A Veteran Real Estate Agent Shares Tips You Might Not Have Thought Of.

[Editor Note: See Joan Wallen’s earlier article: Commute, Rent, Or Buy? for advice on renting.]

Condo on the mountain?

Want to buy a home in snow country? Perhaps you’ve rented and now decide that a second home is right for you. Or maybe you’re ready to take a leap of faith and go directly into ownership. What are some of the considerations you should take in to account?

Location is key. You may already have a favorite mountain or region that you like to ski. This makes it easier. If you don’t have a preferred area, think about what’s right for you and your family. Do you want to ski one mountain all the time or be in a location where you can reach several resorts? Will a specific resort be good for your family for future years? You don’t want to end up at an area that the kids will outgrow. Do you want to be slope side, in town or out in the countryside? Condo or single family home?

If you decide on a condo, investigate before buying. Is it a new development or an established community? If the development is older you would want to know the history of upgrades to the buildings and grounds, roofs, building siding, roads, etc? If there are amenities like a swimming pool or fitness room, what’s their condition? Are condo fees reasonable or so high as to feel like a second mortgage? Carefully review the condo association documents to be informed not only of their rules and regulations but also their financial status. The capital reserve fund should be adequate for both planned and unexpected maintenance costs so you don’t get hit with a special assessment.

House in the country?

Consider usage of the condo in the off season. If you won’t be coming to the mountains in the summer you may want to rent out the unit. Some associations enforce minimum rental periods of anywhere from two weeks to two months or more. This could impact your ability to secure a tenant. And if you want, or need, to rent it out, be sure it’s in a location where there’s a demand for summer activity.

Although condo fees add to the cost of ownership, there are advantages also. Outside maintenance fees cover snow removal, shoveling, lawn mowing and trash pickup.

Condo living is not for everyone, however. You may prefer the privacy of a single family home either close to town or in the country. But, you’ll have to arrange for plowing, perhaps someone to check on the house after a power outage and of course maintenance will be your responsibility. The advantages are privacy, perhaps a more tranquil setting and if you’re in the country you can likely cross country ski or snowshoe right out your front door. If you wish to rent it,  you’ll be your own boss, no association restrictions. And, more responsibility also. If something goes wrong, you can’t just call the office, you’re on your own to find a repair person.

Finally, does owning make financial sense? What will you do with the property in the off season? Is it in a location where you and your family will use it both in the summer and winter?

Buying a home in ski country is a big commitment but also can bring big rewards. As a gathering place for family and friends to enjoy the outdoors together, many lasting memories will be created. Family members who may not ski will still have a base from which to enjoy other outdoor activities, or to just hang out by the fire and read. And you don’t have to worry about making reservations, finding a place to stay after that two foot snowfall or lugging your gear and clothing back and forth. The home and your belongings are right there waiting for you.



  1. Phil Humphries says:

    I have lived in ‘snow country’ since 1981 when I moved from Canada to the US. Been involved in skiing since I was about 6 years old when a school chum’s parents used to take us skiing every weekend during winter. His father made me my first pair of skis!
    You are a dead ringer for a good friend of ours, Nancy Andrews, who lost her sight many years ago to macular degeneration. Also a skier, she taught us to guide her as she slowly lost her sight. We are all in our late 70’s now but still get out to make a few turns on nice days. We live beside Heavenly Ski Resort in Nevada but have moved to lake level at Lake Tahoe so many places to hike and swim in summer as well as winter sports in the colder months. We really enjoyed your article on buy vs renting in a ski area although we jumped in, bought, and used our mountain home as a base in a no tax state(Nevada) when we moved here from Canada because my job in the 70’s and 80’s took me all over the world and we could live anywhere we chose to.

  2. Hi Phil,
    Thank you for writing. They say everyone has a double, so maybe your friend is mine. You live in a beautiful spot. I’ve enjoyed skiing Heavenly and the Tahoe region is wonderful.

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