Uninsulated Hunters Cabin as Vacation Rental?

10 Replies

Hi Forum,

Have what I think is a unique investment idea / property, been trying to evaluate all scenarios, as not to get myself into something I'll regret. Anyways, here's the nuts & bolts... best I can give for now.

The property is up in the Lakes area of NH, Just under 1 acre.. I believe listing stated .98 acre. The dwelling is a 256 sf Hunters Cabin, appears to have electric baseboard heat, water (well), loft sleeping area, hookup for a wood stove.

As caption states "Uninsulated", so i see a lot of interior and exterior work required.

The property was being listed at $39,900, which is probably more the "Land".

I'm located in Massachusetts, NOT a far drive to the property.

From other members experience.... Was wondering what people had for a view on this as a possible Vacation rental (Maybe hunters, snowmobilers, anyone that wants to get away from it all).

Thanks for reading.... Look forward to ANY feedback

Hi, Alan. I've spent a lot of time up in the lakes and northern NH area. The lakes area is a beautiful area. I would ask myself how remote is the cabin to amenities in the area. The amenities being a local drinking establishnent. It doesn't seem to be too remote having electricity and such. Have you been able to lay eyes on the property at all? If you're thinking hunters, snowmobilers and campers, then depending on the condition of it you may no need a lot of exterior work. Just insulate and go from there. Most people going up to get away from the rat race aren't typically looking for all the glitz and glam. The old rustic cabin feel may be just what they want. A little nature, heat and hot water may be just enough. Have you looked at company for rentals in the area as well? That may help with your decision. With that amount of land it seems like there may be opportunity to build a couple more cabins as well. 

Agree with @Donnie Mendell  

To me, if I was vacationing up there, would want to 'get away from it all' so going to a real wood/log cabin.. insulated inside with heat (which you could get a wood burning pot belly stove..used for heat and cooking) and hot water are essential 

@Account Closed - I think whether this is going to be a "marketable rental" is going to depend on who your ideal client will be.  1 acre of land for a cabin in the Lakes Region to be on is really small depending on what people are looking to do.  If you're targeting a larger consumer market, they'll want to have heat, hot water, electricity, maybe cable and internet, and then close to outside amenities so they can go out and do things.  If you're going more narrow and targeting snowmobilers, hunters, people going camping, etc. you have to make sure the land will support it.  If its not abutting any other properties for a hunter to walk to or a snowmobiler to go driving through, your market just got that much narrower.  Consider what's around the property in order to determine if it could be rented.  

I wouldn't even bother to insulate if electric heat, put on a wireless or landline thermostat and tell renters to turn on on their drive up and have a nice wood stove. Just make sure to have a good water shut down procedure

A follow-up from both my thoughts and reading other suggestions... From being such a small footprint... I was actually contemplating the idea of removing the electric baseboard heating and only rely on a wood stove for heating. Would reduce the risk of spiked electrical on the property.

@Account Closed , a quick look on VRBO for northern NH shows a few cabins, but they all appear to have basic amenities or are at least waterfront or located along snowmobile trails. How far is the property from "access"?

The other issue is turnover. Assuming it's a vacation rental, then you would need someone local to 

  1. Allow access
  2. clean
  3. be available for emergencies/repairs

That might be a bit challenging for you to manage from Ipswich.

I look at properties like these in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. I physically visit the property. But your description is the same size I look for, and in very attractive tourist destinations.

These cabins can be all over the place in terms of deferred maintenance. About 50% are complete tear downs, 25% need $10k or more work (doesn't sound like much, but you can build yourself a brand spanking new cabin for around $100/sq ft), and the other 25% is over priced.

We flip these cabins to include amenities which a guest may require, and we try to appeal to the most broad demographic for that market. So we include a full bath, full kitchen, room for 6 minimum, all new inside and out, and drive up paved access. That is asking a lot from many of these properties, but the customer experience is what it's all about.

Honestly, as with many things in business, it depends on your market. 

@Sourabh Bora No zoning, no covenants. Not sure a hunting cabin would be considered habitable in residential zoning districts out here, unless it was grandfathered in. 

What you're talking about sounds like agricultural zoning, which has many sub-types. Also remember zoning is different from state to state, county to county. But agricultural zoning can be AG-5, AG10, AG-20, with the number behind the ag corresponding to the number of acres needed for a single family home. So if you've got AG5, on 40 acres, you can put on about 8 houses. That's getting rarer and rarer nowadays as farmland is being subdivided up.

Ideally you don't want zoning when running a business, so there's less overhead, less inspections, less permitting. Bonus points if you can easily permit a septic with the state or county, and have utilities. Wells are only a problem in bedrocky type land (like upstate NY where you're talking), or in semi-arid climate. My father had to drill a well once on one of his properties and went through 500' of granite. Cost a fortune.