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Your guide to Washburn, WI real estate

Washburn, WI

Washburn epitomizes northwest Wisconsin’s unhurried lifestyle and breathtaking forest-and-lakes scenery. Part of Bayfield County, the city was founded as a lake port town and it has a rich history as well as a renewed focus on preserving its surrounding natural resources.

If you’re looking for a new home that puts you right at nature’s doorstep, Washburn real estate is worth checking out. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you make an informed decision on your next home purchase.


Home prices in the city can vary widely, ranging from as low as $100,000 to as high as $2.5 million. That said, Washburn real estate remains relatively affordable compared to the other generally high-priced markets in northwestern Wisconsin, making it one of the best places in the Lake Superior area to invest in residential property.

There’s a diversity of property types that will suit various lifestyle preferences, from mobile homes and modest single-family units to waterfront residences and acreage properties. Some of the most spacious and secluded homes are situated by the lakefront, with over 1,000 feet of water frontage and surrounded by lush woods and vegetation.

The typical architectural styles you’ll find in the market include ranch, traditional, and cabin-style houses, as well as more contemporary expressions. Most homes in Washburn usually have generous lawn space, patios, and a variety of outdoor amenities to take advantage of the lakefront location.

For buyers who are inclined to build from scratch, there are also parcels of land available, which range from a quarter acre to several acres in size. For more detailed information on specific properties and the current state of the market, check out available listings here and contact seasoned agents from Broad Street Brokers.

When is the best time to buy a home in Washburn, WI?

The post-summer months are usually the best time to find the lowest prices on homes in Washburn. Like other real estate markets across the country, summer is the height of foot traffic and demand — when buyers are out and about viewing homes left and right.

If cost is a big factor, consider exploring the market around September onwards.

Sea Kayaking


Washburn is located along Chequamegon Bay, which empties into Lake Superior. The Apostle Islands are not far from the bay and there are several local operators offering boat cruises to this popular tourist destination.

The main thoroughfares in the city are Wisconsin Highway 13 and County Highway C. From the downtown area, it doesn’t take long to drive to and from the neighboring communities of Ashland (15 minutes), Bayfield (16 minutes), and Cornucopia (22 minutes). Additionally, the stretch of Wisconsin Highway 13 is where you can sample the local restaurant and bar scene — standouts include: Dalou’s Bistro, Santa Leyenda, Harbor Table, The Snug, and South Shore Brewery Taphouse.

Hiking trails, parks, nature preserves, and campgrounds are never far from any point in the city. Some of the popular spots frequented by outdoor enthusiasts include the Washburn Lakefront Walking Trail, Houghton Falls State Natural Area, Long Lake Recreation Area, Mt. Ashwabay Ski and Recreation Area, and the various campgrounds along the Sioux River.

Chequamegon Bay


Whether you’re a savvy real estate investor or a first-time homebuyer, property in Washburn is a worthwhile investment to consider. Below are a few reasons why:

  • Steady source of passive income. With its coveted waterfront location, a residence or second home in Washburn can be a profitable rental property. Thousands of visitors from other parts of Wisconsin and out-of-state usually head out to the shores of Lake Superior during the warmer months of the year. And what better way to take advantage of the influx of tourists than to provide a beautiful waterfront abode for guests to stay a few days or weeks at a time? You can choose to rent it out on a short-term or long-term basis, depending on your goals.
  • Decent property valuation over time on lakefront houses. As you make improvements on your lakefront home, you can expect the value of the property to increase significantly. Lakefront properties are historically more expensive per square foot. In 2021, lakefront residences in Wisconsin increased by nearly $1,000 per square foot. By the time you decide to sell in the future, you’ll likely double or even triple your initial investment.
  • Washburn is a recreational haven. Buying a home in Washburn means you’ll have quick access to a variety of outdoor activities, from kayaking, sport fishing, hiking, golf, and so much more. And if you’re planning to relocate to this idyllic city, you’ll be waking up to a breathtaking lakeside environment everyday.

Sunset View


  1. Take into account the special features of lakefront property

    Unlike the average home, lakefront property has a different set of factors to consider. Take note of the following so you can make a more informed decision:

    • Lake water levels – How high or low the water is in any given period can vary. Ideally, you’ll want to be near stable water levels to prevent a diverse array of natural debris from being visible as it can be an eyesore when they’re near your property. The possibility of flooding will also be less likely.
    • The type of lake bottom – Not all areas of the lake will be ideal for every type of water-based activity. For instance, swimming is good for lake bottoms that are firm or hard. On the other hand, softer lake bottoms can make your feet sink deeper into the ground, making it difficult to swim with ease and peace of mind. Additionally, check if there is a steep or gradual drop-off.
    • Floodplains and wetlands – Due to a higher risk of flooding, waterfront locations that are near these natural catch basins usually have stricter rules when it comes to building structures. Make sure to ask a seller or your agent whether or not the property in question is near a floodplain or wetland area.
    • Invasive wildlife and plant species – Lake environments encourage unique flora and fauna to thrive. However, the presence of invasive species (e.g., sea lamprey, zebra mussels, Eurasian milfoil) may occasionally prevent you from fully enjoying certain areas near your new home.
  2. You’ll have a greater responsibility to protect the natural environment

    Buying a lake home in Washburn, Bayfield, Ashland, or elsewhere in Wisconsin entails compliance with the state’s environmental regulations. There are quite a few notable ones to consider, such as:

    • Building too close to the shoreline is prohibited. You must follow indicated building setbacks from the water up to property lines.
    • Property owners are expected to help native plants thrive and remove any invasive species that may appear near the lake home.
    • Demolishing houses or other buildings on the waterfront are subject to stringent rules. For example, the disposal of stone, wood, brick, and other waste must not have an environmental effect on nearby water sources.
  3. Expect to sacrifice a bit of privacy

    In Wisconsin, people are allowed to fish, swim, or ride a boat in the waters directly facing your property’s shoreline. The Wisconsin Public Trust Doctrine safeguards the right to:

    • Transportation and navigation on waterways
    • Recreational activities like hunting, swimming, boating
    • Enjoyment of scenic beauty while on the water

    The basis of these rights can also be found in Article IX of the Wisconsin Constitution, which states that all navigable waters are “common highways and forever free.” By upholding public ownership of navigable waters, the state and the various local communities have common cause in maintaining healthy lake and river ecosystems.

  4. Be prepared for additional costs with owning a waterfront home

    In addition to being more expensive than the average home, a waterfront home comes with additional recurring expenses that you’ll need to consider:

    • Improvements and taxes: Waterfront homeowners will usually have a number of quality-of-life improvements lined up after purchasing the property — from building a private dock and outdoor fireplace to renovating an existing patio. Plus, aside from the standard property tax, special assessments may be applied to your home, depending on the type of improvements undertaken.
    • Insurance: Buyers will typically need to get a policy that is specifically suited to a waterfront home since there are distinct hazards to consider for this type of property. Additionally, buyers who are purchasing their second home will need separate insurance if their existing policy only covers the first home.
      • Flood insurance – Some level of flooding is expected in any area near a body of water. So even if your home isn’t deemed a high risk area, it’s wise to opt for flood insurance to cover all potentialities.
      • Fire insurance – Occupancy in vacation homes can become infrequent during the off season, which means your property may be left unattended at certain times. This is especially relevant for houses that are in more remote locations. If you’re planning to develop a rental property, make sure to get fire insurance.
      • Theft coverage – Vacation homes also run the risk of being infiltrated by observant thieves who take advantage of the times when the home is left unoccupied for extended periods. Aside from getting insurance, ask the local police force if they can conduct routine checks in the property grounds on certain days of the week.
    • Miscellaneous costs: Lastly, there are expenses associated with owning a lakefront property that may not be immediately apparent, such as:
      • Fees for the local lake association
      • Repair and maintenance costs for erosion control systems
      • Population control of invasive plant and animal species
      • Upgrading or repairing the drainage system
      • For new construction: connecting the home to electricity, natural gas and other fuel sources
  5. Determine if a lakefront home is right for you

    House on the Harbor

    As mentioned above, owning a lakefront home entails a measure of responsibility and requires making a few compromises. For many, it’s very much worth it, but if you’re not up to the task, there’s plenty of homes that’ll suit your tastes and preferences further inland. You’ll find beautiful ranch and cabin-style homes on spacious lots throughout Washburn that aren’t too far from the shore.

    If you’re intent on owning your very own lakefront home, how do you plan to make use of the property? Will it be mainly for passive income generation or for your exclusive enjoyment? What outdoor or water-based activities are you looking forward to?

    Whatever your reasons are for wanting to buy a home in Washburn, it’s important to ask yourself key questions that’ll help you thoroughly assess your options.

  6. Inspect the property thoroughly

    Regardless of what type of home you’re looking to purchase in Washburn, always make it a point to see the property with your own eyes. Seeing the home and its surroundings in person helps set better expectations.

    Observe each area carefully and see if there’s anything not to your liking — from the presence of certain bugs and pests to the water level and to the quality of the shoreline. In addition, look into the property’s hazard disclosures to check if there’s any history of flooding, mold, zoning violations, septic system problems, or other issues.

  7. Contact the local lake or river association

    Towns and cities near the lake or river have local groups that are tasked with helping preserve the environment and spreading knowledge and best practices for the entire community. You can get more information about the surrounding area of a waterfront location from these local associations. In the Washburn area, there’s the Bayfield County Lakes Forum, for example.

  8. Work with a professional real estate agent

    Buying real estate is often a stressful and very emotional process. It can be quite demanding to balance the work that needs to be done with other aspects of your life. Whether it’s your first time buying a home in Wisconsin or you’re a fairly experienced home buyer, having a professional agent support you throughout the process will provide major relief.

    A local real estate agent can help you understand the nuances of the real estate market in Washburn and Wisconsin, putting you in a much better position to understand the factors that go into a home’s listing price and ultimately helping you avoid potentially overspending on a home purchase.

    What’s more, a professional will champion your interests during negotiations, which is extremely crucial when you’re dealing with challenging sellers. Your agent can also help you thoroughly dig up a property’s history of ownership and any existing liens that may pose a problem later on.

Shaking Hands


Broad Street Brokers has a combined experience of over 40 years in Wisconsin real estate. Our seasoned agents are well-equipped to assist you in your buying or selling journey.

Whether you’re looking to buy in Washburn, Bayfield, Madeline Island, Ashland, Port Wing or the surrounding communities near these fantastic locales, we have the expertise you need to ensure your real estate experience is quick and hassle-free. Together, we can help grow your property portfolio or introduce you to your first-ever lakefront home.

Consider getting in touch with us to gain a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of each community we serve. You can reach out via phone at 715.779.3220 or send an email.

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