SML Buyer FAQs

What's the different between lakefront and lake access?

“Lakefront” means that your home or lot has actual water frontage on SML. Typically, 100 feet of water frontage is enough for a dock. Less than 100 feet, unless grandfathers, may prohibit the building of a dock. “Lake Access” means the home or lot does not have actual water frontage, but the community has provided access by way of a community boat ramp, or assigned slips or docks. A lake access home will often command a higher price than an off water home with no access. Buyers should carefully compare that price differential with the cost of renting a slip or dock at one of the many marinas.

Isn't it better to have a level lakefront lot?

Yes and no. Level lots can be easier to maintain, provide flat playing areas for kids and make walking to and from your dock less strenuous. Sometimes though, they are an indication of shallow water and that may make it difficult to launch a boat during droughts. Steeper lots are more of a challenge to walk, but often provide more sweeping views and a more natural landscape. Water is usually deeper on a sloped lot.

What is a no wake cove? Should I buy on one?

A “no wake” cove is a cove where a community has received permission to place “no wake” buoys, to prevent boats from traveling at any speed high enough to cause a wake. This can help prevent shoreline erosion and also can enhance safety for swimmers. If the cove is especially long, it also means that when you take your own boat out, you have to honor the “no-wake” rules too. That means you can’t be in a big hurry to get out to the main lake channels. Buying on a no wake cove is a matter of personal preference.

Where is the best place to be located on the lake?

It’s impossible to answer that question, as it’s very specific to each family. Do you want an established neighborhood? do you want to be able to rent your home? Do you want to be closer to an Interstate Highway? How close to shopping do you want to be? SML is bounded by 3 different counties. Each has advantages. Talk to us to help refine your own needs.

What is a deeded boat slip?

A deeded boat slip is actually noted on your deed and it is assigned to you when you purchase a lake access home or lot. They are typically owned by the community and homeowners pay a yearly fee to maintain. Note that a “slip” is like a parking space for boats. You can tie up, but typically do not have a boat lift or protection from the elements. Some communities have deeded docks, that include a lift and roof overhead.

Do I have to have a dock?

No. Some folks have floaters or a slip and are perfectly happy. Waterfront property values though are greatly enhanced by the addition of a dock.

How can I make my dock bigger?

The size of a dock is currently determined by the length of water frontage you own. Check current AEP rules for how much frontage is required for dock expansion. Also check on setback requirements and shoreline management rules that govern clearing and erosion control.

I notice that some homes have small beaches. Is that something I can add?

If you buy a home that has a small beach, you are allowed to maintain it. If not, according to current Shoreline Management policies, beaches are not allowed to be artificially erected.

What are the winters like on SML?

We typically don’t get major snow storms and some winters are without snow at all. There are occasional winter cold snaps, where temps can get in the teens or lower, but there are also many mild winter days in the high 50s- low 70s, that are perfect for boating or fishing.

Can I rent my home?

You can short term rent in Bedford County and in Pittsylvania County, unless restricted by a neighborhood covenant. Franklin County requires that rentals be for a 1 month minimum. Condos in Franklin County allow short-term rental.

I've never owned a boat. how hard is it to learn to operate and find my way around without getting lost?

Some boats are easier to handle than others. A good dealer will take you out and help orient you to your boats operation. A safe boating class, offered by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, is also a MUST. As for navigating the lake, it’s easier than you might think. As you travel down main channels, numbered green buoys mark your way. upon your return, the red buoys are on your right. There are a number of really detailed lake maps and most current cell phones can be used to navigate. Finally, because of the location and prominence of Smith Mountain, it’s very hard to get disoriented. It took me less than a week to feel confident that I’d never get lost on SML!

How much do water levels fluctuate at SML?

SML is used to generate electric power, so levels will fluctuate when water is being released for that purpose. Unlike some southern lakes, where water is literally drained from more shallow sections in the winters, AEP keeps water levels pretty high in Smith Mountain Lake. Boating is never impacted by the release of water. Lake levels are impacted more by the occasional extended drought, which can drop lake levels by several feet. On very rare occasions, this can prevent some lakefront owners from having enough water to float their boats upon lowering from lift. It’s important, when buying a lakefront property, to check water depth at the end of a dock. That will give you a pretty good indication of how you will withstand drought conditions. a medium sized boat usually need 2-2.5 feet to float.

Is the water safe to swim in and can I eat the fish I catch from SML?

Yes, with the usual caveats. Don’t drink untreated water from the lake. The striped bass in the lake are particularly tasty when grilled, baked or sautéed. They have a dark bloodline that should be completely removed before cooking. Occasionally, careless and irresponsible boaters will dump porta-potty refuse into lake. E-Coli levels are regularly monitored and the discovery of that bacteria in an area will result in a temporary warning to avoid swimming in that area, until the water tests negative for bacteria. All other fish in the lake are edible (if you like eating them) Carp are plentiful, but not a good eating fish.

What are the schools like around SML?

The county public schools have strong reputations when compared to other schools in VA and across the US. There are also a growing number of private school options in the area. We recommend you visit schools and talk to as many parents as possible about their experiences with the local education systems.

What kinds of cultural activities are on the lake?

The Smith Mountain Arts Council (SMAC) presents a variety of concerts, plays, photo and art shows. Several special interest groups, ranging from writing to ballroom dance and barbershop quartet singing are also available through SMAC. The Harvester Performance Center in Rocky Mount also offers a full schedule of world class music. most of the local restaurants also offer live entertainment. Roanoke and Lynchburg also offer a broad range of cultural activities.

How difficult is it to work at my current job from SML?

With several high speed internet options available, it’s easy to work from home at SML. Easy access to airports in Roanoke, Lynchburg, Greensboro, Charlotte and Washington DC, also give several travel options.

Should I buy an existing house or build?

My builder friends tell me it currently costs 40-50% more to build than to buy a similar existing house in today’s market. With that said, if you have what you think is a perfect lot and a crystal clear vision of your dream home, by all means…build!

Does the lake ever flood? do I need flood insurance?

When the lake “floods” the water typically rises no more than a foot above dock levels. This usually happens during the rare tropical storm or stalled storm front. Water levels subside quickly in these rare conditions and usually don’t affect homes.  Some lots require flood insurance. Check before you buy!

How do I get my trash picked up?

Most people at SML take their trash to one of the many trash dumpsters located around the lake. There are also businesses that will pick up your trash.

How close is good healthcare and emergency care?

Both are close. There is a hospital in Rocky Mount and 3 Hospitals in Roanoke. There are more and more specialists in cardiology and eye care locating at the lake, along with several good family practice docs.

Are there decent grocery stores and other shopping nearby?

A Kroger is at Westlake and Food Lion on Bedford side. There are a number of mini markets for emergency staples. There are also a number of gift shops at the lake. Bridgewater Plaza (at the HalesFord Bridge) has the highest concentration of shops and restaurants. Larger shopping malls are in Roanoke, Lynchburg and Greensboro.

Are there workout facilities or health Clubs?

There is a great YMCA in the Westlake area. It has tennis, racquetball, cardio and weigh equipment and a basketball gym. The Y offers various membership packages and has a number of year round fitness programs. There is also a Curves at Westlake and a smaller Y in Bedford, plus a large Y in Rocky Mount.