Cabin Fever: the Practical Guide to Buying Your Dream Cabin

by : Pat Trainor

So you're dreaming of buying that piece of paradise, the ideal cabin tucked away from the buzz of the city. Call it what you will: your dream cabin, cottage, chalet, lodge, vacation home, whatever it is, it's your dream. Now, most folks when looking for this dream dive into all the things they'll do "outside" of the cabin: kayaking, skiing, fishing, hunting, swimming, hiking etc- and how glorious these activities will be. And they certainly will!- but it's easy to get caught up in the excitement, and to overlook the importance of truly assessing the home you're looking at buying. Here's an important checklist to help guide the purchase of your cabin:

First off the best time to do an inspection on a cabin is in the spring time, after cruel winter has taken its brutal toll. This way you can get an idea of how well the cabin and surrounding property stands up to the hard the winter months. Take note of potential problem areas- and estimate how much they'll cost to repair or maintain.

Inside the house you'll want to check the situation with the electrical panel to determine whether it has fuses or circuit breakers. Fuse panels are typical of older cottages but have been replaced by circuit breakers over the past 30 years. Count the number of spaces available for new circuits. This will help you determine the number of upgrades possible in the future.

Check the quality of the widows- are they single, double or sealed pane windows? Next, you'll want to look for any apparent mold around the window that might indicate leaking or sweating windows. Depending on the severity of the moisture, a lot of damage can be accrued from a cabin that is not properly sealed. If there is such damage, make sure you know the extent of the necessary repairs.

Check that the floors are level- that they are not tilted or heaved. This can indicate a shifting foundation or warped floor joists. As you would with any house, check thoroughly for any smells, signs of mold or dankness which can indicate moisture entering the home- possibly through a leaky roof.

If there's a septic system, make sure you find out when it was last cleaned, and, if it has been serviced lately you can find out from the septic company about the type and condition of the equipment.

In terms of the lot you'll want to assess how remote of a property it is- and then truly map out how you'll access it. Ask yourself if you can actually commit to the demands of the journey. Find out if a boat and raft might be included in the sale. If there is access by road you'll want to find out who maintains it and what your share of the cost might be. Find out if there's winter access.

As a general rule of thumb, the best lots have a slope of less than 10% and should not excess 30% (unless you're a veritable mountain man). Ideally the soil should be permeable and have good forest cover. Drainage should be away from the cabin. In the best of worlds, your lots size would be over an acre- as this is a good land investment- but it all depends on your needs and budget.

Looking into these factors, with a certified home inspector as your guide, will help you find your dream cabin- one that will stand proud and strong through the sands of time.