About 15 years ago I decided that if we were going to live in the Finger Lakes we should own at least a cottage on one of the beautiful lakes. Since our primary residence was in Geneva, New York, it made sense to focus on Seneca Lake. Geneva is located at the north end of Seneca.
Seneca is not the largest of the Finger lakes but it is the deepest ranging from 600 feet to 800 feet at the center according to estimates. Seneca is also advertised as the lake trout capital of the world. But I had other reasons for choosing Seneca. For me it represented a vacation home we could get to in about 20 - 40 minutes making it easy to enjoy and ultimate easy to manage rentals. And it is one of the more affordable lakes as opposed to Canandaigua which I understand ranks just under Lake Tahoe as one of the more expensive lakefront properties in the U.S. This is most likely because of its proximity to Rochester (20 minutes or so). It's beautiful no doubt about it and bargains can be had there as well but for me Seneca fit the bill.
So again some time ago my husband and I drove up and down Seneca Lake just checking out possible bargains and the area. This is a good start - to get a feel for the area you might enjoy, maybe hit a few open houses etc. One of the things you will discover by doing this is that while the pictures might look awesome on Zillow or any other real estate site - you really do have to visit each one on your short list or have your buyers agent do it. Why? Well for one thing those sites may not - will probably not show you some of the negatives that could eliminate that the property from your short list. For example - it could be cliff side and there may be (and I do not exaggerate here) 180 stairs to the lake. Probably not a good scenario if you have had knee surgery or are planning to retirement there - or even if it takes too long time to bring margaritas down to the dock!
There are many other reasons for traveling to the property in person but before you spend a lot of time and money circumnavigating the lakes, Step One is go to the bank and get a pre-approval for a loan. This obviously is not the fun part but I suggest this (as do most professional realtors) of almost everyone who is planning a second home and here's why. It's very very easy, its confidential, ( I can recommend several mortgage representatives if you need it ) and it provides critical information that you need when you are starting to look for a home - how much home/lakefront etc can I afford? And there are other things that you may learn through this banking relationship that could affect your decision on exactly where you will focus your search. For example you will also need to consider this question - Is this home far enough away from my primary residence not to be considered an investment property but a vacation home (this affects down payment, taxes and insurance).
And my last point today about pre-approval that I should mention. When you make a purchase offer for a home whether its your first home or your dream vacation home, you probably will not offer full list price - right? If you do end up competing for a property, which occurs more often than you think, having proof of available funds strengthens your less than list price offer more than you know. It's like that nicely worded letter to the sellers you see on HGTV - it gives you an edge.
Thanks for sticking with me on this blog - it was long and subsequent articles will not be as long. But I hope I shared something you hadn't considered or you learned something valuable about investing in real estate in the beautiful Finger Lakes.
Sunflowers along Seneca Lake