What is a Stilt House on Alabama Lakes?

On many lakes in Alabama water levels can fluctuate yearly, sometimes quite quickly. One prime example is Weiss Lake in Northeast Alabama. This manmade lake’s water level is controlled by Alabama Power Company, and historically, the level drops in September around six feet total, and reaches full pool again in April. This scheduled yearly drop is designed to accommodate the heavy rains we get during the winter months. However, sometimes those rains overtake our Alabama lakes and levels rise to flood stage.

For this reason a few lakes have deed restrictions on the lands bordering their shores. Commonly known as deeded recreation lots or deeded RV lots, these properties are located in the flood zone easement controlled by either Alabama Power, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) or the Army Corp of Engineers, and traditional foundation houses are not allowed. Since RVs have wheels, they’re free to set up on these lots year-round because they can evacuate if water levels rise. While this is an immediate turnoff for many home buyers and builders, the educated buyer can take advantage of potentially huge price savings!

While prices vary lake to lake, on Weiss Lake the average cost of a Rec lot is between $50,000 to $100,000 with improvements. That’s a stark contrast to the average building lot starting at $125,000 and going as high as $200,000 in the area – with Weiss traditionally being the cheapest lake in North Alabama!

While you can’t build a traditional block foundation in the flood easement of these lakes, many lakes, Weiss included, will permit you to build your dream home on piers or stilts in these areas prone to occasional flooding. I’m not talking about tree houses either! Take a look at some of these beauties as prime examples of stilt houses. 

As you can see, the foundation need only allow water to freely flow underneath it, and that water level is not a guess, it is precisely surveyed and deeded as a restriction in each lot. With one call to the appropriate shoreline commission, you will know exactly how high the bottom of your home needs to be off the ground to be out of the flood zone. I live in a stilt house myself. I’m only a few feet off the ground – you wouldn’t think it was a stilt house at all. It varies lot to lot. 

The takeaway is this, deeded lots are often much cheaper than a traditional building lot, and with the right information your Lakefront Living agent can provide, you can build your dream house on the lake for a lot less money than a traditional building lot would cost!

By: Clark Stewart, The Alabama Lake Guru

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