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Old 08-20-2020, 11:22 AM   #1
montcalm
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Where to live in the Adirondacks, or surrounding areas?

After living in the Adirondacks for a year in my younger years, I've always wanted to move back. At that time I lived near Saranac Lake and always assumed I would go back to that area if I had a chance to move back. I like the location relative to recreational activities coupled with the convenience of the town - the hospital is a big deal, and will be even more so as I get older. I don't really want to live in town, but would entertain the idea if it were my only option.

I've done a lot of research over the years trying to see what would work in other areas, and if I would like it as much. I'm sure I could find something enjoyable anywhere I lived, but given a choice, I have many preferable options.

Top for me has been:

Proximity to a town I like i.e. I don't really like Rome/Utica so the south western Adirondacks aren't for me. I also don't like Watertown much, and even the closest parts of the park there are far away. So I've never really seriously considered moving to the western parts.

Accessibility to things I want to regularly do:

Good hiking, biking and paddling are top on my list, and although those kind of things can be done anywhere in the Adirondacks, I have found there are areas I definitely prefer more and have more options.

Affordability:

Living on a lake or having a vast estate with sweeping views is probably out of the question for me. I don't foresee myself being able to invest more than $200-250k into a home and land.

By the time I make this move, I hope to be retired, or semi-retired and able to work remotely so job market isn't so important to me.

What things would you consider? Where would you consider? What would you be willing to give up?
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Old 08-20-2020, 12:57 PM   #2
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I've been giving a lot of thought to these kind of questions in the last couple of years. My situation is like yours in some ways, but different in others. My part time banjo making business has reached the point where I am making enough to live on, and I've been saving money to buy a house. 95% of my business is mail order anyway, so I can go anywhere that has mail service.

My eventual goal is to build a house and have maybe 1-5 acres of land, enough so I could have plenty of room for gardening anyway. In the next year I plan to buy a fixer-upper house, almost certainly in the village, in Tupper Lake. The lower end of real estate prices are low there, and it's enough of a town to have everything I'd need on a regular basis. Also it's very close to a lot of very nice state lands and waters. I'd rather live in a little more crowded area that has things I need close by than to be somewhere that everything was a 20 or 30 mile drive.

I'm hoping to find something with at least 1/4 acre of land for now, so I can fit some gardens, and there's a community garden in the village too. I don't think it would make sense to build right away, once I've lived there for a year or two or three I would have a better idea of whether it's a good fit for me and where exactly I'd like to be in the area. I'm not sure when I'll be able to move there, but by the end of 2022 for sure. Prior to that it will depend on when someone else can be found to do the work here that I'm currently doing, or some parts of it.

I made my first visit to the area last August and the town seemed nice, and the people I encountered were almost all very friendly. I've been reading the Daily Enterprise online for a year or two now to try to get an idea of what's going on in the area, and what the issues of debate are, and the plans for the future. Some people I know who have passed through the town have said that it seemed rather run down in places, but compared to the area where I live now the houses mostly seemed pretty orderly and well-maintained to me.

I've been making an annual weeklong trip to the Adirondacks on my bicycle since 2009, but this year I won't be going. I'll miss it, but there's a lot of stuff to keep up with here and I can also check the real estate listings once or twice a day. I'm looking forward to being able to make more frequent and shorter excursions once I move. The climatic challenges of living up there will probably be a bit more severe than here, but not a lot. We have almost as long of a winter, and get almost as cold, so I don't think it will be a hard adjustment.
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Old 08-20-2020, 01:18 PM   #3
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Me? I'd move to Jay or Upper Jay NY. Its scenic, quiet, good roads, great for gardening, near both branches of the Ausable, not at all that far from Placid or Saranac Lake [hospitals and shopping] and within 40 minutes of Plattsburg which has big hospital and many locals travel to shop at. 20 minutes from the High Peaks and Whiteface, less snow than say Wilmington which is just uphill maybe 6 miles or so, good ponds nearby including Taylor and Lake Everest, even the Saranac River is what maybe 30 minutes away at Franklin Falls... and more including Burlington an hour away.
That whole area is biking/hiking/paddling heaven...and less expensive than the Big villages or someplace in Town of Keene.
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Old 08-20-2020, 03:28 PM   #4
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I had many of these same questions when I was looking between 2005 and 2013. Didn't want Lake Placid (too touristy), however did consider Saranac Lake, Keene (and KV), Jay, etc. Made several offers but were always too late. Since this was going to be a 4-season vacation home and then a retirement home, I wanted to be near a town, and less than an hour from I87. Finally decided to buy a piece of land in Elizabethtown, within walking distance of the PO, stores, etc. I did discover that building is MUCH more expensive than buying but that's what I did. Go to Zillow 12932 and you'll see a few properties in the 100k range (unfortunately, one just sold for $89k).
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Old 08-20-2020, 04:23 PM   #5
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Those are all great responses.

I've done a lot of looking along the Ausable valley from Wilmington to Plattsburgh. Jay is in there as well but Jay is pretty primitive, they don't even have a police department.

I love Keene too, but I'd have to think real hard if that was the right fit for me.

Other places I've thought about are in the North Creek area. It's a little remote, but really not a bad drive to get to Queensbury.

Lake Placid has never been on my list as a place to live, but as the closest town, I could tolerate it.

Tupper has never really been a consideration for many reasons - foremost is really recreation though. While it's not bad for paddling locations, there's really no developed mountain biking and the hiking nearby is kind of meh. Also puts your nearest city as Watertown, which I don't love. I can see the appeal financially though and it is a fairly big town. If I have to drive 1-2 hours to get to a lot of things I want to do, then it's probably better to live in Albany area and to the Northway thing.
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Old 08-20-2020, 04:42 PM   #6
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Jay doesn't need a police dept per say...they have a NYS Troopers Barracks in Wilmington and Ray Brook. There is also the Essex County Sheriff.
Town of Keene is expensive...so is busy, noisy Lake Placid.
Road Bikes can have lots of fun where I mentioned and Wilmington has many and expanding mtn bike trails.
I wouldn't live in Tupper if I had free rent.
What about North Hudson or Newcomb?
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Old 08-20-2020, 05:07 PM   #7
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I've just heard of residents in those areas without their own police having issues with people in short term rentals, and little response from State and County authorities.

I love central Adirondacks - but again, so remote. Not sure how long I would love it there. Also the same issues with developing trail systems for bikes, not enough community or interest from tourism to do much.

Old Forge area now has AFTA, which is a big plus but I'm still hesitant about that area for a number of other reasons.

I've thought about just trying to buy some land or a small camp in the western Adirondacks for now, because it is closest for me to drive to, and then sell and when I'm ready to buy a more permanent residence in the park. Many tradeoffs to this as well...
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Old 08-20-2020, 09:33 PM   #8
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I'm very fortunate to have a small chunk of land that's been in my family since the 1800's. I live in the southeastern ADKs near Lake George/Glens Falls. My priorities are owning enough land to hunt, garden, ski, cut firewood and overall manage as a mixed-age forest. Again, I consider myself so lucky because it's getting harder to come by and basically I have what I want and need.

If I did not have this I would head for the northern Adirondacks. Less populated and there's plenty opportunities for the aforementioned activities there. I also tend to think land is more affordable there. Recently, my wife and I have casually looked at a few small lots deeper in the ADKs, mainly for camping with water access, but there are restrictions (homeowners groups) or they're out of our price range.

My advice is to find a piece of property soon, if you can, and hang on to it. Build when you can. It might not be there later, and if it is, the price could double in the next decade, if not sooner.
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Old 08-21-2020, 07:26 AM   #9
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I think about this topic quite often. I would choose Elizabeth town or Saranac lake. I would try to make friends in the town. This way if I really liked living there as I got older I could stay there. I could hire some of the locals to help with the heavy lifting like snow removal and lawn care. E-town has a hospital which is important and they have a market. Saranac does not have a hospital but it has more of everything else. I feel like my money would go further in these places than in Lake Placid.

Its nice to live on a lake but my plan would be to live in a community and visit the lake. I don't want to live in a wild place just visit them.

I would be very careful of the rivers and flooding. That is only going to get worse. Nothing is worse for a real estate decision than flooding.

Before I moved there I would try to rent a place for at least a week or two and try it out.
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Old 08-21-2020, 07:37 AM   #10
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Actually, Saranac Lake does have a hospital (I assume you meant SL not Saranac). One of the reasons I ended up with Etown is that there are some businesses there (supermarket, drugstore, hardware store) and it's close to both the High Peaks and the Northway.
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Old 08-21-2020, 09:12 AM   #11
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My brother and I had inherited a "camp" my father had on Lake Ontario that he owned since the mid 1960s. While I enjoyed my youth there, it is always windy (tough to canoe much), and wavy. it was a small very old mobile home (trailer) that Dad put there and also put much work into the shoreline. I remember hauling tons of flat rocks by hand and lifting them to make a wall with a boardwalk on top. Neighbors were very close (too close) and too chatty. It was nice there with family in earlier years, but the location and environs are not really my cup of tea.

Well, after 30 years of joint ownership, the time came to junk the old trailer and put up something substantial. I declined to invest more in the place with my brother, so after a little negotiation he bought me out. With that and some accumulated funds from my working years along with a good retirement plan, I bought bare land on a small lake (with my dream of no motors allowed) with a loon and trout population in the Western Adirondacks, just barely a mile outside of the Blue Line. After two years of landscaping and building, I am writing from there now, as a wonderful getaway for me and my wife and kids and distant grandkids when they are able to visit. It can easily sleep 3 couples plus 3 others before we make use of cots and floor space if necessary. It is only 40 minutes from my permanent home, so it is easy for me to get away frequently for hiking, paddling XC skiing, or biking. I have a large shed by the waterfront that can hold 6 canoes and other equipment. I don't care about being close to stores or other shopping, which is not a problem if I plan ahead. Fire and ambulance service is 5 minutes away. A well stocked local hardware/lumber store is 10 minutes away, Lows/HD is 45 minutes (I know this well). I just finished a big breakfast with my wife on our screened porch. My busy work projects now are building a firewood leanto shelter, a generator shed (the power does go out occasionally), and cutting firewood for here and for home.
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Old 08-21-2020, 09:55 AM   #12
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I bought bare land on a small lake (with my dream of no motors allowed) with a loon and trout population in the Western Adirondacks, just barely a mile outside of the Blue Line.
Snowbird Lake?
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Old 08-21-2020, 10:04 AM   #13
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My advice is to find a piece of property soon, if you can, and hang on to it. Build when you can. It might not be there later, and if it is, the price could double in the next decade, if not sooner.
Yeah - I'm really on the fence about buying land now as I don't know how well it will sell later. I really wouldn't buy anything up north until I was ready to stay permanently up there as it's a long drive for me (+2 to 3 hours).

I can recall when I was a kid Adirondack real estate was at a real low, I'm not really sure why, but I know my grandfather bought a place that was worth about 3-4x what he paid for it 30 years later when it was sold.

It seems like the market keeps increasing, but I could also just be stuck with a non-ideal location and underdeveloped cabin that won't necessarily suit me for daily living in my latter years. I've been eyeing a lot of stuff, but I can't come to pull the trigger.
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Old 08-21-2020, 11:55 AM   #14
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We can't predict the future, only live with it. Still, its hard to imagine an Adirondack land/cabin investment will decrease in value with all its increasing popularity and as always a growing population, many who want 2nd places and have the $ to buy one.

Montcalm, how much do you like snow? The western and central Adirondacks get more, generally speaking, than the eastern. That might be something more you need to consider.

And then there are places like Potsdam/Canton.
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Old 08-21-2020, 01:24 PM   #15
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Unless you live in Hawaii or Iceland, God is not creating any new land to buy "someday". If you are waiting for prices to come down, consider has a worthy and stable piece of land ever really decreased in value over time?
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Old 08-21-2020, 04:10 PM   #16
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Montcalm, how much do you like snow? The western and central Adirondacks get more, generally speaking, than the eastern. That might be something more you need to consider.
I'm a big skier. I recognize the western Adirondacks as being better in this aspect, but also lots of snow machines, which I don't love. In the long term I think the north has decent snow plus other perks.

Land isn't being created, but people don't last forever and a not all of their kin want to take over their estate. I'm not really worried about land being available. I really don't want/need much. I could make due with as little as 1/4 acre but 5 seems to be my target for just a vacation cabin. I've definitely tried to think of getting something in the 100+ range with the proper topography so I could build my own trails for bike and skiing, but that amount plus building a home is far beyond what I could afford. It's more of an either or, and I'd rather not just have a large plot with no house - there's 3 million acres in the park I can use for that.

Also for financial reason, buying a 4 season home is much more feasible than buying land and building. A small plot and simple ski cabin may be doable, but in the long term my goal is a 4 season house.

I've thought about an ultra-modern home that was designed to be as efficient as possible in the Adirondack climate and least reliant on wood/fossil fuels/grid but it's a big, expensive project and may not prove to be ideal for living in the long term. Right now a pipe dream. The more real looking i do the more I come back to the realization that buying a "residents" home is what I'll need to do.
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Old 08-21-2020, 06:39 PM   #17
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Montcalm,
When you say you want to build, do you mean that you will do the site work, excavation, foundation, framing, roofing, etc all yourself? I’ve done that 40 years ago but could not do that now. Or do you mean to sub out most of all of the labor?

Empty land is nearly impossible to get a loan for without sufficient collateral.
And although a modern build has all the advantages of increased efficiencies, it also carries all the modern costs and code restrictions.
It is always far less expensive to rebuild and/or refurbish than to build from scratch.
Heck, just getting utilities to a site is expensive, if even possible.

MDB and I have bought and sold about 15 houses in 15 years. We typically look for the worst condition house in the best possible area within out budget.

My recommendation for you, based on my rental and flipping experience is to fully define your ideal must haves and try to find the worst condition property that fulfills the most of your druthers.
It requires fairly deep pockets to acquire a dream location and build a dream home.
Good luck on your search, I hope you can find all that you desire.
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Old 08-21-2020, 07:56 PM   #18
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Montcalm,
When you say you want to build, do you mean that you will do the site work, excavation, foundation, framing, roofing, etc all yourself? Iíve done that 40 years ago but could not do that now. Or do you mean to sub out most of all of the labor?

Empty land is nearly impossible to get a loan for without sufficient collateral.
And although a modern build has all the advantages of increased efficiencies, it also carries all the modern costs and code restrictions.
It is always far less expensive to rebuild and/or refurbish than to build from scratch.
Heck, just getting utilities to a site is expensive, if even possible.

MDB and I have bought and sold about 15 houses in 15 years. We typically look for the worst condition house in the best possible area within out budget.

My recommendation for you, based on my rental and flipping experience is to fully define your ideal must haves and try to find the worst condition property that fulfills the most of your druthers.
It requires fairly deep pockets to acquire a dream location and build a dream home.
Good luck on your search, I hope you can find all that you desire.

Well - I guess we are talking about two or three hypothetical situations which I just happened to mentioned as ideas I've had...

I think if I were to buy say, 5 acres in the western Adirondacks (for proximity and snow) I'd either buy a small primitive cabin or build one. As far as the building process, distance and time may require I pay someone. I'll surely pay someone to do a foundation if I were to do that - but I was thinking just piers with a woodstove - not ideal for long term but for winter weekends it's tolerable.

If I were to build a modern home, I'd probably do a fairly small structure, so cost would be low(er) even with modern, high efficiency stuff - the thing I worry about there is longevity and fuss factor. As I said though, this is probably a pipe dream and I've come to settle that I'll probably buy an existing structure.

Really I'm wanting to think about tradeoffs of areas of NY, and not necessarily get tangled up with too many details. If I settle on the fact that I want to be in the Saranac Lake area I can find a house to meet my needs, I'm sure.

Also I don't necessarily want this to be entirely focused on me - listening to what other people have done or plan to do may give me insight that I hadn't thought of.

I need to take a closer look at Etown - there's some stuff mentioned here that I didn't know, and that may become a good contender. Ideally I'll narrow down 3 or 4 areas in the park, or surrounding environs that look promising and keep monitoring real estate. I do this for Saranac Lake area, and about 30 min driving radius from town. I've also kept track of southwestern Adirondacks as it's close and I have some history there - family owns homes in the area and historically has been where they have gone.
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Old 08-21-2020, 09:46 PM   #19
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Actually, Saranac Lake does have a hospital (I assume you meant SL not Saranac). One of the reasons I ended up with Etown is that there are some businesses there (supermarket, drugstore, hardware store) and it's close to both the High Peaks and the Northway.
Thanks for the info! Like I said I would stay there for a few weeks to get the feel of the place!
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Old 08-23-2020, 11:10 AM   #20
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This year, primarily because of COVID 19, the Adirondacks are being overrun with first-time hikers, paddlers, and, to tell the truth, some yahoos as well. The value of land and extant structures seem to have risen. In my opinion, some of the first-time people will begin to think about investing here, while last year they wouldn't even have considered a trip at all.
As a case in point, I provide this example. There is a ramshackle old house down the road from me. Last weekend, the place was being covered in Tyvek and a Mercedes was parked in the driveway. Best to find what works for you and not develop a case of analysis paralysis.
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