Image of homes on a lake in Tennessee

Guide To Buying A Waterfront Property In Tennessee

Felix Homes

Jun 27th 2021

Are you seeking the peace and serenity of a waterfront property? To some, purchasing a home on the water is only a dream. For those turning the dream into a reality, the buying process does differ from a traditional home purchase. Of course, purchasing a land-locked home can bring about its own complications. However, if adding “waterfront” to any property, you can expect to face a few added complexities.

Fortunately, you can rely on experts to alleviate many of the difficulties. It’s best to work with a real estate agent that’s specialized in selling and buying waterfront properties. They can help you navigate the ropes of purchasing a home on the water and avoid any costly mistakes. With their trusted guidance, you’ll live an endless vacation lifestyle in no time.

What To Consider When Buying Waterfront Property In Tennessee

There are a few things you’ll want to consider when hunting for a beautiful waterfront estate in Tennessee. First things first, just because a home is on water doesn't make them all the same. When exploring a waterfront property in Tennessee, you can’t expect the same atmosphere as property on Miami Beach. However, you’re likely wanting scenic views in either location.

Sometimes the term “waterfront” is misused. A listing might not provide direct water access or could even sit on an unusable body of water, such as a retention pond. However, you’ll mainly find the waterfront listings in Tennessee located on rivers or lakes.

To help narrow down your search for the best waterfront property in Tennessee, we’ve compiled a list of the most popular rivers and lakes to live on. We’ll look at Tennessee’s average price of waterfront real estate, and provide tips on what to expect. Lastly, we’ll summarize our guide with the top 3 pros and cons of buying a waterfront property.

Now, let’s dive into your guide to buying a waterfront property in Tennessee!

What Are The Best Rivers To Live On In Tennessee

The state of Tennessee has a number of beautiful rivers. Flowing freshwater not only provides a stunning backdrop, but when living on the river you have easy access to a variety of water activities. Many Tennessee rivers, such as the Collins, Duck, and the Buffalo River, have a natural slow-flowing current, which makes them ideal for kayaking, canoeing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Other state rivers, including the Ocoee River and parts of the Cumberland River, have much stronger rapids, making them fun for rafting.

Another great part of living in a home on the river is the privacy. You’ll gain the seclusion of no backyard neighbors. In addition, many waterfront properties sit on a bigger lot in comparison to homes in a standard subdivision. You’re likely to find most spots along the river tucked deep in nature and surrounded by trees. As you can imagine, an urban city lifestyle isn’t too common for riverfront properties.

It is important to take into consideration the location and level of traffic–and we’re not talking about cars. Depending on a home’s location and access to the river, you could potentially see an influx of canoe and kayak users. Navigable waters are considered public highways and open to all, but visitors are required to enter through public property.

Here is a list of popular Tennessee rivers and neighborhoods to consider when on the hunt for a riverfront home:

Cumberland River

The Cumberland River stretches 688 miles throughout Southern Kentucky and the North-central part of Tennessee. Most of the neighborhoods built along the Cumberland River are rural and off the beaten path. However, it does also run through a few larger cities, including Nashville and Clarksville.

In West Nashville, you’ll find the charming neighborhood of Charlotte Park that sits alongside the Cumberland River. The pure residential vibe almost makes you forget you’re only 15-minutes from Nashville’s downtown center. Many of the homes within the neighborhood offer backyard river views since they’re situated on top of a large bluff. Accessing the river water can be a bit tricky, but easier access is also available at the popular Rock Harbor Marina.

Ashland City is another area to check out for living on the Cumberland River. The small town sits about 30 minutes from Nashville. Many of the riverfront properties in Ashland City come with the added bonus of privacy and spacious land. You’ll also find the homes surrounded by beautiful nature and plenty of trees. You can count on experiencing tranquility at its finest when living on a riverfront home in Ashland City.

PRO TIP: See the newest waterfront listings in Nashville

Tennessee River

The Tennessee River extends roughly 652 miles long and is the defining boundary between Middle and West Tennessee. The river begins in Knoxville, Tennessee, flows southwest through Chattanooga, and then crosses into the state of Alabama.

The river forms at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad Rivers in Knoxville. Although Knoxville is the third-largest city in Tennessee, the presence of nature is evident. Located in South Knoxville are the neighborhoods of Old Sevier and Island Park Home. Both places offer a variety of waterfront properties tucked between towering trees. You can explore the neighborhood of Westminster Ridge for waterfront homes that offer vast land and privacy. You can also find an array of large waterfront estates nearby Jones Cove.

In Chattanooga, the Tennessee River runs directly through the downtown center. Stunning waterfront properties are close to the downtown region, located in the neighborhoods of Northshore, Riverfront, and Riverview. For a more rural environment, you can also check out the small suburbs of Signal Mountain and Lookout Mountain. While finding a true waterfront home isn’t as common here, many of the homes within these neighborhoods still offer unbeatable views of the river.

PRO TIP: Read this before buying a home in a flood zone

Clinch River

The Clinch River flows southwest for over 300 miles before joining the Tennessee River in Kingston. The river is a popular spot for those who enjoy fishing. Parts of the Clinch River near Clinton, Tennessee are even recognized as premier fishing destinations for trout, both rainbow and brown. Many of the homes along the river in Clinton offer spacious land with plenty of river frontage.

The Preserve in Oak Ridge, Tennessee is a 1,400-acre community with 8 different neighborhoods showcasing brand new waterfront homes along the Clinch River. You can find a mix of move-in-ready homes, as well as vacant lots for building your dream waterfront property in Tennessee.

Duck River

The Duck River is the longest flowing river entirely within the state of Tennessee. The 284 miles of freshwater are home to over 151 different species of fish and 50 kinds of mussels. It offers scenic views and the perk of seclusion. You actually won’t even find many homes or roads within the Yanahli Wildlife Management Area and the Duck River State Natural Area.

The majority of the homes along the Duck River are remote and located in rural, small towns. However, you can find Duck River waterfront properties in the larger towns of Shelbyville and Columbia. While the town of Shelbyville may be best known for its equestrian presence, the charming homes along the banks are hard to beat. With the aid of levees and floodgates, the town stays protected from potential flooding. However, in Columbia parts of the Duck River are prone to flooding, especially near the downtown neighborhoods. You’ll want to be sure to do your due diligence if searching for a waterfront property in Columbia.

PRO TIP: See waterfront homes for sale in Columbia, Tennessee

Caney Fork River

Last up on our top five best rivers to live on in Tennessee is the Caney Fork River. This gentle flowing river is the smallest on our list and is 143 miles long. It’s another hotspot when it comes to fishing, but is also a favorite amongst kayakers and canoers. Much of the river’s basin is home to protected land or recreational areas.

The homes along the Caney Fork River are ideal for those looking for peace and serenity. You can explore beautiful riverfront homes in the small towns of Baxter, Sparta, and Gordonsville. The Caney Fork River also flows into two sizable man-made lakes, Great Falls Lake and Center Hills Lake. Waterfront homes along these lakes are a popular option for their easy access to the Caney Fork River.

What Are The Best Lakes To Live On In Tennessee

Although a fresh flowing river has several benefits, life on the lake is also great! The state of Tennessee has an abundance of popular lakes, most of which are man-made. The artificial ones are typically formed during the construction of a dam.

Accessible water activities, such as boating, swimming, and fishing, are some of the top reasons many enjoy living on a lake. Lakes are often cleaner and even safer than rivers since they lack a flowing current. As with most waterfront homes, peace and tranquility are evident. Lakefront homes are typically on large lots and secluded from the general public.

Some tips when hunting for the best lakefront property in Tennessee are to consider the lake’s bottom and shoreline; is it rocky, sandy, or muddy. Also, be sure to verify if there are any water activity restrictions. Lastly, always find out how busy the lake becomes during peak season. In Tennessee, some lakes become heavily populated in hopes of beating the summer heat, and a popular destination could impact the feeling of privacy.

You can find so many great lakes throughout the state, but our top best lakes to live on in Tennessee include:

Tellico Lake

Tellico Lake has the reputation of being one of the cleanest lakes in East Tennessee. It stretches 33 miles long with 357 miles of shoreline. The lake also has the stunning backdrop of the Smoky Mountains. Tellico Lake is a favorite for swimming, boating, canoeing, and fishing.

Living in Tellico Village is the perfect spot during your retirement years. The scenic waterfront views are peaceful and relaxing. You can find lake house real estate, vacant lots, lakeside cottages, and large waterfront estates all along Tellico Lake. There are also a variety of smaller communities on Tellico Lake, including Legacy Shores, Harbour Place, and Tellico Harbor.

PRO TIP: See the top places to retire in Tennessee

Old Hickory Lake

Old Hickory Lake sits in the north-central portion of Tennessee, nearby Nashville. It extends nearly 1,000 miles upstream to the Cordell Hull Lock and Dam. Old Hickory Lake has 8 public marinas, 41 boat access sites, two campgrounds, and a large picnic shelter. Boating, fishing, and camping are common at Old Hickory Lake.

Almost the entire shoreline of the lake is residential. The charming neighborhood of Lakewood is a popular spot for those looking for property along Old Hickory Lake. The neighborhood was once a small town on the edge of Davidson County. It is now considered a neighborhood within the town of Old Hickory but still maintains its cute and small-town vibe.

PRO TIP: See homes for sale in Old Hickory

Kentucky Lake

Contrary to its name, Kentucky Lake isn’t just located in Kentucky. The lake touches both states, Tennessee and Kentucky, and is one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. It has over 160,000 acres of water and nearly 2,380 miles of shoreline. It is one of the best lakes for sport fishing, including crappie, bass, bluegill, or catfish.

You can find beautiful homes along the banks of the Kentucky Lake in Buchanan, Springville, and the small town of Big Sandy. In Springville, you can also find a variety of spacious vacant lots for building your dream lakefront property in Tennessee.

Chickamauga Lake

The Chickamauga Lake stretches from the Watts Bar Dam to Chickamauga Dam and offers more than 800 miles of shoreline. The banks of Chickamauga Lake are also home to eight parks and two wildlife centers. The lake is a popular spot for many water sport activities, particularly in the southern area. Chickamauga Lake allows the use of jet skis and powerboats, and the water quality is ideal for swimming.

The lake spans across five counties in total, but primarily occupies the Hamilton, Meigs, and Rhea counties. Many large lakefront estates sit within smaller secluded neighborhoods and towns, like Soddy-Daisy and Lakesite. Although many of the homes along the water are remote, the nearby city of Chattanooga provides an accessible and convenient urban atmosphere.

Norris Lake

Last, but certainly not least, is Norris Lake. The man-made lake was created on the Cove Creek Site, along the Clinch River, as a result of the Norris Dam project. It borders five counties within the eastern region of Tennessee, and The Smoky and Cumberland Mountains create a stunning backdrop.

Norris Lake is the cleanest and clearest lake in Tennessee. It is an ideal spot for summer vacationers, but many still live year-round on the lake. Some of the exceptional lakefront communities located on Norris Lake include Alder Springs Village, Big Creek, and Cape Norris.

How Much Are Waterfront Homes In Tennessee

While there is no denying waterfront homes can cost a premium, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a good deal. According to Realtracs MLS, the least expensive waterfront home that sold in the past 12 months went for $59,900. Granted, the property was a 200 sqft tiny home located on the Buffalo River in Hohenwald, TN, but low-cost waterfront homes aren’t impossible.

On the reverse side, the most expensive waterfront home that sold in the past 12 months went for $5,995,000. The stunning estate sits on its own private 5-acre pond in the small town of Fairview, Tennessee.

The average price for a riverfront home in middle Tennessee is $488,404, and the median price is $350,000. Living on the lake comes at a higher premium. The average price for a lakefront property in middle Tennessee is $675,517, and the median price is $570,824.

What To Consider When Buying Waterfront Property

When hunting for a home on the water, it’s easy to be captivated by stunning water views. However, before jumping in, here are a few things to consider when buying a waterfront property:

  • Flood insurance requirements. (Learn more about buying a home in a flood zone.)
  • Cost differences with homeowners insurance.
  • The water (restrictions, popularity, cleanliness, dock permits).
  • Conduct a thorough property inspection.
  • Access hidden costs and upkeep.
  • Consider the investment value.

Pros Of Buying A Waterfront Property

  1. Good financial investment.
  2. The exceptional atmosphere and unbeatable views.
  3. Breathing clean, fresh air every day can improve your health.

Cons Of Buying A Waterfront Property

  1. Higher insurance and added costs of maintenance.
  2. The influx of unwanted critters, especially mosquitoes.
  3. Popular locations can lack privacy.

Our Final Thoughts

Buying waterfront property in Tennessee can be a great investment. You gain the benefit of fresh air, unparalleled views, and living as if you’re on vacation every day. However, purchasing a home on the water isn’t always smooth sailing. For the best results and to avoid costly mishaps, we always recommend working with a real estate agent that’s experienced with buying and selling waterfront properties.