down to location.