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6 Things That Every Big Bear Lakefront Buyer Should Know

It is that time of year again when the some Big Bear lakefronts owners start to consider selling their property.

The next 4-5 months are historically the best selling months for the Big Bear market and it is no coincidence that the weather in Big Bear this time of year makes it a beautiful time to be looking for a nice lakefront home.

Having a property in time for our very popular annual July 4th fireworks show is the target date for many lakefront buyers to be in their new home.

There are approximately 550 lakefront properties on Big Bear Lake and with only 25 homes for sale, and less than 10 vacant parcels, the options are quite limited right now. That should start to change pretty soon as I expect 15-20 new lakefront listings will come on the market within the next 30-90 days.

The bottom end of the lakefront market starts around the $600,000 with the upper end peaking out around $4,000,000. Most of the lakefront homes will sell in the $1,000,000 to $1,800,000 price range.

There have only been a handful of sales in Big Bear over the $2,000,000 mark with the highest residential sale in Big Bear history at $3,500,000 last Nov. on Cienega Rd. You start getting over $3,000,000 and most buyers are going to look in other places like Mammoth, Vail, Aspen, & Jackson Hole to name a few.

Some important facts to keep in mind when thinking of buying a Big Bear lakefront home:

The lake level will fluctuate and this affects the values of the properties.

The fluctuations more often than not occur naturally, via a drought or heavy precipitation, but can also be caused from the water being let out of dam on occasion for the irrigation purposes in Redlands.

During the Summer months, it has been said that we lose 1 foot per month from the lake level just from evaporation alone. The lake is filled naturally based on the amount of precipitation that we receive during the year. How good the winter is will have a direct impact of the water levels comes spring and summer time.

Typically, the farther west (closer to the dam) the property is on the lake, the deeper the water is going to be, and the deeper the water, the more valuable the property is going to be. I commented more about this in a recent NY Times article. When the lake level rose nearly 16 feet in the early part of 2005, the value of the lakefront properties overall went up approx. 35% in just a few months. Lakefront homes that had been on the market for long periods of time were getting snatched up only to be put back on the market for more money as the water levels were rising. Previous to this rise in the lake level, the home prices for lakefront properties were depressed, while the rest of the market was going up 15-25% per year.

Lakefront values are in the land.

The majority of the value for lakefront properties in in the land, sometimes close to 80% or more when the home is quite small. It is important to keep this in mind when shopping for a place on the lake. This is a reason that one Big Bear lakefront home with 3,800 sqft. sells for $1,00,000 while another sells for $1,250,000 with only 1,500 sqft. Call it location or land value, both the same when you are talking lakefronts.

Yearly fees will apply.

The Big Bear Municipal Water District, or MWD, is responsible for the management of Big Bear Lake. This includes the recreational part of it. There are yearly permit fees required to have a boat dock & as well as a boat permit for boating on Big Bear Lake. Both are pretty minimal, in the range of $350 & $75 respectively.

There are some other nice options with dock rights.

If you absolutely have to be on the water, then it will obviously limit your options. A good alternative is to buy a nice home in an location that has dock rights at a private marina area. There are two areas in Big Bear like this: Eagle Point Estate and Eagles Knoll Estates. Both of these areas are known for having upscale custom homes, very nice neighborhoods, HOA’s, CC&R’s, and a boat slip just a short walk away.

The values in these areas for homes off of the water (there are some on the water here too) run the $600,000 to $1,500,000 range. Some other nice homes for a similar price range are located in Castle Glen, Eagle Mountain Estates, Alpine Woods, High Timber Ranch, Ironwood Estates, Evergreen Estates, Winterpark, Meadowbrook Estates, and Bear Loop. While they do not have dock rights or lake frontage, they are known for newer, upscale homes, good views, acreage and or privacy, and location.

I have seen several clients think that they had to be on the lake, only to buy a home in one of these areas. If you are looking to purchase a lakefront property, it might be a good idea to compare the type of home you can get in these other areas as well.

Below the high water mark is public property.

When the lake level goes down, the area uncovered and now dry is considered public property. I am not sure how people get there, probably crossing private property, but once they are there, they have the right to be there. Don’t be surprised that when this happens, you start to find some fisherman in front of you home on the lakefront.

Birds like to roost in the exterior of the lakefront homes.

This has come up on several of the homes I have recently sold. Every year we have the swallows return to Big Bear to nest. They are known for always returning to same property and they like the lakefront homes or those near the lake given that they tend to make their nests out of the mud from the lakeshore. Once they are roosted and they have babies, it is against the law to take the nests down. It is only after they have left the nests for good (sometime around Sept. or Oct.) that you can take the nests down.

Given that there are normally hundreds at at time nesting in the the same eaves of a home, they can make quite a mess of the property causing some damages and lots of cleanup. This is not to say that all the properties near or on the water will have swallow problems. It is best to check with the owner and/or the disclosures on the property for any problems in the past with any pests.

There are many aspects to consider when looking to buy a lakefront property in Big Bear. Keeping some of these things in mind will help make the buying process a bit more informed and less stressful.


  1. […] levels will have an effect on the values of Big Bear lakefront properties too. A good rule of thumb is that the lower the lake level, the lower the prices will be on the […]

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