Q: We’re dreaming of owning our first lake home. We’d like to use it as a weekend retreat and fix it up or build on as time and budget allows. Do you have any suggestions as we begin our search for the perfect getaway on a budget?

Filed in Home Experts by on October 1, 2014

6205378863_cb003dc45a_b (1)A: “This is such a great question.” says Jon Drews of Keller Williams. “As a real estate agent serving the lakes area of Otter Tail County, I see a broad range of lake properties – and price points. With such a variety of available properties, there is something for every interest and every budget.”


Very often the folks I am working with aren’t really certain what it is they are looking for. Fortunately, choosing your perfect lake place can be knocked down to a few basic steps – and can be a lot of fun. The two primary considerations for lake shoppers are typically their budget and their expectations. Budgets are what they are, so let’s move on to your expectations.


All lakes have their own individual ‘personality’. Are you seeking a great fishing lake? Are you a recreational boater or is a sugar-sand beach for sunning and swimming your preference. Maybe all you want is an amazing sunset glowing across the evening waters onto your cabin porch. What are you expecting from your perfect lake?


Here is the rub: If you want it all you will need to dig deep. Perfect beach front, sugar sand, great fishing, room for recreational boating – the lakefront alone can run between $3000 and $5000 per foot of frontage. A great lot on a great lake can easily sail past $300,000 – no buildings or improvements – just land and sand.


Now for the really great news. Is it possible to find the perfect lake home for less? Absolutely! But we may need to reexamine our expectations. Are a few steps down to the water OK? That will save some money as most people prefer zero steps – given the choice. Are you willing to consider a smaller lake? Ka-ching! Maybe a little rockiness on your shoreline? The point is to consider what is really important for you and stay open to all the water opportunities available. This may even include a river property that has boat-navigable lake access.


Moving on to the structure: seasonal homes generally cost much less than year-round homes. Check out the lake cabin market – it is a great ‘starter’ opportunity.


And here is one final tip to help with your perfect lake property search: the ‘cabarage’. What is a cabarage? Part cabin, part garage, and generally a great value! Basically, the cabarage starts as a garage with plans to add a walled-off ‘living area’, plumbing, and a garage door opening to a clear interior floor plan. You use the cabarage as your cabin in the summer and a place to store your boat and water toys in the winter. When budget and time permits, add on or build a stand-alone year-round home.


Whatever your budget, whatever your desires, there is a lake place out there waiting for you.



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