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Thread: Cottages and second homes

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Cottages and second homes

    Owning a cottage or second home is not for everyone and might be considered a luxury and/or hassle that exceeds many planners’ available time or financial resources. Even so, I’m aware of at least a handful around here that are/have been able to pull it off by one means or other. More common, is probably renting a cottage for a vacation. I know my wife’s family used to rent a lake cottage for a week or two most summers. My own family never rented or owned a cottage, but I could understand the appeal, particularly if one’s ideal vacation revolves more around relaxation than shopping/sightseeing/taking in shows etc.

    How about you, does/did your family ever rent a cottage or own a second home. If so, what are the advantages/disadvantages as you see them?


    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Plus
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    Owning a cottage or second home is not for everyone and might be considered a luxury and/or hassle that exceeds many planners’ available time or financial resources. Even so, I’m aware of at least a handful around here that are/have been able to pull it off by one means or other.
    How about you, does/did your family ever rent a cottage or own a second home. If so, what are the advantages/disadvantages as you see them?
    Just got back from visiting Mom at her second home down at the Jersey Shore.
    Parents bought it back in 1970.
    There is always upkeep issues to deal with as I have posted about several time before.
    It is bit of a hassle for me to travel there. Financially, I have helped both ways - cash and labor.
    Strickly seasonal.
    Oddball
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  3. #3
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    I have a cottage that I never get to use. I have spent about five nights there so far this year. In return I have to pay taxes, worry about it being secure, paint it, roof it, repair stuff like septic tanks, heat it, buy electricity for it. It is definitely a money pit. When I do get time off it sort of limits where I go. For example, I took a week off this year and went to California to visit my sister that moved out there. This means one less week to spend 'enjoying' my investment. I can't sell it, the current economic downturn has put most cabins or cottages out of the reach of many, and there are probably about 30 percent of the ones in the burgh where mine is located that are on the MLS.

    I do not rent the thing out. I suppose I could, but am worried that it would get trashed. It looks a lot like the ones pictured below. Tounge and Groove, Post and Beam, honey pine. Every so often my parents will use it, my brother has only spent one night there in ten years, my sister two.

    Being that I own it, it makes it difficult for me to even sell the home I currently in and purchase another because I can't get the equity out of the cottage to use towards the next home.

    I can echo JNA and will add that seasonality makes an even bigger difference in areas with lots of snowfall. Particularly if you are not a snowmobiler or ice fisherman.

    Those that want a cottage should be prepared to be anchored in one place and not expect to travel much.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  4. #4
    Cyburbian imaplanner's avatar
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    Second homes are sooooo 1980's. I suggest you get with the program here Maister and buy yourself a fourth and maybe a fifth home.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    I can't decide whether my nonexistent summer house is at the shore or in the mountains.

    I do not own a summer house. The summer house I don't own has not been in the family for three generations. It's a simple, shingled affair, weathered and dear, with fishnets not hanging from the ceiling, duck decoys not arrayed on the shelves, and a large, yellowing map of the area, festooned with incomprehensible nautical markings, not stuck to the wall with pushpins not manufactured in 1954. I love the scent it doesn't give off of mothballs mingled with mold.
    The rest of this essay can be found here.
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  6. #6
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SGB View post
    I can't decide whether my nonexistent summer house is at the shore or in the mountains.



    The rest of this essay can be found here.
    LOL! An Onion-worthy article if ever there was.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  7. #7
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
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    When my maternal grandfather died, my parents needed to do something with the money from the sale of their house (grandma moved in with us), so in 1991ish they bought a small 2bd rental house from another family member on the other side of our block and a cottage on a nice inland lake 25 miles from the town we lived in.

    It was a decent little affair - 2 bds, 1 bath, deck, 2 car det, garage and 20 feet of lake access (the lake frontage was shared with about 8 other houses on the small sub.

    It got fairly consistent use since we lived close by, but once my parent's moved 3 hours south, it got less and less use. My brother, who stayed in our hometown often got stuck with caring for the place, which was an annoyance. Eventually, the place was sold in 2002 while my grandmother was still alive, though in hospice care.

    It was ok, but since it was technically my grandmother's my dad went along with the plan. But he has always stated that he would never buy a cottage of our own - he didn't want the hassle.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

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  8. #8
    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    The bank and I have owned a second home for nearly ten years now. Mrs. O & I go there nearly every weekend because it's only about an hours drive away. The downside is that house #1 suffers in maintenance by my absence on weekends since, being a morning person, I'm not inspired to work on it weekday evenings. The wife is not a morning person so that pretty much rules out morning activities of a substantial nature. We're actually in the process of getting ready to sell the country house, re-invest some the proceeds in the city house and then sell it so we can go back to owning one home, but in a location that we'd both like to live in.

    My parents built a cabin (a "camp" to Yoopers) in the Upper near Munising when Dad retired. They spent their summers there for nearly 25 years. Both my brother and I would have liked to have owned it but they wisely sold it knowing that neither of us (me in Texas, the bro in upstate NY) would have used it more than 2 weeks a year. It would have just deteriorated without the annual and on-going maintenance that Dad put in it. In fact, that's exactly what has happened since the new troll owners rarely get up there.

    My advice...don't buy a second place unless you can spend substantial time there or can afford to pay someone to maintain it for you and possibly lease it out for you to offset some of the expense.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  9. #9
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    vacation rentals are not allowed in your zone unless you claim your home as a homestead...

    Hey man, you need a permit for that here...

  10. #10
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ofos View post
    My parents built a cabin (a "camp" to Yoopers) in the Upper near Munising when Dad retired....
    I used to go hunting on occasion with an old college roommate who had a rustic (water pump, outhouse, wood burning stove) cabin up in the Luzerne/Mio area. To be honest, I used to find it kind of wierd how the large majority of the 'vacation properties' were unoccupied 90+% of the time. There would be a large influx of population when deer season started but it seemed like the whole area was little more than a target for vandalism the rest of the year.
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  11. #11
    We used to rent this little cabin on Lake Hopatcong in northern New Jersey. Okay, it wasn't actually Castle Edward, but I have fond memories of the log cabin we rented for a few weeks each August. How my parents managed to scrimp together the money to rent it, I'll never know. Though it has since been torn down, it lives on in vivid details in my memory.
    Last edited by Gedunker; 17 Aug 2009 at 3:25 PM. Reason: fixed link
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  12. #12
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    My 3 brothers and I own the "remains" of our family farm south of Buffalo, NY near a wild area called Zoar Valley (the house is gone, but the old barn and a tool shed remain). We have three separate camps scattered around the property. One of my brothers has a large old house trailer set on a hill with no electric, no water, primitive. Another of my brothers has a small cabin with electric, no water, and an outhouse. Because neither has good toilet facilities, my brothers and their families don't use them much. My youngest brother and I recently purchased a small camper (8' x 26') that we've set up on blocks on the property, since we were using our brother's trailer more frequently than he was (the lack of electricity gets old fast!).

    Proving that two brains are better than one, though, we set the camper up in proximity to 1) the road 2) electric service 3) the existing spring well 4) the existing septic tank and leach field. This means that our camper will eventually have all the "comforts of home" that the bigger places don't have. The really funny thing is, too, by siting it where we did, we also got shade, privacy, AND a view.

    It's getting electricity within the week (my bro was an electrician before he became a corrections officer), and a new roof coating within the month. It's small enough that a plastic tarp will prevent any snow melt from getting inside. We'll connect water and sewer next year. My project is creating a "limited maintenance" outdoor area where we can have a firepit/barbecue, picnic table, and lounging area. I'm thinking about just putting down gravel ... maybe pea stone inside a perimeter of sunken railroad ties or even rocks. The idea here is to not spend too much on stuff that's too much work to keep up.

    That's the trick to having a "second home". You need to keep it simple, or otherwise you're constantly sinking money and time into it, and not really enjoying it. That gets old fast. It also needs to be close enough that you can visit easily, even after work.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Bubba's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    My 3 brothers and I own the "remains" of our family farm south of Buffalo, NY near a wild area called Zoar Valley...
    Off-topic:
    My wife has family scattered all around that area (Springville, Gowanda, etc.) - beautiful country...
    I found you a new motto from a sign hanging on their wall…"Drink coffee: do stupid things faster and with more energy"

  14. #14
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    We just returned from, among other things, renting a cabin for a week at Allegany State Park in western NY. It was very rustic - electricity, but no running water, a small kitchenette with apartment stove and bunk beds.

    We had a blast, but we also like an adventure. The area is heavily used by folks from the region and we were definitely the oddballs being from the west. A guy at one of the general stores in the park said "New Mexico - that's the first one of those I've seen" to which I replied "So, we're the first ones this summer, eh?" which resulted in his saying "No, I mean ever - and I've worked here for twenty years"

    But in general, I loved the cabin idea. If you are going to spend some time somewhere (like a week or more), and have a family, its nice to have a home base. We love to camp, but after a few days, packing, repacking, and hunching over the cook stove gets tiresome.

    An alternative is to do what my brother did (against all recommendations, though its worked out great). His family and another one went in together and bought a lot in a small town east of the Cascades (they live in Seattle) and over about 5-6 years, built a cabin. It has all the amenities - power and running water - but is pretty roughed out inside with most things like cabinets and appliances salvaged or purchased second hand. Even with all of that, I'm sure it wasn't cheap. They did some construction work themselves, but hired contractors for the complex stuff. The other partner in the deal is an architect, so that helped a lot.

    Anyway, they are happy with the arrangement. I'm just glad the families have remained friendly or things could get ugly...

    We dream about having some land in rural New Mexico to possible retire to, but its just a pipe dream at this point. Still, we do get to dream, right?

    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    Just got back from visiting Mom at her second home down at the Jersey Shore.
    Growing up near Philly, many families I knew had this arrangement. Often, the place was rented out some of the summer months to generate some income.

    I learned that for some of these families (mostly Italian-Americans who had moved a generation earlier from South Philly to the suburbs), they still went to the same homes their grandparents or great grandparents built back in the day. In South Philly, many families that lived on the same block in the city would also buy properties at the shore together so that the whole neighborhood would move out to the beach for a month or two. So, there was often this interesting sense of social connectedness when I tagged along with cousins, second cousins, old friends, etc. all convening. Pretty fun stuff, but I am so pale, I mostly feared the beach and its evil, evil rays of sunshine.

    And of course, we called it "down the shore"
    Last edited by mendelman; 17 Aug 2009 at 5:11 PM.
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  15. #15
    We never got ourselves a summer house because of season tickets to the Redsox. We have to be in town half the weeks and weekends in the summer. Saved us a heck of a lot of money not buying a second home.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    My parents and I own a second home in El Salvador, Central America. It is a beach house. I have used it once so far since it was completed in spring 2007. My folks have used it about twice a year now for about a week each. We have family members down there that also use it sparingly. Recently they added a pool and an extra air conditioner for the 3rd bedroom. We pay a monthly fee of $20 for upkeep/security and about $12 for electricity a month. We paid cash for everything. The land was about 13K and total construction costs for the house came in at around 15K. Can't beat the warm ocean water in December. My wife and I hope to go there sometime next year.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

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    Cyburbian ofos's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Gotta Speakup View post
    We never got ourselves a summer house because of season tickets to the Redsox. We have to be in town half the weeks and weekends in the summer. Saved us a heck of a lot of money not buying a second home.
    I'm saving money by having a second house instead of season tickets to the Cowboys.
    “Death comes when memories of the past exceed the vision for the future.”

  18. #18
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister View post
    ......How about you....?
    I'm poor. Wait: Does a desk fort count?
    Last edited by Richmond Jake; 17 Aug 2009 at 6:33 PM.

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    Super Moderator kjel's avatar
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    I don't even own a first house now lol. Growing up though we had a beach house that looked strikingly similar to the one in the upper left hand photo. Since we lived just a little over an hour away and my mom stayed it home it was used pretty frequently. We would spend weeks at a time there during summer and my dad would come down on weekends. I don't know that I'd ever have a second home-only if I could really afford it and spend a good amount of time at it.
    "He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" Jeremiah 22:16

  20. #20
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    When this Bear was a young bruin my parents would rent a cottage at Gem Beach. It was almost like a small town, with a dance hall (with tavern), restaurant, skating rink, penny arcade, huge boat marina and boat dealer, bath house and a soft yellow sand beach. I probably described it in more detail in a long-time-ago thread called Gem Beach. Gem Beach probably has about 40-60 cottages, but the "glory days" are long gone. It has morphed into a boater's community because it is so close to some of the best fishing in the world.

    Every summer we would spend 2 to 4 weeks at a cottage. I loved it.....I was a youngster with a summer off and at the beach. Also, my uncle owned a cottage at Gem Beach and there were always plenty of cousins to hang with. Oh, the good times.
    _____

    For a couple years in the mid-1950s my parents and another couple rented a cottage at Au Train Lake, just down the road from Munising, MI, in the Upper Peninsula. This was a time before the Mackinac Bridge connected Michigan's two peninsulas, so we traveled by auto-ferry across The Straits.

    I rented a cottage at Au Train in the early 1980s and took my parents there, just to give them a taste of what they left behind so many years earlier. We had a great time.....except for the broken boat trailer spring (in Mackinaw City on the way home).

    Good friends own a cottage on Houghton Lake, next to The Kilcare Lounge. A few years after buying the cottage they sold their house in inner-ring Toledo suburb of Maumee and bought a house near Houghton Lake. Now, their trip to the cottage takes about 10 minutes.

    Houghton Lake is in the upper portion of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It is a huge lake, sandy bottom, relatively shallow......great fishing, especially in spring and fall. Also home to one of the world's largest gatherings of frozen lake fishermen, snowmobilers, and partyfolks....."Tip-Up Town, USA".
    _____

    Never owned a cottage or cabin. I can certainly understand the sentiments, though.....they can be money pits and time consumers.

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  21. #21
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    When my in-laws are in Florida from October to April, I sometimes feel like my wife and I own a second house with all of the trips we make to their home on Lake Huron to make sure everything is still in working order. Luckily, it only takes about 90 minutes or so to get there, and once we are there, the house is only a couple minutes via bicycle outside of a decent size town with just about anything you would need and that's about as far away from civilization as I would ever want to be. Of course, by that time of the year, the weather is not really conducive to beach-going so the lake is just something to look at. I will admit though that it does get pretty in January and February when there are sometimes 8 - 12 of ice stacked up on the beach.

    Other than that, having a second home just seems like more lawn to maintain, more trees and branches to pick up after ice storms, another fridge to make sure is emptied of stuff that spoils, another set of pipes to keep from freezing...
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  22. #22
    Cyburbian Queen B's avatar
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    I am really surprised that no one has mentioned a time share in this thread. I would think that would be the way to go. Someone else to take care of it. You pay the fes and then you can go somewhere else if you trade.

    My in-laws own a time share at the lake of the Ozarks. We have gotten it a couple of years. The kids had a wonderful time.
    It is all a matter of perspective!!!

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