Just because you've found the lot for your vacation cabin doesn't mean you've finished paying.
Real estate broker Jim Davis warns that buyers should check whether the costs of drilling a well and a septic system are included in the purchase price. The average well costs $3,500, he estimates, and the average septic system is $3,000.
Costs can run higher. L. Hunter Wilson, developer of Ashton Woods and River Ridge Estates, said complete septic and well installation can cost $10,000 to $11,000.
Running electric lines beyond a certain elevation on a mountain and burying the line to the house are also extras. It cost Davis $8,000 to run a power line seven-tenths of a mile to his new cabin from an existing line.
In some subdivisions, road maintenance and snow removal are paid through homeowners association fees. Dave Patton pays $200 a year in fees at River Ridge.
Buyer Lee Whitehurst of Alexandria, however, had a more ominous tale for second-home buyers. He learned at the last minute that he could not secure home insurance for the log cabin he was planning to build on eight acres in a gated community on the Cacapon River.
Though he had been a Nationwide Insurance customer for 17 years and had never filed a claim, Whitehurst said, he was told he could not add the property to his policy and could not get coverage from other big insurers because the land was not within six miles of a fire station.
Whitehurst eventually found a company, the Log Home Agency, that covers the building and insuring of log homes exclusively. He said, however, that the policy is triple the cost of his regular insurance.
Whitehurst said he was "very surprised" and advises others to check on coverage early on.
Home insurers in general have been tightening their underwriting, raising premiums and refusing to renew customers with two or more recent claims or calls about claims because they've gone into the red on homeowners policies. In the past, home insurance was a loss leader for these companies, but heavy stock market losses and expensive water-damage-related claims have hurt insurers' bottom lines.
-- Sandra Fleishman