At Lake of the Ozarks, the presence or absence of a dock—and a lakefront home's ability to have one—will make a huge difference in the sale price. But not all docks and dock spaces are created equal. The size of the dock envelope and distance from other structures are major factors. If you're a buyer, be sure you are making an informed decision before you commit to a purchase.

Here are a few things to think about, when it comes to permits in particular:

1. In the process of searching for a lakefront property, be sure you understand the permitting process for docks.

2. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with permitting for seawalls, ramps, breakwaters, boathouses and any other existing or desired improvements.

3. When considering a property for purchase, always ask to see approved permits.

When I list a property, I discuss the dock and various permits with the seller and request a copy of those permits from Ameren. This shows all permitted items currently on the property along with a drawing of where the items should be situated according to the permit. It can also indicate potential for a larger dock system or other items. If it appears that any items are not permitted or appear to be out of the correct position, I help the owner arrange further investigation and correction, if necessary.

I post the permit information with the listing data so buyers can easily determine if a property’s lake frontage appears to suit their needs or if they can eliminate it from their list of homes to view. This also helps them verify that the existing dock, seawall, etc. match the current permit and makes for a smoother real estate transaction. I recommend that you do a visual inspection and get additional help if you aren’t sure about any permit items.

C. Michael Elliott

For most buyers, lakefront property with the availability to have or install a dock that suits their needs is crucial. Not all lakefront property is able to have a dock, though, and some have significant limitations. This may be caused by a subdivision restriction; other times it is due to the way the lot lines run to the lake, position of the lot in a cove, size of cove, etc. Some subdivisions designate certain lots as able to have a small dock, day dock, etc. But in the time since those subdivisions were created Ameren permitting rules changed and many of those lots are no longer able to obtain a permit.

Docks are required to be installed within the boundaries set out by Ameren. Because lot lines vary from lot to lot, the dock envelope can change greatly between properties. Ameren can require a property owner to obtain a survey if there is any question or discrepancy about the location of permit items. Additionally, there may be dock location agreements or easements granted to or by another property owner that you need to research before purchasing.

When ownership changes for a lakefront property with Ameren permits:

1. Ameren must be notified, and the existing permit(s) should be transferred to the new owner.

2. An electrical inspection completed and approved by the appropriate authority within the previous 12 months must be submitted with the permit transfer.

3. If the electrical inspection shows that any items are not in compliance; those items must be corrected with an approval issued before Ameren will process the transfer.

4. Existing permit numbers stay with the property, they are not transferred with the dock.

Any new construction, replacement or modification of existing docks must be permitted. The construction must be completed within one year of approval. If the work is not complete in that time, you can apply for one six-month extension if there have not been any changes in the information submitted in the original application. Ameren allows an exception for some large, 3,000-square-foot-plus, residential and commercial docks and may permit a term up to four years. If your permit expires, it is null and void. You will have to complete a new application, along with fees in order to have a new permit issued.

If you are a current property owner, make sure you have a copy of the permits, issued in your name, and that they are up to date. Even if you are not considering selling, it’s a good idea to have up-to-date permits. If permitting rules change and your permits are not current, you may have to modify your dock to maintain compliance.

If you are purchasing lakefront property, ask to see a copy of the current permits. If the owner does not have copies, ask them to make a request to Ameren for the permits. Permit Requests are only accepted from the property owner or the Listing Agent if the property is listed. If you are working with a Buyer’s Agent, ask them to request the information from the Listing Agent.

These are the type of issues that a good Broker will keep you informed about and walk you through any vital procedures to help you maintain your property’s value. There are many unseen items beyond the house size, condition and location that you need to be aware of when making a purchase.

C. Michael Elliott has been selling real estate at the Lake of the Ozarks since 1981. He is one of the most respected brokers in the area. If you have interest in a career in real estate or would like C. Michael’s assistance in the sale or purchase of property, you can reach him at 573.365.SOLD or cme@yourlake.com. View thousands of lake area listings at www.YourLake.com

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