Starter Second Home
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dellwood
July 22, 2005
Member since 07/22/2005
1 posts
Greetings, this is a great forum.
My wife and I are looking into buying a second home somewhere near a ski resort. Like a lot of people, we want to leverage the equity in our main home and buy a weekend get away. I know that is rather vague, so I'll try and provide some parameters.
- 4 season
- 3 hour drive time from northern VA ( the shorter the better - more use) 7s,hv,wisp,liberty,roundtop,cv,tl,rt,wg,bryce,mas,
- We have two young children (4 & 9) who haven't learned to ski yet
- We think it is better to afford a place that we don't have to rely on rental income
- Is a minimum size recommended
- If we go with one to rent, do you shoot the moon and try for the villages at SS (even if it is out of the drive zone)
- For those of you who rely on renting, do you get enough ski time
- How important is Ski in/Ski out
- How important is a location onsite
- Is renting a offsite location feasible
- Links to more information( I have been to most of the real estate sites)

Thanks in advance,
The Colonel - DCSki Supporter
July 22, 2005
Member since 03/5/2004
3,062 posts
A note of caution: Hidden Valley is for sale, so just be sure who the new owners are and what their philosophy is before buying and renting. See other threads on this site.
The Colonel
tommo
July 27, 2005
Member since 01/16/2004
303 posts
Our family has been privilged to enjoy several vacation properties over the years. I would encourage you to think very hard about what your motivations REALLY are for purchasing property and let that be the overriding factor in any decision. For example, if you frequently get away on the weekends now, and are looking to have your own place to act as a base camp, then look for a place that will provide the minimum amount of financial stress while meeting your CORE criteria for how you wish to enjoy the place. If, on the other hand, your motiviation is primarily financial,then look (and look and look) for somewhere that appears to provide a the best return on investment over your investment period.

Now for the words of caution:

Most mountain and lake properties are priced very high relative to their historical market right now.

If you rent, your expenses will be MUCH higher than expected. For example, the management company will take from 30 to 40% of gross receipts. Then there is the cleaning fees for each occupancy event, and more "crap charges" then you expect. Through in Condo fees if in a condo or snowplowing, lawn maint, painting and repairs, etc... if not in an association. At the end of the year, you will likely have negative cash flow around 8% of the purchase price. Be very careful about the "tax advantage" that realtors will figure in to any analysis they give you - odds are pretty good that the AMT will negate that and you'll have to carry forward loses until you sell.

Also, if you rent, you will have a tough decision at the times you most want to use your property. Christmas week, for example, is a very high demand week. So, if you choose to use it, you are in effect "renting" it from yourself at the net rental that you would have realized. Same holds true for MLK and GWB weekends. Given your children's ages, it sounds like you'll be captive to school schedules for quite some time, so you will likely find it very frustrating if you cannot, for financial reasons, use your place on the few extended weekends you want, after paying the bills month after month after month.

As to slopeside - yes, it is very nice, but you will pay handsomely for the privilage. In my book, the only place that is arguably worth it is the "older" properties at Snowshoe. Elsewhere, the fall off in pricing is greater than the limited benefit of a slopeside unit.

Which brings us to location. Our experience is that if you want to use it, make it close. That means 4 to 5 hours, absolute max. (2 or 3 is much better). If you are outside that range, it's a major drive to get you you place. In that case, think investment and think beyond the mid atlantic, e.g. NH, Utah, CO, NM, etc.. because you're simply not going to use the place very often. Also, in this case, go back and review the points about costs and return.

For rentals, more bathrooms is important. For your own use - well, you're the best one to answer that question. For location, the best "values" around these parts tend to be in CV right now. Some very nice places are still in the 130 - 150 per sq ft range. Black bear, Deerfield and Northpoint come to mind. At Deep Creek, there are still some non-lakefront, non ski area properties that could be viable (depending on your budget, of course) without playing financial roulette. If price is essentially no object, then Deep Creek Lakefront (or Smith Mtn or Lake Anna lakefront if skiing is down on the list) is probably the best thing going. Some Wintergreen properties are very nice as well with the added advantages of easy access, multiple golf courses, and non-outdoors diversions.

To summarize, I would say:

Buy to use, not to rent if at all possible.

Think beyond just skiing.

Be very skeptical of external "financial analysis"

Beware resorts that seem to spend a lot of money selling image, status or comparisions to other locations (you are looking in WV. Not Vail. Not BC, etc....).

Do NOT, at any cost, get suckered into a time share, aka, interval ownership, situation. It is NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT an investment and you will be locked into rising fees forever on a questionable asset that has virtually no resale value.

Good luck!
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
July 27, 2005
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Tommo pretty much nailed it, but I'll make a couple of additional points.

1. The trend right now is not to put a unit on the rental market and instead rely on capital appreciation over time to help defray costs. This strategy has worked well over the past 5 years as values have gone up, up, up, but it may not work once things flatten out. For ski resorts, the trend is a disaster because it means more cold beds.

2. Don't ever underestimate the value of slopeside. For me, it has made all the difference in the world and often makes a weekend at Timberline more fun than a trip to New England. Here are just a few advantages:
--no snowy drives once you get there.
--no walking across endless parking lots in ski boots.
--having the ability to dip into your condo at any time for food, or just to use a clean toilet (big plus!!!).

In ski resort real estate, value is directly related to ski slope access. The closer you are to a slope, the better. That's why a 650 square foot 1 BR just went on sale at T-line for $110,000 and yet you can buy a 3 BR house in Davis or Thomas for less money. Go figure.

4. Don't underestimate the other seasons. I actually enjoy my place more in the summer than the winter--something I did not count on when I bought. T-line, Snowshoe, and Wisp have great Summer activities but other resorts are lacking in this regard.

5. No matter how you slice it, it's cheaper to rent places and stay at hotels than to own. I've run the numbers many time in Excel. What makes a ski place more valuable is the ability to use it during other seasons and the luxury of being able to go whenever you want (which of course assumes that your unit is not on a rental program). Having your own base with your own food and cooking gear is also great.

6. Big downside: You'll get bored of any resort you purchase into for skiing. Hence, you will definitely still want to ski other resorts and travel further afield. This is yet another reason why renting is always cheaper. If variety is the spice of life (which it is for most skiers), then think twice about owning a place. However, if you can learn to love a mountain for what it is and not get frustrated at having to ski it 20 or more times a year, then by all means go for it.
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tommo
July 27, 2005
Member since 01/16/2004
303 posts
I think John and I are in complete agreement, even though it may not appear so on the slopeside question. It IS very, very nice to be able to go directly to and from the slopes. However, is this worth the price? If you are content to ski one area, then it may be the way to go. In our case, (2 parent, 2 kids, extended family, friends, etc...) we tend prefer to go to different ski areas a couple of times a year (other than the kids who get season passes at Wisp - a great value for them). But again, we tend to look at places from more of a 12 month perspective, and while slopeside is superior for 3 months, it's irrelavent the other 9. Again, all depends on your principle motivation.

But owning and not renting (to others) beats renting your place out hands down virtually all the time if you plan to use the place more than a week or two a year. But, as JohnFMH said, renting a place for your trips will ALWAYS be less expensive. (As an aside, the folks who complain about rental costs really ought to do the math - NOBODY is making money on a cash flow basis by renting places out these days unless they either bought quite some time ago or paid cash for the property. The ones making the dough are the management companys and realtors. The only return you will see is when you sell, and that will rarely be much except in markets such as we've seen the last 5 years.)

And, oh yeah, forget the "fixer upper." You won't have time unless you become unemployed, in which case you may be really in trouble because it will be both a cash drain AND hard to sell. As I think John has done at TL, keep your committment modest relative to your resources and you will be happy with your purchase. Give up size for location if that is your primary criteria, and understand that you are buying for your own pleasure, not to make money. If you can do that, you'll find having a second home is very rewarding undertaking.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
July 27, 2005
Member since 01/14/2004
2,645 posts
Great posts from tommo. I hereby nominate tommo to the DCSki real estate advisory board (johnfmh is already an honorary member). Strongly concur with the warning about Timeshares. Some seem satisfied with them while living in the moment, but what about at resale time? They cost as much or more than a one week hotel charge or condo rental fee, with much less freedom of location choice and likely none of the appreciation potential & resale value of true home ownership.

I've never had the wherewithal to own a ski house, but my folks owned a vacation property next to Blue Knob in the '70s and '80s. Like the current environment, those were times of tremendous real estate appreciation around DC, but in western PA their home value only went from about $25k to 50k during 15 yrs of ownership and that exit price included furnishings and lots of tender loving care. They never rented-out the property. I know some vacation home owners have seen great appreciation at Snowshoe recently, but I think generally mid-Atlantic ski home values are considerably more volatile than properties within a gallon of gas of the Beltway, especially at less than completely rock solid resort establishments.

IMHO, if you're responsible for a family of skiers, the potential boredom of ownership at one ski area is far outweighed by the logistical convenience of a permanent base, particularly if you buy sooner rather than later. College age kids tend to seek broader ski horizons or, god forgive 'em, get into nonski activities. Finally, to echo tommo again, wherever you buy, do it for your own personal enjoyment, rather than for investment and appreciation potential.

Oh by the way, that house at Blue Knob was one of the great joys in the life of my parents and my three siblings and I.
gatkinso
July 28, 2005
Member since 01/25/2002
316 posts
Let me tell you, if you do away with the slopeside mentality you can find pleny of really nice places dirt cheap up there which a fair spot of land with in a half hour of the slopes.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
July 28, 2005
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Quote:

Let me tell you, if you do away with the slopeside mentality you can find pleny of really nice places dirt cheap up there which a fair spot of land with in a half hour of the slopes.




I agree. There are some real deals to be had in Tucker and Randolph counties. Houses in Davis and Thomas, for example, are a steal. However, don't expect these properties to appreciate in the same way as slopeside, and some need a lot of renovation. Furthermore, according to David Downes of Mountaintop Realty, buyers of second homes really are not looking for a "town experience" so don't expect Davis or Thomas to become the next Stowe Village. However, things are improving and there are some super new businesses in both places (Purple Fiddle in Thomas). Davis/Thomas may not become Stowe but it may become Ludlow or Bethel, ME, some day. Let's just hope it does not become Killington.
jb714
July 28, 2005
Member since 03/4/2003
294 posts
Dellwood:

My wife and I found ourselves in a similar situation, although with a few different twists. We wanted someplace near skiing, but we wanted a place with some land, because we plan to build a house there in the next 2-3 years. At the same time, we wanted something with a livable structure already in place so that we could use the place until we build. Our desire for land obviously ruled out a condo, and our desire to be financially conservative pretty much ruled out anything slopeside. So we basically knew going in that we'd need to look 'off the mountain' but we still wanted something within a few minutes drive of the slopes.

We also wanted to keep the drive down to roughly 3 hours (we live in Woodbridge, VA). That eliminated Snowshoe, and to be honest we never seriously considered Bryce, Mass, WT, RT or Liberty because they don't get enough natural snow to suit my tastes. We also wanted something with a more central location than the CV/TL area.

That basically limited our choices to Blue Knob, Wisp or 7Springs. I'm gun shy about Blue Knob because of their (apparently) spotty track record at management. Wisp seems to have a brighter future under their new management, but we still felt more comfortable with 7 Springs - they've been well-managed for as long as I can remember. They're also planning a water-park for next summer - water slides, Lazy River, etc.

We managed to find a nicely furnished 1 BR (+sleeper-sofa) cottage with a detached garage on 4 gorgeous acres 6 miles East of 7 Springs. The price was considerably less than a 1 BR condo at the Villages at 7Springs. It's about 90 minutes from BK, 1 hour from WIsp, and roughly 2 hours from TL/CV - also 40 minutes from LAurel, if they open this year. It's also within 15 minutes of the bike trail that runs from Pittsburgh to Meyersdale (and eventually to Cumberland and DC). There's plenty of stuff to keep us busy up there, all within a reasonable drive.

We have no plans to rent it out, so I can't comment on the feasibility of renting an off-slope residence. I go up every 2 weekends to mow (I pay a kid in the neighborhood to mow at the house in Woodbridge). Although that might seem like a big committment, I enjoy the hell out of being there, so I don't mind it. The fact that the real-estate deal also included a 20 hp lawn tractor makes the mowing a whole lot easier.

We bought the place primarily with current fun and future use in mind, so it's value as an 'investment' was never much of an issue. That said, I do suspect that appreciation of off-slope property will not be nearly as attractive as anything actually located within the resorts.

If you have any more questions about our experience, feel free to ask. Also, if you decide on the 7Springs area, I can provide you the name of the Realtor that we used - she asked us what we were looking for, and then she went out and looked for property within our guidelines, without pressuring us to go for something more high-dollar.

Good Luck.....
Jeff

PS: the grounds at the cottage have a wooded section with northern-exposure and close to 100 feet of vertical. So, of course I've got dreams of thinning out some timber and putting in a ropetow.....my wife thinks I'm crazy.
lbotta - DCSki Supporter
July 28, 2005
Member since 10/18/1999
1,526 posts
My advice: if it will give you a greater sense of freedom and peace of mind, Go For It!

It may make sense looking at both finances and intangibles. The first reason, as others have said, ask yourself, WHY?... If it is just investment, you may want to reconsider. If it is for yourself, with a corollary of investment, then you're in the ballpark.

There is still one item not spoken about - and that is if you consider your pet a member of your family. In this case, it may make sense to buy. For my family and I, my dog IS a part of the family. Thunder travels with me, many times even on official travel. Before I bought my place at Snowshoe, finding a pet-friendly place was akin to winning the Power Ball. Then, if I found one, it would also be a smoking house, with the tobacco stench permeating everything and I'd return home smelling like I spent a day with Fidel Castro.

My reason for buying, then, was not investment, but to have my own place where I could bring my family, friends and yes, my black lab. I was having a rough time between arranging for dog sitters, kennels, lodging for myself, etc. On the financial side, the rental expenses were roughly $9,225.00 yearly broken down into:

45 days lodging @ $125 per day: $5,625
15 trips @ 480 miles roundtrip from DC @ roughly .25 a mile: $1,800
45 days kennel/walkers at $40 per day: $1800
Total: $9,225.00

Then the intangibles: peace of mind, sometimes lodging that had just been vacated by college kids and it stunk of beer or worse, vomit... oftentimes not knowing where I could be found until I got there (depending on your job, that IS a problem), having to bag-drag the same stuff from home to the car, from the car to the ski lodging, and back every weekend; crummy or substandard kitchen gear, Corelle plates, not having an espresso machine, and for those of us who are both Virgo and OCD, not knowing where everything is in the house...

Then consider if you own, you're sort of committed to staying there. For me that is no problem since I can stage out of Snowshoe and travel to Canaan or TL with little delay. I rent the place only on three-day weekends and another couple of weekends a year and the rental receipts amply cover the mortgage and most of the common fees. Depending on your arrangement, your investment may be tax deductible. So let's face it. For me, peace of mind is worth the expense. I literally travel to Snowshoe with the clothes on my back and my dog, get there, open up the owner's closet, and everything I need is there. I also have an owner's pantry with all the non-perishables, a roll-away pantry with the immediate groceries, spices, etc., and I'm thinking of getting a freezer for the perishables. I have a set of skis and boots at the condo. I can't ask for anything more...

Also considering, delwood, that you have two young children, that if you have ownership, you can make, or ensure that you have in the condo, the appropriate safety modifications. That is not always the case with rental property...

I know of people who's only motive is investment and frankly, I can't understand it as they lose what I consider to be a major part of my quality of life. Some others are just interested in flipping. To each its own, but if you go on resort or vacation home ownership with the idea that it will make you a happier person, then it will work.
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
July 28, 2005
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Quote:

There is still one item not spoken about -




The ability to drop everything and be on a great mountain during an EPIC powder day. To a non-skier or boarder, such a notion is completely ridiculous but to skiers and riders it's the basic reason for our existance.

I think I am missing winter.
The Colonel - DCSki Supporter
July 28, 2005
Member since 03/5/2004
3,062 posts
I know I am!!
Think Snow!
The Colonel
tgd
July 28, 2005
Member since 07/15/2004
585 posts
This is one of my favorite subjects - our second home! Plenty of sage wisdom in this thread from John, Lou, Tommo, et.al. I don't have much new to add, but I can second a few points made here that ring especially true for my family and our second home at Timberline.

Some background - we have a small simple house in Tline, a 3 minute drive to the slopes. We do not rent our place. We have been able to use it anywhere from 15-20 weekends a year. If you buy a second home for your own use, don't go overboard on size. The small size of our place is important - it is large enough to invite another family to visit, but small enough that my wife and I can clean it top to bottom in less than an hour. 90% of the time we are at the house we don't have company anyway. Keeping cost and maintenance manageable are the keys to making our ownership experience totally enjoyable.

We enjoy 4 seasons of activity in the Valley. The things I love about owning and not renting (many said here already):
1) all our stuff is there already. very little packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking.
2) the house is always clean, everything is in its place, we have great beds so I can always count on a good night's sleep.
3) we can go there whenever we please, and since there is no checkout time to worry about, we frequently (especially during the winter) extend our stay an extra night and head home early Monday AM.
4) we have 2 labs who travel with us every trip. I think Lou wrote about how most dog friendly rentals also tend to be dirtier, older, more run down. I can second that - this is where the expression "flea bag motel" comes from.
5) my daughter is 4 and is learning to ski. Timberline is plenty mountain for her right now, and we are always able to get her a lesson with the same instructor each weekend. The instructor knows my daughter's skill level better than anyone, and she's able to build on her last lesson with each new one.
6) season passes - yes they went up this year at Tline, but there is an intangible value in having a season pass that means we never have to wait to buy lift tickets - simply get to the mountain and ski down to the lift. Also, it's no big deal to head out for 1-2 hours of skiing early, late, whenever - the season pass is good for skiing anytime. Related, I never feel the obligation to ski on a crappy day simply to get my money's worth out of a day pass. If the weather sucks - we just leave, and come back to ski when things improve.

Our second home is looking to be a pretty good investment right now due to the ridiculous property value appreciation over the last 3 years. That has been a totally unexpected plus.

Overall, we love the ability to get away any weekend and head up to the valley where the phone doesn't ring constantly; there are no unpaid bills, unfinished chores or half-completed projects hanging over our heads; and we can enjoy some quality family time away from all distractions.
warren
July 29, 2005
Member since 07/31/2003
485 posts
John,
I've been missing winter since the day I packed my skis in the closet!
-Warren-
Roy
July 29, 2005
Member since 01/11/2000
609 posts
I left my ski bibs hanging on the basement door just like in winter. So far, the wife hasn't told me to put them away.
SeaRide
July 29, 2005
Member since 03/11/2004
237 posts
Quote:

I left my ski bibs hanging on the basement door just like in winter. So far, the wife hasn't told me to put them away.




:_omykneesandbow: Oh, bless your wife!

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
July 29, 2005
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Some additional issues brought up by Lou and TGD that should be amplified.

1. Pets: the ability to take my cockatiel on all ski trips and have a good 2d cage set-up at the condo is priceless. Franz loves to travel. Whenever I take out his travel cage, he flies over and gets right into it. The thought of abandoning my bird for every ski weekend would be a real downer. To keep Franz warm, I usually turn up the heat in the bathroom and let him sleep there, but next season I will buy him a heated branch for Timberline (birds thermo-regulate through their feet).

2. Your stuff: I love the ability to jump in the car with no extra clothes and not even a toothbrush and go to WV. With a second home, you can literally pre-position everything you need at your flat. It's a super convenience and makes ski trips that much easier.

3. Season Passes: They are a wonderful convenience. With a pass, you never feel like you have to ski 20 runs to get your money's worth out of a ticket. I've driven up on a Friday and skied the last run of the day on the path. On my return days, I often just ski of day. The pass gives you a lot of flexibility, and if you ski more than 8 weekend days and holidays, you generally get your money's worth out of it.

4. Smaller is indeed better. The beauty about condos is someone else takes care of most maintenance and facilities issues. I originally want to buy a 2.5 BR, but my wife convinced me to go with a smaller 1BR, arguing that carrying costs would be less (electricity, maintenance, assessments, taxes, etc). Well, three major assessments later, not to mention rising energy costs, she proved right. Having a smaller place has allowed me to keep it off the rental market. Ironically, smaller places are exactly what the realtors are looking for: they are in high demand amongst renters whereas large houses are a dime a dozen at Timberline.
Roy
July 30, 2005
Member since 01/11/2000
609 posts
It was just after my last ski day of the year. And since I was about to cry, she had pity on me and agreed to let them sit there.

As a man, I'm not ashamed to say I cry. However, it only happens sometime around March which Spring comes. I wonder.....
kwillg6
October 6, 2006
Member since 01/18/2005
2,020 posts
I was browsing and came accross this forum. It is extremely relavent in today's housing market. The trend I'm seeing is where folks who buy don't rent. Over the past ten years, more home owners where I have my condo are taking their units off the rental market. It actually saves the owner money in taxes and insurance to not rent. Also wear and tear on furniture, carpeting, appliances, etc... And I don't have to put up with noisy, and obnoxious groups if the adjacent units are owner use only. Besides I like leaving my ski stuff where I ski. Convenience!
Clay
October 6, 2006
Member since 04/11/2006
555 posts
I know that this is an old thread, but I'll chime in as well. I'm one of those who just bought at TL (read - gave an obscene profit to previous owner ). I am so excited for the season to start. My son and I have been skiing for 4 or so years and I really look forward to being able to spend additional "guys" weekends with him before he finishes high school. We only got out three or four times a year before this. I'm not going to rent it either for all of the reasons listed above. The big two for me is going whenever I want and not having to lug all the stuff!

On the slopeside question, I guess I would love to have a condo ON the slope, but the one I got is no more than 100 steps off the snow. I consider that slopeside because it's close enough to use the bathroom...

On the financial side, if I sell it (when I'm good and ready) I can live with it if I just break even.

One other intangible - I've already met several very nice people from this board via the HOA - something I never would have gotten the chance to do if I hadn't bought.

Clay
gizmosnow
October 6, 2006
Member since 10/6/2005
269 posts
I have to pipe in to essentially agree with everything everyone else has said regarding the virtues of owning your own vacation home.
My wife and I love the fact that we can pack the dogs (but not any other stuff) and hop in the car on moments notice to arrive at a place that is instantly comfortable. We are only 1.5 hours drive from pgh to our place at hv and have often gone for just a 24-hour respite to ski, golf or just get away from the rat race (we own our own business so we have the luxury of going up midweek as well as weekends).

There is one other potential consideration that no one else has mentioned -- retirement planning!
I am older than you (early 50's)and I plan on becoming 'voluntarily unemployeed' within the next few years. I have to tell you, in retirement, I can live a quality lifestyle (yearround recreation, ski, golf, pools, hiking, biking, etc. in close proximity) for ALOT less at hv than in the 'affluent' burbs of pgh where I am now! (And, still only an hour away from the downtown pgh culture/sports scene). That is why I purchased a small single family at hv after having owned a condo for several years. I am surprised more people don't recognize this as a viable retirement option. Even with the uncertainty surrounding hv, my wife and I have never had a second thought about having purchased our condo (which we still own and rent) or our single family (which we keep exclusively for ourselves).
fishnski
October 7, 2006
Member since 03/27/2005
3,530 posts
TGD, you say it takes you guys 1 hour to clean your place...That has become a sore spot for me because it takes a minimum of 2 hours at my place! With nearly an 8 hour drive ahead of me when I go back to the beach the last thing I want to do is clean house.We have even paid for the maid svc a couple of times which on top of all the other expenses really starts to add up..I think it would cost me $3000 a year just to let the house sit thats why I rent it & thats why I am building a 600 square foot effeciency apt on my bottom floor...It will be our personal flop house, the top 2 floors will stay nice & clean for the renters! I will continue to rent even though the realters take a HUGE chunk (42%) & hope for some kind of tax break changes in the future....Oh & the other half of the bottom floor will be turned into a game room for the upstairs renters..can I get away with a pingpong table or is a pool table a must?
kwillg6
October 9, 2006
Member since 01/18/2005
2,020 posts
gizmosnow, my spouse and I are looking at the same possibilities for retirement. We are probably the same age as you. We own a condo in the same place as Clay which we will keep due to the convenience but just purchased another place close (nine miles away) where we can live without having people looking in our back or side door as would be the case on the postage stamp size lots at a ski area. It gives us some options for retirement living. Also, the real estate taxes are very low since the place is not at a ski area which also cuts expenses. Close, in this case, is fine with me.
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