Our Northwoods Cabin Journey (1 Viewer)

Trihonda

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Well, given these crazy times, we really wanted a place to get away, a retreat of sorts… away from the chaos of work, drama, and civilization…. He he. Herein lies our journey towards cabin life. Be forewarned, it’s not crazy exciting, but we might have a smattering of gamboling involved to keep things interesting.

Let’s start out with the intro to this story… My aunt and uncle own a cabin in the northwoods of WI. We call it a cabin, but in reality it’s a lake house, 2900sqft, 4br, 4bth, 10years old with log siding inside and out… It’s a spectacular place, and my uncle has graciously allowed our family to use this property free of charge anytime we want. We always do work and upkeep (while there) to help towards a little sweat equity.

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The cabin resides near an amazing small town known for ATVs, snowmobiling, great food, and a ton of other amenities. There is a great shooting range nearby, and amazing mountain bike trails (that people drive for hours to use). The location is perfect! My uncle has a fleet of ATVs, which we’ve used through the years.

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Last year, we spent a lot of time there Due to covid, and This spring, we snagged a side by side, which my uncle had no problem storing at his property. We were tired of relying on my uncle to maintain his ATVs and We just wanted our own…

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There is an attached two car garage, an attached toy garage on the back, and an 8-car detached garage. Lots of storage. With owning the side by side, we spent way more time up north this summer…

So, we decided to look seriously at getting our own place in the area. The cabin market was exploding, and the way it was explained to us by several realtors in the area, that grandma and grandpa built a 900sqft cabin on a lake in the 1950’s, have since died, and the grandkids are trying to sell it off for $400k (which they are getting). It’s an inflated market for sure, so we thought about building. With building materials being so expensive right now, we thought we’d just look for land, and build in the spring. We felt we could get a nice lot, and eventually build a 2000sqft house for $400k total. Granted, we’d have to furnish it, etc… but that was the plan.

Heres the catch, we are not rich. We felt the only way for this to make fiscal sense was to plan on turning the place into a vacation rental in the winter. Newer nice sized homes in the area often fetch $2k per week (in the winter). running the numbers. If we rent out the place in the winter, we could (in theory) pay for the entire cost of ownership. Winter rentals involve ski resort attendees and snow mobileriders. The area is a huge Mecca of winter fun And winter rentals do very well. Since we don’t go up north in the winter, why not rent it out?

So, we spent the summer looking at various lots to build on, and had a few cool prospects, but everything sorta fell flat. We looked at existing homes, but the area is a couple hours from our house, so by the time we’d find a great listing, it‘d sell in days, before we could make it up. and prices were crazy!

I’ll post more of our journey (and pics) in a bit, when I have more time.
 

Trihonda

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Let’s talk about the existing family cabin. This was my uncles retirement dream. He built it 10 years ago, and spared no expense… well, actually he spent way more on everything that he needed, lol. There are a great number of small projects that have sat unfinished for years. Look up at the picture of the rear of the house, and you’ll notice the siding on the toy garage isn’t finished, and there are lots of projects like that….

Why are these projects unfinished? Well, my uncle is notorious for indecisiveness and being stubborn. He’d run into an issue, and just set the project back on the to-do list. He‘d start another project instead. So this went on for a bit, and the cabin suffered a major hurdle when my uncle lost one of his legs.. this made it nearly impossible for him to finish projects. We would come up and spend a few days here and there working on the property, but that just barely did enough to keep it maintained, much less addressing previously unfinished projects.

The property requires a significant investment in time and materials to bring it up to snuff. We simply weren’t willing to do that for a cabin that doesn’t belong to us. That brings us to our current situation. My uncle has teased with the idea of selling the cabin, BUT it’s his dream and he’s got a lot of emotion tied into the place. everytime we’d suggest buying, or he’d suggest selling, he’d always come back with “nah, I’ll never sell that place”, but then he’d also admit he has no way to keep up the maintenance on the place…. It’s a conundrum for sure. The longer he holds the place, the worse the condition gets, the less it’ll be worth.

Our up north neighbors are amazing, they live there full time and watch over the place when we are not there. The wife is also a realtor who says my uncle would make a killing renting the place out in the winter. My uncle would never allow renters in his place. He is a control freak, and wouldn’t want unknown people messing with his stuff.

here are some more pics of the property:

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So you might guess by now, that we had decided to make a play to buy my uncles place. My aunt is already 1000% on board, but my uncle was a very tough nut to crack. He wanted to sell, he needed to sell, but it took numerous cookouts and dinner meetings before he finally 100% agreed to sell (with a handshake). He was very emotional, and we didn’t want to do anything to ruin the family dynamic. We are also involved in other negotiations for some of the many toys and implements he has on the property (covered in another post).

As of now, w have a signed offer and are working with a real estate Atty to complete the transaction. we were prequalified for financing, and are just waiting on final approval. We will close when the appraisal is done And the bank gives the final blessing. Guessing 45 days out.

there’s LOTs of work to do on the property, we have no idea how we will get the place ready for renting it out this winter, but we are gonna try.

Ill use this as a blog of sorts, posting the projects, and progress (before and after pics too). I may even seek advice on certain design aspects.. my wife already has me building a poker (gaming) table for the lower rec room.. :)
 

Payback

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I'm seeing the location of MTTD is being moved! Just shoot me the room list so I can claim my dibs on one now.

Seriously though congrats on the purchase. It's really nice to see you getting a place that you can get away to with the family. Keep the outdoor pictures coming as it looks beautiful.
 

Trihonda

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I'm seeing the location of MTTD is being moved! Just shoot me the room list so I can claim my dibs on one now.

Seriously though congrats on the purchase. It's really nice to see you getting a place that you can get away to with family and friends. Keep the outdoor pictures coming as it looks beautiful.

First off, I fixed your post. :)

ive had a number of “guys” weekends up there, ATVs, shooting, fishing. Mountain biking, and poker in the evenings. I only see myself having more “friend” weekends after taking ownership.

as for the MTTD, it’d be a cool setting, BUT it’s remote and not really close to any airports. But remote is the entire point…
 

CraigT78

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Wow. That place looks awesome. Congratulations!

Is it waterfront?
 

Trihonda

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Wow. That place looks awesome. Congratulations!

Is it waterfront?
Thank you sir.

The pier

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Mrs Honda trying to “empty” out her hip waders, after stepping off a shelf into deeper water while attempting to take out the pier…. Filled ‘em right up! Apparently if you lie down on an incline (feet up), all the water rushes up and drenches your face…. So I’ve heard.

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abby99

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My aunt and uncle own a cabin in the northwoods of WI.

Huh? I was born and raised in Wisconsin. Is that anywhere near Up North?

I did notice the Up North plaque on the fireplace, though, which only confused me further.

we spent way more time up north this summer…

Ah, I see you finally called the area by its rightful name.

Just kidding, of course. Erik, that is one serious cabin. Seeing photos of the lake took me back to my childhood and the many family trips Up North to visit mom's aunt and uncle, who had a cabin (in the true sense of the word) on Crystal Lake -- or it could have been Clear Lake; my memory is a bit fuzzy on that point.

I'm very happy for you and your family!
 

RainmanTrail

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Probably because he is anti-cop and can’t help but shit on your joy.

Nice place. Congratulations.

To be fair, there really is no other purpose from the first photo other than to make a political statement. All other photos are of the property or cabin. The first photo is clearly just of a thin blue line flag. Trihonda made the post political with that photo.
 

CantSpellPoker

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First off, I fixed your post. :)

ive had a number of “guys” weekends up there, ATVs, shooting, fishing. Mountain biking, and poker in the evenings. I only see myself having more “friend” weekends after taking ownership.

as for the MTTD, it’d be a cool setting, BUT it’s remote and not really close to any airports. But remote is the entire point…

I'd be a good friend... :whistle: :whistling:
 

Highli99

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Very cool! Looks beautiful and I’m sure your family will enjoy the retreat.
 

bsdunbar1

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To be fair, there really is no other purpose from the first photo other than to make a political statement. All other photos are of the property or cabin. The first photo is clearly just of a thin blue line flag. Trihonda made the post political with that photo.

Wow.
Why not just move on or go away?

Ok....... back to beautiful upnorth cabin pics for all of us stuck at work.
 

Trihonda

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To be fair, there really is no other purpose from the first photo other than to make a political statement. All other photos are of the property or cabin. The first photo is clearly just of a thin blue line flag. Trihonda made the post political with that photo.
There was zero intentions to make this post political. Never crossed my mind. That photo is literally the ONlY picture I have of the front of the cabin. Nor does a picture of a “support police” yard sign in front of a cabin (in a thread about the cabin) make this a political post. Nearly every cabin and business up north has these signs. Stop seeing politics in everything, and your life will be much better off.

and to those being offended by police or a yard sign, just move along. That was my initial point. Why the need to comment or quip? Stop trolling and inserting politics into a fun cabin thread.

My next trip up, I’ll snag a proper (non offensive) pic of the front and edit the OP. I could care less about the yard sign being shown. So let’s all move on and get back to the cabin posts. :)
 

Trihonda

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Let’s talk about negotiations for “other stuff”. My uncle has the following “toys” at his property.

1- a pontoon
2- a JD tractor (legit)
3- a JD mower/yard tractor
4- a Polaris Ranger UTV SxS
5- Two snow mobiles
6- Arctic Cat ATV (2-seater, red)
7- Polaris ATV yellow
8- Yamaha ATV blue
9- various implements for the tractors for farming, yard care, wood splitting, etc.
10- Tons of tools (at least 4 stand up chests full of hand tools) and various power tools.
11- several trailers (7x12, 6x9, and a snowmobile trailer)

In negotiation for the house, we basically agreed to X for a price, which included ALL the cabin decor and furnishings. It was also supposed to include the basic cabin maintenance items such as the weed rake (for the shoreline) and lawn weed sprayers, water hoses, vacuums for inside, etc. we didn't spell out each item, and I told my uncle he can decide what all that means and includes. Its not worth stressing over that stuff imho.

Interesting side note, is we structured the price for the house as Y and all the furnishing and decor as Z, so long as Y+Z = the total sales price X. This way our tax assessment will be lower and there’s an easier chance for the bank appraisal to fly.

So about which toys we wanted…. We really want the tractor…. It’s essential to upkeep of the property, and a number of the projects we have in mind. We also liked the idea of the Polaris Ranger UTV with its dump bed and ease of hoping in to drive around the property Or to a neighbors… we also want the Red two person ATV. We have two kids and if all four of us was to hit the trails, we need to accommodate that. Also, if we have friends come up, it’d be nice to allow them a machine to drive. I was also interested in the log splitter And one of the utility trailers.

my uncle understands the need for the tractor to stay on the property, but we are not in agreement on price. id pay a
$25k for it, but he feels it’s prob worth more like $29k, not including the expensive snow blower attachment. its a negotiation in progress.

He also wants us to buy his lawn mower, but it’s a serious diesel unit that has implements of its own, and likely is worth 10k+. I just want a fast lawn mower…. My uncle likes the JD lawn mower, but I’d rather skip the expensive small tractor and get a ZTR toro or similar machine for like $4k.

Good news on both these fronts is he isnt really planning to sell them, and will just store them at the property for the time being, which means we get to use them either way.

The UTV and log splitter are being sold to another of his buddies, which is fine. they’d have been great to have if he’d left them on the property, but I don’t really need them, nor do I want to pay for them. We do have a budget of sorts (not unlimited cash).

as to the red ATV and utility trailer, my uncle hasn’t said no.. ha ha. But he hasn’t been overly eager to discuss them. I have a feeling he will sell them to us, but wants to check with some sources on a fair price first.

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mike32

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Our family bought a cabin in the lower part of "up north" Michigan in June 2020, basically as soon as realtors were allowed to show houses again in Michigan under Covid rules. It is much smaller and only has a small detached garage but it's ok for us. Our area is right off a good sized lake and is also very RV off road friendly. Similar things are happening here in up north Michigan with home values and small cottages being sold off for big bucks. On our lake it is now common for someone to buy a cottage, or even two, and tear then down to build a big house. But anyway I think it is some of the best money I have ever spent, and we really love it up there. Thankfully it's only a little over two hours away, so that it not too bad. Anyway, congrats on sealing up the deal on this place, it really looks beautiful!
 

Trihonda

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I probably won’t share a full project list here, but for those dumb enough to want to follow along this journey, there are a few major areas in need of attention:

1- The missing siding. This needs to be done ASAP!
2- The basement kitchen disaster
3- Finishing the stairs (carpet)
4- Closets and more closets

The missing siding requires we find matching siding (in progress). Nothing more to it. We will have to Tyvek it, side it, then stain the siding.

The kitchen basement disaster.. oh where to start…. in the lower lever, there is a galley style kitchen (or that was my uncles plan) that he installed upper and lower cabinets into, in a U-Shape configuration. He has a water supply line ready for a sink too. There’s also a nasty fridge in place under the stairs and adjacent to this kitchenette.

So here’s the issue, the cabinets sat without counters for years. My uncle purchased counter tops for them (Menards special) but just stored them on the floor for a couple years, until they warped into what is best described as a model roller coaster ride… at that point, my uncle decides these counters need to be installed. He was stubborn and refused to believe his leaving them on the floor in the humidity for years had ruined them. He insisted I try to install them, and even said he wasn’t worried if it didnt look good. Well,if you’ve seen my poker table builds, I’m a bit of a perfectionist and craftsman. I was in shock and had refused at first, but my uncle pleaded with me to give it a shot. It was a disaster, and the process nearly ruined my relationship with my uncle.

To further illustrate the lunacy of his vision, he wanted a sink installed. Instead of a drain, he wanted to use a 5gal bucket, which he’d empty once it got full…. I did stick to my guns on that one, and refused…. So there’s a kitchenette with no sink, crappy warped counters, and no purpose. There’s really no need for a kitchenette in the lower level. It’s a waste of space.

our vision for the lower level is to turn it into a rec room, with a gaming table (more on that later), maybe an electronic dart board, and a single row of cabinets along the one wall (the same one as the stairs are on). I don’t have good pictures of the space, but I’ll post something better later). We would then put the dart board on the far back wall. This project requires ripping out ALL the cabinets, swapping out the flooring in the kitchen space (as there’s certainly no carpet under the cabinets we plan to remove). We are thinking of some vinyl planking in the space?

The next project is the stairs. You see in the pic there is a railing. It was just installed, after 10 years. Lol. We need to carpet the stairs. Ha.

Then there are the closets. Two of the bedrooms (upstairs) have awesome closet organizers, but the two bedrooms downstairs don’t have anything but empty closet spaces. We spent years struggling to find a space to lay our stuff down without just laying all out on the floor. We recently snagged a wire rack shelving unit from Costco and put that in the closet, but we need something a little more professional and nice before we can rent it out.

As for the master bedroom upstairs, it has a walk in closet. We intend to lock that up while it’s rented, and put in a nice dresser for people to use. Vacation Renters dont need a closet. The walk in closet is where we will store ALL of our personalized items.

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AK Chip

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Congrats on your new (old) place!! It’s great the place will stay in the family. We’ve also caught a case of cabin fever, so far it’s been awesome, I suspect it will be the same for you.

keep posting progress on any repairs or upgrades.
 

Trihonda

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Just heard back from our architect who forwarded us this rendering of the proposed basement space. It’s totally to scale, of course…. I’ll also add a pic i have of the lower walkout, for reference. It’s a jumbled mess in the picture, but I have confidence you all can look past ancillary stuff in the picture to get a feel for the space.

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the dart board “room” isn’t locked in, but that’s our working plan. If folks have other ideas, I’m all ears. Do we scrap the side cabinets, and just run cabinets/fridge along the back wall? And put the game table IN this space? That means no dart board, but it might make more sense?

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the architect just forwarded another set of blue prints, so that we can show the total lower level. Again, it’s totally to scale

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timinater

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Looks great so far!

As a rental owner, my advice for you is to ensure the property is bullet proof. Renters are hard on property (even vacationers) and you don't want to be dealing with little issues here and there from hours away. If there is any furniture, fixture, leak, wobble, appliance etc. that makes you go hmmm, do what you need to do to shore it up.

Also, every good vacation rental has a binder on the counter you can't miss when you walk in. The renters should have all the info they need, and not have to call you or a local property manager unless there's an emergency.

You may have thought of these things already, but had to mention them just in case. Good luck!
 

Trihonda

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Looks great so far!

As a rental owner, my advice for you is to ensure the property is bullet proof. Renters are hard on property (even vacationers) and you don't want to be dealing with little issues here and there from hours away. If there is any furniture, fixture, leak, wobble, appliance etc. that makes you go hmmm, do what you need to do to shore it up.

Also, every good vacation rental has a binder on the counter you can't miss when you walk in. The renters should have all the info they need, and not have to call you or a local property manager unless there's an emergency.

You may have thought of these things already, but had to mention them just in case. Good luck!

we have a lot to learn, but are quick studies. We also have the benefit of the neighbors in close proximity, who have agreed to be our emergency contact and manage the property for us. We will take care of all rental reservation stuff, but they will inspect, restock and hire cleaning crew for the turnovers.
 

mike32

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we have a lot to learn, but are quick studies. We also have the benefit of the neighbors in close proximity, who have agreed to be our emergency contact and manage the property for us. We will take care of all rental reservation stuff, but they will inspect, restock and hire cleaning crew for the turnovers.
I'd be careful with the neighbor situation. I don't know how far away they are but I think you said they are year round dwellers. More and more permanent residents of bedroom communities are having to deal with 24/7 parties in their vicinity due to VRBO. Nobody wants to live nest to a rental house, me included. It is especially bad with multiple families or big groups at big houses. This kind of stuff can quickly sour a relationship with your neighbors.
 

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Wow.
Why not just move on or go away?

Because I don't care what side of the political aisle someone is on. I still like the cabin and enjoy reading his post. I'm merely defending Senor Tony by pointing out that he's not the person who introduced politics to this thread. But I can still enjoy the thread either way. Politics or no politics, I don't really care. The cabin and lake look awesome!
 

CraigT78

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I'd be careful with the neighbor situation. I don't know how far away they are but I think you said they are year round dwellers. More and more permanent residents of bedroom communities are having to deal with 24/7 parties in their vicinity due to VRBO. Nobody wants to live nest to a rental house, me included. It is especially bad with multiple families or big groups at big houses. This kind of stuff can quickly sour a relationship with your neighbors.
On the flip side of this, I am a frequent lake house renter. Make sure you have all of your personal belongings stored away. Lock up and install video cameras in all your toy sheds. Make sure the refrigerator is clear after every guest. Nothing worse than renting a unit and having to fill the trash bin with all the leftover crap in the fridge. No, I'm not using the ketchup from your last renter.

Bunk beds. At least one bedroom as a bunk room.
 
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