View Full Version : Lake house usage

06-02-2012, 11:46 PM
The wife and I are considering buying a small lake house- very affordable (as in cheap), and very well kept with many recent upgrades. I would have bought it today, but what held me back is that the land is leased, at around 4k per year. Because of that, taxes are next to nothing, so there is a trade off. I just can't decide if I'll use it enough to justify nearly $400/month lease. Wife and son really like it, but we also agreed that we could do a couple of weekends a month at various rental houses, with no expenses during the off season. So my question is- how often do you use your lake house, and do you feel it's worth the expense and convienience, compared to renting?

06-03-2012, 05:39 AM
We had been shopping the last couple of years and have gone through every scenario possible. 3 season cabin vs 4 season cabin, purchasing with relatives, cabins with roads between residence and shore line, renting a slip, driving 60 to 80 miles, 200-500-1000 acre lakes,etc.... Although we had not run into a scenario in which the land was leased. This was our first cabin purchase too and we trying to find something that wasn't too expensive. I am not sure how I would feel about my property being on a lease. If you are financing you might want to ask your banker how they feel about this and ask your insurance agent to see if there are complications with this type of purchase. Another thing to consider is resale and how this will complicate things if/when you need to sell down the road. Although the cost of the lease versus taxes will be similar, most people will want to own there land.

This is what we did. We found a 3 bedroom, 4 season cabin on a smaller lake-200acres, private seller, 15 miles from our house, and we are moving in for the summers. I got a lot of good advice from people on this site. We love our place and I will get to ski every night.

Good luck with your cabin search. It is so much fun.

06-03-2012, 09:32 AM
we bought our property in 1991 and built in 1994. we go down at least every other weekend through the summer and try about a weekend a month in the offseason .. kids sports and my work travel have affected that this year. Linda and the kids also stay for a couple weeks several times in the summer ... we love having the lake house

Our good neighbors are not neighbors ... they are our lake family ... and they really are family ... that's probably the best part

06-03-2012, 09:44 AM
having a place to call our own on the lake really expanded our lives as a family. before then, we were relegated to day trips and the occasional overnight stay with friends. we never faced a lease option so i can't comment there. my wife and i did agree that we didn't want to share the place with anyone else, family or otherwise. not that we don't like company and family. we just didn't like the idea of having to coordinate our trips with anyone else. if we want to get away, we just go. we spend a great deal of the summer at our place which is only about 1.5 hrs door to door. we know folks who share their lake houses and it seems to work for them, so its not impossible. it just wasn't what we wanted. obviously money is the root factor here and we had to settle for "less" of a house than the ones that friends or families shared. we were also surprised how much we use the place in the off season just to "get away" and do some hiking or relaxing.

bottom line, if the money is right, its a great investment for your family.

06-03-2012, 10:19 AM
we live on a lake and would not have it any other way. We're in NY, so summers are short, but winters on the lake are just as fun with 4 wheelers and ice skates. And of course, VT is just up the road for snow skiing.

We bought an old camp for about the price of property (in other words, the house came free) because it needed to be torn down and was actually a liability in some ways. We used the house while we planned our tear-down and saved up some dough. 11/2010 we tore down and 5/11 we moved into a beautiful 3000 sq ft house with a great view of the lake. Obviously, this is our full-time residence.

I agree with 2R lake. We have over 100 neighbors. Our best friends live on the other side of the lake & there's nothing like having 8 ski boats on the lake that you can bum ski rides if yours is in the shop : )

06-03-2012, 10:44 AM
We're pretty spread out and use the lake house as a gathering spot for family functions, not just for the lake.

Parties during football season, holidays, just a place to be out in the woods and relax for a weekend.

06-03-2012, 11:43 AM
I would be very leery of any "easements", "leases" or any other variances of outright owning what you're going to use and probably grow to love. We've found easements can be reversed, too bad so sad. And how would you feel if after a couple of years your lease were terminated, again, too bad so sad, and you would have to leave everything behind. Think of trailer parks in FL where the owner of the land sells to developers-land gone. You don't own the land which sets up all sorts of situations. I would rather pay taxes on it and know I own the land and the rights and peace of mind that go with it. Check on what you can put in for a dock, etc., if you don't own it. Can you build a boathouse if you want? Liability insurance if something happens? Can the landowner use the property as he wishes, coming onto your little piece of heaven? How easy to sell in that situation? I have all kinds of questions for that scenario, none I would wish to conquer. I'm sure our attorney friends on our site could add a few pros/cons, also. Buyer beware!

06-03-2012, 11:52 AM
Find out the t&c's on the leased land.

06-03-2012, 11:56 AM
That said, we use ours whenever I'm not working (12 hr shifts-3/wk RN). Hubby is retired:) Kids & grandkids don't come up as much as we'd like, organized sports even on the weekends, etc. Be prepared to do maintenance on both houses, work a lot and play HARD!! It's a lifestyle, memory building, life changing place in you and your kids' mind. Our lakehome is my peace, my place to go, even if just in my mind, when I'm stressed. I have lifelong friends on our lake as my parents had a place on the lake when I was growing up, so I know what's it's like. We still ski together, pontoon together, go to Packer games, etc. You will never be sorry you purchased a piece of heaven. It enriches your life in so many unexpected ways.

Latin Flyer
06-03-2012, 12:27 PM
Finally my game! I,m a Realtor specialized in investment properties, so here we go.
First, if you lile it or not or should you or not has nothing to do with the real estate part of it. I have a week end house on the beach and we love it!!!!!

Now, land leade. First wuestion i have is how much longer is the lease?

And land lease is a depreciable investmet, it means that the value of your investment actually goes down the closer you are to the end of the lease. It could be worh $0 aon the last 10 years if the no renewal guarantee!

How much is the house? How much would it cost to rent?
If you really wnat to do rent to own comparasion i need all this data.

I even have a program that can do all this for you. Call me at 954-274-2274 and i,ll be happy to help you. No prospecting here, just helping a fellow mc owner!

06-03-2012, 02:45 PM
Here's some more details- This area is more-or-less a trailer park. Many of the residences are mobile homes, and most with permanent additions. Some have elaborate decks and lifts, some don't. The area is clean and well maintained. I can't justify a 100k+ home on the lake, so we're considering going this route for a weekend cabin. The current owner lives there full time, and has made a nice place out of it. It can be bought for under 15k, and has a decent deck and dock, but no lift. Lot rent is $400/month, or leased by the year for $4000. It is in move-in condition, with the only immediate expense being a lift for the MC. If we use it twice per month, I think we can be satisfied with the expenses. Our son is 23, and may use it more than us. I also have 2 brothers that would love to have a place to congregate on the weekends. The cost is not a burden to us, but I'm one of those frugal guys that has to justify everything I spend my money on. I should probably get over that, and enjoy this place.

06-03-2012, 07:55 PM
Here's some more details- This area is more-or-less a trailer park. Many of the residences are mobile homes, and most with permanent additions. Some have elaborate decks and lifts, some don't. The area is clean and well maintained. I can't justify a 100k+ home on the lake, so we're considering going this route for a weekend cabin. The current owner lives there full time, and has made a nice place out of it. It can be bought for under 15k, and has a decent deck and dock, but no lift. Lot rent is $400/month, or leased by the year for $4000. It is in move-in condition, with the only immediate expense being a lift for the MC. If we use it twice per month, I think we can be satisfied with the expenses. Our son is 23, and may use it more than us. I also have 2 brothers that would love to have a place to congregate on the weekends. The cost is not a burden to us, but I'm one of those frugal guys that has to justify everything I spend my money on. I should probably get over that, and enjoy this place.

My in-laws have a very similar setup, down to the penny. They have a very nice modular home, huge pier, boat house, lift, sandy beach, etc, etc. Would it be nice to own it? Sure, but the land owner will never sell, the property is in a conservation easement/trust and without some legal wrangling can't be sold (although the entire property is worth millions, to put it lightly). They've leased it since the early 70's. Don't under-estimate insurance, maintenance and all of the other costs/headaches. It seems that every visit I'm re-wiring or plumbing or some other handy man task that needs doing - but I like that kind of stuff (up to a point).

Bottom line - a crappy cruise would cost you more than the yearly lease. Waking up early and getting in some good skiing, watching the sun set knowing you can crash there - all priceless!

06-03-2012, 08:27 PM
The cost is of the place is minimum, makes it look great. The lease will add up $4000 x 10, 20, 30, etc. You think it will sell someday, but if NOT then you owe that $4K forever or your family until you have to give it to the property owners. My sister is stuck with a similar situation in FL. The lease is eating up what little profit she'll get. If you own it outright, then you family will have it for generations to come and lake front property just keeps climbing out of the common families reach. There's a group of homes here that have the same circumstances, some have been for sale a long time, house prices are o.k., but I believe its the lease that prevents them from selling.
Be careful, leases go for X years, but can be increased upon renewal. Some original cabins come with 30 year lease, 300 a year, but adventually they'll expire. Oh, remember 2 homes require double everything, lawnmowers, weed eaters, ladders, etc. It does add up. You can get a lot of hotel, condo's, weekly rentals for $4K a year and only when you need it.
Good luck,

Latin Flyer
06-03-2012, 10:39 PM
You still did not say the land lease expiration date.

06-03-2012, 11:35 PM
We own a lakehouse that we used every weekend for 4 years. Now we have moved out of state and only get down to it about 3 or 4 times a summer. My advice is to really research the neighborhood and decide if you are comfortable leaving the boat on the lift when you are not there. Otherwise it will be a worry.

We spent quite a bit on our lakehouse and thought we were in a good neighborhood. Lots of million dollar homes across the cove from us. About 3 miles away however there are some not so nice areas that we were unaware of when we purchased. Well 2 weeks after having the boat on the lift we went down one night after work and found it had been broken into and about $4,000 worth of damage and theft. I was pretty much in tears over it as we had waited many years to buy a lake house and looked at well over 150 of them before purchasing this one.

We eventually had everything repaired and I installed a boat alarm as well as security cameras on the dock and up at the house. Everything was okay for the past 4 years.

We no longer have the boat down there as we now live out of state and we can't sell the house because of the economy, so we vacation there a few times during the summer. We went down this past week for a visit. I still had the cameras set up and running so I could keep an eye on things when I'm not there. The day after we left I noticed the cameras were not working so I called a neighbor to check on the house. It had been broken into and all the electronics, including the DVR for the cameras was stolen.

So my 2 cents is to (1) make sure you know the area really, really well if you plan to leave the boat there when you are not and (2) plan to take everything that is not bolted down out of the boat when you are not there just to be safe. We even lost stuff that was bolted such as the amp. That was tough for me to get used to as I always kept the boat in the garage and everything stayed in it. So now I was carrying my ski, wakeboard, jacket, ropes, stereo face, cd's, etc. every time we went out.

Bottom line is I would not buy another lake house that I planned to use just on the weekends.

06-04-2012, 09:26 AM
we have a place at the lake and wouldn't want it any other way....and the sad part?....it's only a 10 minute drive from our other house!!!

06-04-2012, 01:56 PM
This is really a personal decision, but I stayed away from the lease. To me land is an investment, and I personally didn't want to own a house where I didn't own the land.

I grew up on the water and have always wanted to get back. We bought a place about 7 years ago. It is a small, older place (will eventually be torn down) but what we really bought is the property and something within our budget. We have 4+ acres on a point and nearly 600' of shoreline. We are not on the newest lake nor in the newest area on the lake. There are several MH's and the roads are poor to get into our property. We even haul our drinking water as the well water is bad due to fracking (don't get me started on that topic). There are always things that need to be repaired, worked on or just maintained. Our point gets fished a lot and I joke with the fishermen that if they ever get tired of fishing, they should buy a place on the water. They wouldn't have time to fish anymore!

All of that being said, I wouldn't change a thing. My attitude changes as soon as I get in the truck to head to the cabin. The kids love it there and we do SO much together, I just can't begin to explain the joys that we share. It's not a vacation, you own the place, so there is always something that needs to be done. But I just don't seem to mind the work there as everything seems to be better when I'm at the lake!

06-04-2012, 02:00 PM
There is nothing better than owning a place on a lake. I tell everyone that Yellow Creek is my savior after a hard week. That said, I own it. Would not buy a place on a piece of leased land under any circumstances. I have seen what that has done to companies and would not want to deal with it personally.

06-04-2012, 02:12 PM
I forgot to add that we probably spend anywhere from 75 - 100 nights a year at our place.

06-04-2012, 02:30 PM
All my friends that have leased land wish they would have bought it but in many areas of the country, leasing land may be your only option. We purchased ours and it is only 40 minutes from the house so we use it quite a bit - basically every other weekend starting in April and ending in September. Probably go at least once a month from October thru March.

Some quick calculations on $400 per month (at 6% interest - which is high) is:

10 year = $36,030 present value
15 year = $47,400
20 year = $55,800
30 year = $66,700

06-04-2012, 04:28 PM
Have had a lake home for 12 years now. 4 kids presently 23 down to 13. So many awesome memories and many more to be made. About 70 minutes door to door so we run down all the time. It is a tremendous amount of work and maintenance but as someone else said it doesn't feel like work at the lake! I actually enjoy it and look forward to the projects on my list! Don't know about the lease thing but I would probably steer clear!

06-04-2012, 10:19 PM
I have been goin to our cottage for the last 40 yrs . It's the best therapy for a family to get away and into a setting that is like a vacation. Bought ours in 1973 for $15,000. Sold that one and bought on the lake in 1989 on the spot as the owner was hammering in the sign. Sure it's work, but it's scenic work. Kids are now on a water ski team so from Memorial day till Labor day we are up there every weekend. Plan is to retire there in a few years. I will never egret what my parents did by buying a place for the family.

06-05-2012, 10:50 AM
My family has had a cabin on a forest service lease for the past 40 years. The cabin's value has increased over 1000%. Not all leases are created equal!
JP :)

Shooter McKevin
06-05-2012, 05:53 PM

06-05-2012, 07:04 PM
My sister and brother in law have a house on the Colorado River in Az. The land is owned by the local indian tribe. They have been there for 20 yrs and have made fairly significant investments in upgrading their house. (probabaly not the best idea on leased land) They actually planned on retiring there. Their lease expires in 2031 and it is unclear what the indian tribe will do. Worst case, they could be made to vacate and lose everthing, best case, the lease rate will be re-negotiated (raised), but regardless, their retirment plans are subject to the whims of the indians. When they entered the lease, 2031 was so far away that they didn't think of the potential ramifications, now that it is , 20 yrs away, they will just have to wait and see what happens. I'm currently looking for a house there and there is no way I would buy a home on leased land unless I was sure it would be a short term lease. Good luck.

06-05-2012, 10:44 PM
There is some risk on building on leased land. A number of people had cabins on Hawley Lake here in AZ on land leases with the local tribe (different reservation and tribe than earlier post on the Colorado River). Everyone always assumed when the leases were up for renewal the tribe would renew the leases for another lengthy period.

Guess what? The tribe didn't offer extensions. Everyone who owned the buildings was obviously pissed and stood to lose whatever they had invested in their structures and improvements. Some people were able to somehow have their cabins picked up and moved to land off the reservation. Other people stripped everything of value from their cabins and abandoned them. A small percentage of people committed arson and burned their cabins to the ground rather than let the tribe take them over.

I'm sure it must be possible to be ok owning a building on leased land, but be careful. Make sure you understand the risks. The situation I saw I'm sure is as bad as it can get and hopefully is unusual. Make sure you fully understand all the terms and conditions in the land lease and know how you eventually get your investment back.

06-06-2012, 08:07 AM
We went thru this almost 5 yrs ago. On a limited budget, we set out looking for water front homes suitable for weekends. In our price range, we mostly found mobiles, but these were some of the nicest mobiles I have ever seen. But with prices around 200K, and leased land, banks would not touch it. So we kept looking and found an 1100sf cabin with a 700ft guest house in our budget. The land was leased, but it was long term. The bank agreed and we moved in mid 2008. We went everyweekend. I'd come home dead tired on Sunday nite, but by Tuesday, I was already packing the truck with supplies for the next project and weekend. Over the last 4yrs, we've built a dock, cleaned up the property, added a barn for winter boat storage, painted and put new carpets'floors, etc. We love it and it is a dream come true as we've always wanted a place to call our own on the lake. We previously had a trailer on a river lease for 10 yrs, but it wasn't like owning it. We have two teenagers and they love it also. Then about two years ago, the governing body, BRA, decided to sell the land to the curent leaseholders. This was great, although it was another expense, but it allowed us to own our place and we could re-fi with a better rate since it was owned. But to answer the OP, our time at the lake has gone from every single weekend to sporadic at best. Both kids are in athletics and are very busy, so it gets harder and harder for us to go as a family. I still go almost every week to mow, water and check on things, but we are starting to wonder it it's worth the added financial costs to keep it. In the last two yrs, we've had two million dollar homes built in our area, and now they've bulldozed the cabin next door to start construction on a new home. As others have mentioned, owning opposed to leasing is a much better option, especially when it comes time to sell. Lake properties continue to escalate.

06-06-2012, 12:13 PM
In the last two yrs, we've had two million dollar homes built in our area, and now they've bulldozed the cabin next door to start construction on a new home. As others have mentioned, owning opposed to leasing is a much better option, especially when it comes time to sell. Lake properties continue to escalate.

As it pertains to the OP, it sounds like you have the potential to make a hefty profit, if you decide to sell. To me, this is one of the key points of owning versus leasing.

06-07-2012, 08:54 PM
Bought a year around home on a 200 acre lake 20 years ago. It sure dosen't seem like that long ago. Retired 12 years ago after getting two sons through college and moved to the cottage. Have since spent more money on a addition/remodel than origanlly paid for the place, but it is very confortable and its home! Nothing like getting up in the morning and looking out across the lake with a cup of coffee in hand. Now the grand kids are wanting to go to grandpa and grandma's lake which keeps the family close together. When the winter comes around there is always snowmobiling fun. For the family, it was the best decsions we've ever made!

06-07-2012, 09:05 PM
Great thread as we have been looking at cabins, mobile homes, campers and houseboats on Lake Cumberland for the past year and a half. Someday soon we will find the perfect fit for us.

06-08-2012, 10:07 AM
Been looking at various lakes and property types here in TN. I'm looking as our debt goes down increasing our purchasing power. Would love to find raw land and eventually build. I've found a few varying from .25 acres on up but nothing that fit exactly. Either nice building site but steep slope to lake or level lot, but neighbors are on top of each other, or the perfect site but not dock permitable. When you guys were looking for your homes, what were the key points in finding what you bought? Are there any features that are/were a must and/or deal breakers that you can give those of us that don't have a lake house yet but are looking?

06-08-2012, 10:26 AM
some of what you are asking can be very lake specific. while we did a ton of research on line, we sought our a realtor who specialized in the lake we were interested in. for our particular lake, having a natural rock shoreline and year round deep water were very important criteria. you also touched on whether or not a dock can be allowed on your site. thats important as well. on our lake alabama power controls the water level and the shoreline. they aren't as draconian as the georgia folks but they still rule the waterways. those factors can make a huge variation in the value of the property. another thought is location to the rest of the world. driving time to our permanent home was important but not critical. location to services was semi-important. we're only a few minutes by car from a hardware store, grocery store and gas station and 4 miles by water from the marina. i honestly never even considered proximity to a hardware store or hardware in general until we got the lake house. it sure is convenient when you are in the middle of a project and it only takes a few minutes to go get whatever you forgot to bring the first time.

a few other considerations would be location to a public launch and any no wake zones you may have to travel through. the closer you are to a public launch, the more traffic you'll see and having to travel through a big no wake zone every time you want to go out can be a pain.

06-08-2012, 10:34 AM
jafo9, thanks for your insight. Some of that will definately be added to the list. I was considering lakes in AL, GA, NC, and SC as well, but focusing more on TN since I live here. I don't want to be any further away from my permanent home than about 5 hrs. give or take an hour. One thing I'm considering is location for my family to visit and spend time there as well (they live in MD).

06-08-2012, 10:55 AM
I would stay away from purchasing just land for your first place unless you have a lot of cash at your disposal. There so many twists and turn, permitting, licensing, etc that can bury you. It sounds great intially, get the land so we have a place to park the boat and then build someday. At the advice of my realtor, parents, and friends that live on lakes we bought an existing place.

06-08-2012, 12:55 PM
We are on a lake that doesn't fluctuate so we didn't have to worry about the deep water issue. I lucked in to our place and after owning if for several years I love being on a level lot. I grew up on a steep lake lot.

I'm in my late 40's now but if we decide to retire or even move to the lake sooner, I want a place that I'll be able to enjoy late in life......i.e. - very limited number of stairs to get into and out of the house and to the water.