Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Q: I’m so intrigued with the little cabins and cottages on the water that are listed on Vashon.

Some of them seem really cheap! I know it’s just sort of a dream in my price range to think I could afford waterfront but I wonder why some seem priced so low?

A:  Many people have that cute, small, waterfront cottage dream. In general, you need to be well over $400,000 to get something that has relatively few problems. In the lowest price ranges there are usually septic issues, landslide hazards, water problems, poor construction, poor condition, etc. It is often impossible to get a loan on these places.

If you can qualify for a rehab loan and can afford the cost of fixing it up as well as the purchase price, it might work for you. You also need to know that many of these less expensive places are walk ins. That’s the term we use when you can’t drive to the house. You park somewhere, often far from the house, and use a trail or path to get to the place. That can be fine for summer when there is sunlight until late in the evening, but it’s very hard during the rest of the year. A long, slippery, unlighted dirt trail that can wash out in bad weather isn’t ideal for year round living.

I know I sound negative. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to these little cabins and cottages. Historically, many where thrown together as a place to spend a month in the summer. They weren’t maintained or improved. No one considered that folks in the future might want to live there all year. We’ve had a few actually fall into Puget Sound. Several have been destroyed by landslides or flooding.

I’d recommend finding a structurally sound home not on waterfront and then save up for the day when you can afford to spend more on a waterfront home. Once you get into a higher price point you are generally looking at a more substantial house with fewer problems.