Does your family commute to the mountains every weekend? Do you spend early morning hours each Saturday and/or Sunday getting the family organized to be at the slopes for the start of the day?
Many families opt out of this weekly hassle by renting a house or condo near their favorite resort. Ski gear and clothing can be left there. Drive up on Friday evening, relax and be ready to go on Saturday morning without the stress of an early morning drive.
What should you look for when renting a property in ski country? That depends on your lifestyle and the resort where you want to spend your time. If young children are part of the mix, you might want to find something slopeside or close to the mountain so one family member can take a child home when he or she tires out. A ski-in, ski-out unit is best for this, but even a house or condo a mile or two from the area will let someone be delivered home easily without disrupting the entire day.
Another thing to consider is what you like to do in the evening. If you’re content to return to your rental after the lifts close, have dinner in, watch TV or movies or play games, then you might look for something out of town in a quiet, country setting. But if you want entertainment, like to eat dinner out frequently, sample the nightlife, then perhaps a house in a town or around the base area (depending on the resort you choose) is a better option.
As far as the actual property goes, you need to again examine your lifestyle as well as your budget. How many bedrooms do you need? Will you or the children be bringing guests? Is one living space, whether large or cozy, where you can all be together preferable? Or would separate spaces for relaxation work better for the family? Do you prefer something upscale, in a condo community with amenities such as a spa, swimming pool, workout equipment? Or will a simple house work fine for your group?
Budget is an important consideration. If you rent a single-family house, in addition to the rent, you likely will be responsible for paying utilities including cable and wifi as well as plowing costs. Be sure to ask about the type of heat the house has and how efficient it is. Fuel costs over the course of a winter can come as a surprise sometimes and you want to be prepared.
When searching for a seasonal rental property, it is a wise idea to use a real estate rental agent. These folks know the properties and by asking a few questions can often direct you to something you might not find on your own. They will have a handle on expenses for the winter, condition of the property and lots of tips on location relative to the mountain and other activities that might be of interest to you. There are plenty of ways to book lodging online, but if you go this route, be sure to use reputable websites and ask a lot of questions.
Another option is purchasing a home in ski country — clearly a more complicated process. Perhaps you’ve rented for a season or two and decided that a second home is right for you. Or maybe you’re just ready to take a leap of faith and go directly into ownership. What are some of the considerations you should take into account?
First of all is location. If you’ve been renting and enjoying the area you are at, or if you’ve been day tripping and love a particular resort, the decision is easier.
If you don’t have a preferred area, think about what’s right for you and your family. Do you want to ski one mountain all the time or be in a location where you can easily reach several resorts? Are you purchasing near a resort that will be good for your family for future years? You don’t want to end up at an area that the kids will outgrow too quickly.
There are also many choices once you decide on a particular area or region. Do you want to be slopeside or is a home in town or out in the countryside preferable? Should it be a condo or single-family home? There are advantages to each.
If you decide on a condo, there are several things you should investigate. Is it a new development or an established community? If the development is older, you would want to know the history of upgrades to the buildings and grounds. What has been done in terms of roofs, building siding, roads, etc.? If there are amenities like a swimming pool or fitness room, check out their condition and how they have been maintained.
Condo fees are another consideration. Are they reasonable or so high as to feel like a second mortgage? You also should carefully review the condo association documents to be informed not only of rules and regulations but also the association’s financial status. The capital reserve fund should be adequate to cover both planned and unexpected maintenance costs so you don’t get hit with a surprise special assessment.
You also want to consider usage of the condo in the off-season. If you won’t be coming to the mountains in the summer, you might want to rent out the unit. Some associations enforce minimum rental periods of anywhere from two weeks to three months or more. This could impact your ability to secure a tenant. And if you want, or need, to rent it out in the off-season, be sure it’s in a location where there are summer activities and a demand for rentals. Although condo fees add to the cost of ownership, there are advantages also. In addition to outside maintenance, these fees cover snow removal, shoveling and trash pickup. You won’t have to worry about tromping through snowdrifts when you arrive on Friday night, storing your trash because the recycling center isn’t open when you are leaving, or spending your summer weekends mowing the lawn. You can simply walk away at the end of your stay and know these things are taken care of.
Condo living is not for everyone, however. You might prefer the privacy of a single-family home either close to town or in the country. While you won’t incur condo fees, you will have other expenses. You’ll have to arrange for plowing and sanding after storms, perhaps someone to check on the house after a power outage when you’re not there, and of course all maintenance will be your responsibility. The advantages are privacy, perhaps a more tranquil setting and, if you’re in the country, you likely can cross-country ski or snowshoe right out your front door. If you wish to rent it out, you’ll be your own boss, with no association restrictions. But of course you’ll have more responsibility. If something goes wrong, you can’t just call the office; you’re on your own to find a repair person.
No matter which way you go, there are things to assess before buying. Does it make financial sense? Will you use it enough? What will you do with the property in the offseason? Is it in a location where you and your family will use it in the summer, or if you want to rent it out, is it in a rentable location?
Once you settle on a property you should have a building inspection done. Inspectors are licensed and can give you a thorough picture of the condition not only of the building itself but also of the heating system, appliances, wiring and many other parts of the infrastructure a layman cannot see.
Buying a home in ski country is a big commitment but can bring big rewards. As a gathering place for family and friends to enjoy the outdoors together, many lasting memories will be created. Family members who might not ski will still have a base from which to enjoy other outdoor activities, or to just hang out by the fire and read. And you don’t have to worry about making reservations, finding a place to stay after that two-foot snowfall or lugging your gear and clothing back and forth. The home and your belongings are right there waiting for you.