Buying a House on the Lake

west-bayWhile waterfront living is not for everyone, it is certainly a feature that draws people to Lake Oswego.  Think about it.  You are 15 minutes from downtown Portland, but you can water ski in the morning before you go to work.  Or if you don’t water ski, you can canoe, and swim, and just enjoy the serenity of living with a view of the water.  If you are someone who thinks living on the lake sounds like a wonderful idea, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider.  I am going to discuss the 3 specific areas of the lake and the current pricing for those 3 areas.  I am not going to go into the history of the lake or the details of its management.  For that, I’d like to refer you back to a previous post :  About the Lake.

The lake has 715 single family homes and 4 condominium developments.  Of those properties, there are currently 43 houses for sale and 11 condos.

main-lake-1Let’s start with the Main Lake. This is where you will find the highest prices.  The most expensive house for sale in the lake right now is a private island that is accessed from Northshore Rd.  It’s priced at $19,500,000.  The house has 13,500 square feet, with 5 bedrooms, 6 full baths, and 2 half baths.  The island is pretty good sized.  I recall years ago calculating that it could be divided into multiple home sites.   So there is a good deal of value in the land and not just in the house.  The least expensive house on the main lake is priced at $829,000.  It has 2484 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths.  OK.  That is just amazing.  Why?  Because the availability of buildable lots on the lake is extremely limited.  3 years ago there was quite a lot of buying and tearing down of old houses in order to build a new house.  And the going price on the tear downs was running about $1,400,000, which made land value alone over a million dollars.  So to see this house for sale for $829,000, that’s pretty amazing.

main-lake-4There are a couple of characteristics to houses on the main lake that affect the home that buyers select.  First, the North shore of the lake has much better sun exposure.  If you want to have full  sun while you swim, you should look seriously at the North side.  The South side has a large hill immediately South of it, which creates shade and less full sun.  In addition, with the sun coming from the South, the front of the house will get more sun than the back, and the lake is on the back of the house.  You should also know that on the North side there is a rail road track that runs very close to many of the houses.  So if you think that the sound of a train will bother you, then you should be looking on the South side of the lake.

Beside the main lake, there are also two bays:  West Bay and Lakewood Bay. The bays are not as expensive as the main lake.  They have narrow inlets from the main lake that open out to create a smaller versions of the main lake.  They are more shallow than the main lake.  Lakewood Bay is used on the 4th of July for a water skiing exhibition.  The most expensive house currently for sale on a bay is priced at $2,775,000.  It has 4ooo square main-lake-3feet, with 4 bedrooms and 3 and 1 half baths.  The least expensive is priced at $1,395,000.  It has 3190 square feet, with 4 bedrooms and 3 full and 1 half baths.  One of the unique areas on the bays is the Cabanas.  These are homes that are built out over the water.  They have a very small front yard and no backyard.  Instead, they have decks that hang out over the water.  You could literally fish off of your back deck.  In addition, many have attached boat houses.  Just like you enter a garage from a home, these cabanas allow you to get into your boat right from your house.  It is an easy-care lifestyle for those who would rather go boating than mow a lawn.

Last are the houses on the Canals. There are 2 true canals and 1 that is more of an inlet.  The Main Canal was originally the creek that fed Oswego Lake from the Tualatin River.  The advantage to this canal is that while it has been deepend and excavated to allow boats, it is still a moving body of water.  It continues to be the route for the water than comes into Oswego Lake from the Tualatin River.  The other canal is Blue Heron.  Blue Heron is lovely, especially where it widens out just before it goes into the lake.  The canals have the most affordable waterfront houses.  The most expensive is currently $1,179,000.  It has 4800 blue-heronsquare feet, with 5 bedrooms and 3 full plus 1 half baths.  The least expensive is $599,000.  It needs quite a bit of work, but still strikes me as an incredible deal with 3458 square feet.  It has 3 bedrooms and 3 full baths.

Most of the lake is developed with single family homes, but there are Condominiums as well.  There are 3 condominium developments plus a short stretch of Northshore that is a collection of duplexes, four-plexes, and very small condo complexes.  All of these condominiums have some access to the lake, whether in the form of boat slips, docks, and grassy yards with picnic facilities, with the exception of the Lakewood Bay Condominiums and Lofts.  That development sits next to the lake, with great views, but does not actually own any waterfront.  The City owns the land between the condominiums and the lake and it is developed as a small waterfront park.  Pricing for one of the condos along the lake goes from a high of $699,850 for 985 square feet with 3 bedrooms and 1 full plus 1 half bath, to a low of $219,990 for a condo that has 852 square feet with 2 bedrooms and 1 bath.  The difference in pricing with these units has a lot to do with how well they can actually see the lake.  The expensive ones have full views and perhaps even a private boat slip.  The less expensive ones are going to be in the back of the complex with a peek-a-boo view, if any view at all.

main-canalI hope this helps you to get a sense of what pricing is like to live on Oswego Lake.  I’ve been around Lake Oswego for a very long time.  One of the things I see is that when people want to live on the lake, they often start out in a condominium or along a canal.  And then as they mature and their income increases, they move to get onto the main lake.  I also know of one couple who buys the run down houses and lives in them while they fix them up.  They have lived in many homes on the lake, and made a good deal of money too.

There are two more things I want you to keep in mind.  First, when you buy a house (not a condo) on the lake, you will have to pay a 1-time fee of $5000.  Second, remember that the sewer interceptor project is going to require that the water level be drawn down for a period of several months.  This is going to happen in the next couple of years.  For details, please go to one of our previous postings, Where did the Lake go?

So as the nice weather begins to make being out doors nicer and nicer, you may want to think about ways to enjoy Oswego Lake.  And one of those ways is to find a way to actually live on it.