The other day, I was up on Stewart Mountain showing property to people who wanted a long-range mountain view. I like to take people who are looking for views there, because I think it represents a great combination of fantastic views and good accessibility. This is a new development, and there are only two houses up there at present, both spec homes nearing completion. The lots are fairly large by view property standards, from about 1.5 to 2 acres. As we were getting ready to leave, the husband pointed to the lot next door and asked, “Are they going to build a cabin on that lot?”

These particular buyers, you see, wanted a fantastic view in a setting where there weren’t other cabins near, for under $200,000. Of course, that sort of thing is hard to find at any price, and impossible to find at that price, but that’s what they wanted. I’ve seen the builders stretch the truth a little at times like this, and I think that may have happened on another one of our stops. But Realtors can’t do that, unless they want to be sued or want to lose their license, so I just said, “Yes, they probably are.”

As my father used to say, “Everyone wants to build the last cabin on the mountain.” Things being as they are, that isn’t apt to happen, unless you buy the last lot on the mountain, or unless you own the entire mountain. With the current state of affairs in our area, you can take your pick among developments. You can choose a new development, and enjoy the low density for as long as it lasts, which is often a number of years. Or you can choose a mature development on the theory that it is already built out, so you can tell what you are going to get in the end. Mature developments are also more likely to have some of the amenities like well maintained roads and functioning community organizations.

Along with lot size and density, it’s important to consider how the cabin is oriented, and where you are really going to do your living. If the most important thing is the view, you’ll want to consider how future development will affect the view. Views of the national forest and wilderness areas are inherently more stable than those of privately owned land, a fact that is not lost on developers when they price their lots. Another thing to consider is whether you plan to use your place mostly in the winter or the summer. Many cabins have great privacy during the summer when the leaves are on the trees, but when the winter comes, the neighbors seem to have suddenly inched closer.

My advice to buyers is to expect development and make their plans accordingly. In extreme cases, the only remedy may be to sell and move further out of town, so it is a good idea to factor in how long you expect to hold the property. We’re all looking for that fantastic view with not another cabin in sight, but most of us are going to have to keep looking.

12/11/2002

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