Everyone dreams of owning a piece of paradise. Whether it’s buying a dream ski chalet, family vacation home or mountain retreat, there’s a lot to consider. Here are a few basics to help you get started.
Though we’d all like not be chained 24/7 to our digital devices, these days your cell phone, laptop, tablet, etc., is probably as indispensible to your daily life as, well, eating and breathing.
Be aware that in mountain towns, cell phone coverage and wi-fi service can be as rugged as the soaring peaks all around you, with dropped service, dead zones and uneven coverage a fact of mountain life. Towns, resorts, and businesses are upgrading technology all the time, and have made huge process in recent years. But do your due diligence before you buy a place. How’s the cell coverage in your new neighborhood? What carriers work best? How about in downtown? Or on the slopes and the hiking trails. It’s a great excuse to knock on a few doors and chat up your potential neighbors. And maybe enjoy a cup of coffee and a buttery scone in the process.
Access and convenience
One of the huge attractions of mountain living is that these beautiful communities are, of course, nestled away in the mountains. Yes, that’s obvious, but so are the ramifications of a remote location that too often can be overlooked, minimized, or simply ignored by visitors or homebuyers.
The first residents of these towns often ended up there to be left alone, as the mountains are a great place to hide out. Just ask Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. So what are your primary goals for your mountain home? Are you looking for a frequent weekend family getaway? Or perhaps a secluded snowy retreat far away from the hustle and flow of civilization?
A family retreat needs to be accessible to everyone - or as many members of your family as possible. Jumping on a long flight or packing a car for a full-day drive might not seem like a big deal to you, but parents with young kids or elderly grandparents might think differently. It’s all about location, location, location for a number of reasons. Also, for a family vacation home, you’ll also want plenty of activities for different age groups. And if you’re looking for your vacation home to also double as an investment rental property, be realistic on how often you would like to use it - or conversely, how often you plan to put it into the rental pool.
According to the 2017 Vacation Home Buyer’s Survey by the National Association of Realtors, vacation properties, on average, were located 200 miles from the buyer’s primary residence. That sounds right, as it translates into about a three to four hour drive. (Interestingly, the typical investment property was only 20 miles away.)
And what are your long-term goals? Do you plan to sell the place after the kids grow up? Or would you like to eventually move there after retirement? About one-third of vacation homebuyers last year said they plan to do exactly that.
Check out the town - and the seasons.
What makes a great mountain town? Different things to different people, for sure. So you need to do your research to find the right fit for you.
Ski with the locals. Stroll the downtown core. Grab a bite at the popular breakfast restaurant to watch how the town wakes up. Later buy a few drinks at the local tavern, tip well, and ask the bartender for the real intel on the town. Then consider dancing on a table before last call to get an insider feel for the place.
Better yet, do all of the above during different seasons. Weather, travel times, crowds and the overall vibe of a town or resort are different depending on the season. Winter isn’t summer, and neither are similar to the so-called shoulder seasons between the two. That’s half the fun of mountain living, as the town changes along with the seasons.
And, of course, run the financial numbers with your accountant before you make a move. But that isn’t nearly as much fun as dancing on a table.