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Old 06-05-2013, 10:36 AM
 
Location: Sugar Land
2,465 posts, read 4,960,950 times
Reputation: 2733

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Do any of you locals or visitors own a log cabin in the Colorado mountains? Can you share your experience, the good and the ugly, the unpredicted?

I fell in love with this winter spot and I have an itch to build a small log cabin (2 or 3 bedrooms) in Steamboat Springs Colorado. It will be be for summer vacations (hiking, ranches visits, horse riding, fishing, lakes, canoe, etc, etc) and also winter vacation (ski, snowboard, snowmobile, etc, etc). I am thinking about using it for 4 or 5 times a year plus some of my family will use it as well for few times a year. I don't plan to rent it out.

Should I do it? Is this a bad idea, good idea? Am I getting into something that is way over my head? Can any of you speak from direct or indirect personal experience?

Thanks again
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Old 06-05-2013, 03:19 PM
 
3,103 posts, read 2,838,843 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ethanw View Post
Do any of you locals or visitors own a log cabin in the Colorado mountains? Can you share your experience, the good and the ugly, the unpredicted?

I fell in love with this winter spot and I have an itch to build a small log cabin (2 or 3 bedrooms) in Steamboat Springs Colorado. It will be be for summer vacations (hiking, ranches visits, horse riding, fishing, lakes, canoe, etc, etc) and also winter vacation (ski, snowboard, snowmobile, etc, etc). I am thinking about using it for 4 or 5 times a year plus some of my family will use it as well for few times a year. I don't plan to rent it out.

Should I do it? Is this a bad idea, good idea? Am I getting into something that is way over my head? Can any of you speak from direct or indirect personal experience?

Thanks again
We live full time in a secluded little 5,500 sqft log "cabin" in the mountains where we can dirt bike and snowmobile from the front door. I don't own a snowmobile (yet) but I do log about 9 hours a week on the KTM in summer.

It's a dream come true and we love it. To be able live and raise a family in this environment is something special. There is a large elk herd that comes right up to the house and looks in our windows. We have camp fires 2-3 times a week and the odd bon fire in winter.

I will say log homes are pretty expensive to maintain. Ours is about 6K every 4 years to refinish the exterior. The extreme weather takes it's toll on wood.

The logs have a way (horizontal lines & darker colors) of shrinking a room. Normal sized rooms may feel a little claustrophobic. It's also going to take a lot more light bulbs to brighten the room.

There's also the issue of winter access. You'll have to pay someone to plow your drive for you. Animals and birds will love the fact that you're not home and will make themselves welcome.

Lastly, keeping a house up in the mountains heated is expensive. Even when you're not using it, you still have to keep it heated so the pipes don't freeze. And if the heating fails your house will flood. Getting well water (at near freezing temps) heated is going to add up also. Do you work on your own sled? You'll need somewhere warm to work on it unless you're planning to tow it up and back.

How far away is Steamboat from you primary residence? That drive may get pretty old if you use the cabin a lot.

I'm not saying don't do it, but just go in eyes wide open. Most of the homes in my neighborhood only get used a few times a year.

Hope I didn't sound too negative, there is not a day that goes by that I don't appreciate living in the mountains in a log house.
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Old 06-05-2013, 04:04 PM
 
20,853 posts, read 39,085,412 times
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Aside from everything already quoted, any cabin left unattended is a target for thieves, a known problem across the state.

BUT what really makes me hate the idea is to spend all that money and only use it a few weeks a year, wow, that is some waste of investment capital.

I've expounded here many times about just renting what you need once in a while and keep one's money in a place where it earns money for you. There are excellent resorts in mountain areas, rent a room for a week and then walk away from it, go to different ones each year for variety - it's a BIG state. There are many cabins up there that are for rent by those who've plunked down their capital, so rent for a week from them and then walk away from it.

Don't let things like second homes, boats, RVs, etc, end up owning you.
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Old 06-05-2013, 04:50 PM
 
826 posts, read 1,607,172 times
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Yes, it can work. This verges on being common in my neighborhood. But I strongly suggest doing one week rentals in the area you are considering three or four times - ie, maybe a year. The money spent will be returned many times in information about the locals, the real estate market, and the overall quality of life there. Besides, you might fall out of "love".

On the one side is the potential for losing interest - Mike's argument for renting when and where you want has a basis. On the other hand, it can be nice to belong to a specific locus - to have your things arranged your way while living among your neighbors. Expensive, but nice.

But back to reality: You are talking about a cabin of 1200 sq. ft., minimum, with two bathrooms, plus garage or some kind of out building - a fairly good sized one if you plan to park a car along with your toys - and I certainly would want to.

Why build? Is nothing for sale to meet your needs? It is highly unlikely you can build a new anything for the price of an existing equivalent. Does it have to absolutely be a log cabin? As the poster noted, they are not without their issues. Whatever you imagine it will cost to build, it will be far, far more. Materials may have to come from a distance. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, etc. ditto.

You will be there four times a year. However, taxes go on 12 months a year. Insurance as well. Even if you drain the plumbing and shut off the heat when leaving - as many do - base electricity charges will be an every-month expense.

Of course, electricity may not be available where you want to build. Or telephone. Or internet. Or even cell phone service. Going to go off-grid? Do you have any idea how long it will take to heat a house up from -20 deg. f.?

Access can be a problem - snowfalls there can be measured in feet. Even if you are on county maintained roads, their work stops at your driveway - which may have a six foot snow berm left behind by the plows.

Crime is definitely an issue with vacation cabins. What may not be self evident is the fact that the greater the seclusion the greater the risk. A more developed area has full time residents with eyes and ears - which is not to say they are crime free either.

Getting work done can be an issue: "Hello, my washing machine needs work. You can come next Thursday? But I am leaving on Sunday! And what do you mean you charge mileage?". Petty stuff starts to add up. What do you do about the trash? What do you do about the dead limbs and needles piling up (think fire mitigation)? Who is going to stain the deck this year? Etc. Etc. Ad Infinitum.

It is often said that the two happiest days in a person's life are the day they buy a vacation property and the day they sell it. That does not have to be. Just step back from the romance and take a look at the reality. It may very well work for you. You must also realize you are taking this step as a luxury - a rather expensive one, and not expecting to somehow save money over weekly rentals.
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Old 06-05-2013, 05:45 PM
 
20,853 posts, read 39,085,412 times
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Arrby, thanks for the post. Another point worth noting is that many of the best sites with the most stunning views have long been bought and are not available, except maybe as resales or rentals. For new builds, there are a ton of issues, especially drilling of well$ and dealing with bringing in utilities. Propane heat is very costly too.
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Old 06-05-2013, 11:18 PM
 
3,103 posts, read 2,838,843 times
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Someone mentioned internet connection... as of early last year, anywhere you get a clear view of the southern sky, you can now get a reliable, high speed, high cost connection!

Being sat based, there is some latency, but it will support a VIP and I've even been able to use it for gaming (on games that say they don't support sat connections).

Southern exposure FTW
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Old 06-06-2013, 10:24 AM
 
Location: Bend, OR
3,296 posts, read 8,428,269 times
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My parents own a log "cabin" in the South Park area of Colorado. I put cabin in quotes because my idea of a cabin and theirs is pretty different (but it sounds like you are looking at their idea of a cabin--running water, plumbing, etc). Anyhow, they love this second home and spend a great deal of time there. Of course, they live in Denver and plan to retire to this home eventually. They found the cabin for sale when it was just a shell and they've slowly worked on it over the years. When I was working for the Forest Service in the mountains, I actually lived in their cabin for about a year. I loved it, but eventually grew tired of my 45 minute commute and moved into town to be closer to work.

So, as far as the bad experiences go, there are a few. We had an issue with plumbing once while living there and it took 2 days to get a plumber out. We couldn't use the toilet for those 2 days. That wasn't exactly ideal. This winter, the area didn't get much snow, but it was extremely cold. Their septic tank froze. It's now going to cost several thousand dollars to fix it. The other issue is access, especially in winter. They are 10 miles back off of a Hwy. 24, on a dirt road. It's maintained, but the soil there turns to a muddy, slick clay when it gets wet, so driving is extremely slow going unless you want to end up in the ditch. And, even though it's maintained, it's a lower priority road that the highways, so you may not be able to get out when you need to. Fire risk is pretty high. You have to be willing to potentially lose your home to wildfire.

With all that said though, my parents will be living their dream soon. They have a gorgeous log home, it's small but very well built (because my dad did most of it himself), and it's in an ideal location for them. They would never give up this dream.
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Old 06-07-2013, 10:15 AM
 
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
7,764 posts, read 16,846,559 times
Reputation: 9316
Mike from back east wrote: Aside from everything already quoted, any cabin left unattended is a target for thieves, a known problem across the state.

BUT what really makes me hate the idea is to spend all that money and only use it a few weeks a year, wow, that is some waste of investment capital.

I've expounded here many times about just renting what you need once in a while and keep one's money in a place where it earns money for you. There are excellent resorts in mountain areas, rent a room for a week and then walk away from it, go to different ones each year for variety - it's a BIG state. There are many cabins up there that are for rent by those who've plunked down their capital, so rent for a week from them and then walk away from it.

Don't let things like second homes, boats, RVs, etc, end up owning you.



Sage advice!
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Old 06-08-2013, 11:50 AM
 
1,059 posts, read 1,636,221 times
Reputation: 1928
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike from back east View Post
Aside from everything already quoted, any cabin left unattended is a target for thieves, a known problem across the state.

BUT what really makes me hate the idea is to spend all that money and only use it a few weeks a year, wow, that is some waste of investment capital.

I've expounded here many times about just renting what you need once in a while and keep one's money in a place where it earns money for you. There are excellent resorts in mountain areas, rent a room for a week and then walk away from it, go to different ones each year for variety - it's a BIG state. There are many cabins up there that are for rent by those who've plunked down their capital, so rent for a week from them and then walk away from it.

Don't let things like second homes, boats, RVs, etc, end up owning you.
Absolutely the best advice in the thread.
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