Views of the Silver Lake Tract USFS home that sold for $1,000,000 in 2010.
Many people come to town with the dream of buying lakefront property or property on a stream or river. This is definitely possible to do in our area with such a vast number of lakes and rivers, but there is a catch and limited supply of these properties. Most buyers that I have met would like our property rules to conform to what they are looking for, however if you are a buyer for this type of property, you will be the one who has to conform to what our area has to offer. It is my hope that this article will clarify what is available, how it can be acquired, and debunk the myths of buying a home with a US Forest Service land lease.
There are a few areas with an abundance of lakefront properties available for sale where you have the opportunity to own the home as well as the land. These areas can be found in Bridgeport, Twin Lakes in Bridgeport and Virginia Lakes. The homes on these lakes may only be accessible in the summers as the roads are not plowed in winter. You will have snowmobile access if you dare in the wintertime. In these locations, mainly known for their fishing, you can find a beautiful lakefront home at surprisingly inexpensive prices ranging from $350,000 – $950,000.
If you have your heart set on lakefront property in Mammoth Lakes or June Lake, it is definitely possible to find at Lake Mary, Lake George or Twin Lakes in Mammoth, and at June Lake, Silver Lake and Gull Lake in the town of June Lake. These properties range in price from $250,000 – $500,000 currently. To own lakefront property in these locations, you will be restricted to buying a home on US Forest Service land with a lease payment. These land leases currently range from $2100/yr – $6400/yr. Unfortunately there is not conventional financing available for properties on USFS lands and they must be a cash purchase. You will also pay property taxes on the home that you purchase. There has never been a case of the US Forest Service refusing to extend a land lease in our area.
Each USFS land lease will come with different occupancy rules restricting the number of days you can use the home, usually more than ½ of the year. Some of the lakefront properties, especially in Mammoth Lakes, can only be accessed by car in the summers. There may be nightly rental restrictions and these cabins cannot be a primary residence, however Some USFS lease properties allow usage for all but 2 weeks of the year. The USFS cabins have a unique charm to them and can be completely modified on the inside to make them what you want. The only thing to note is that you cannot change the footprint of the property without the consent of the district ranger, however it is possible. Currently the rules allow you to add onto a USFS cabin up to 1200 feet of living space and prohibit garages from being built. Some have garages already built on them. If you can stand to be just a block or so away from the lake, you can find a home with land ownership rights in June Lake Village.
Stream frontage properties can be found throughout the Eastern Sierras, both on USFS lands and with the option of land ownership, with some of the most popular areas being in Crowley Lake, June Lake, Paradise and limited locations in Mammoth Lakes. In Crowley Lake, there is an abundance of stream frontage property on the Juniper Loop, a section of road that sits high above the town in an aspen forest. The water in this area is abundant and Hilton Creek is running year round. In addition, Long Valley, a small subdivision of Crowley Lake has many homes that are fed by streams and back to streams. Further down the 395 Hwy, in a town called Paradise, there is a brand new gated community called Rock Creek Canyon where you can purchase an acre parcel on the creek for $245,000.
In Mammoth Lakes, stream frontage properties with land ownership can be found in the Snowcreek area, Laurel Meadows subdivision and also in Old Mammoth. Some of these are condos in the Snowcreek development Phases 1-5. In June Lake, it is possible to find homes along Rush Creek and Reverse Creek with creek frontage and land ownership, some being condos.
So what is the real difference between having land ownership and purchasing a home with a USFS Land lease? With land ownership, you can make the property your primary residence, get conventional financing, find a home that is newer construction and avoid the lease fees. If you are looking to build a new home this type of property is not for you. As most people purchasing property in the area are buying a second home, these rules shouldn’t be much of a bother to them, considering the incredible beauty and secluded forest areas where these properties are located. The restrictions really shouldn’t be much of a problem for most buyers who are planning to use the home for vacation purposes. So with that in mind, please give me a call if you would like information on available waterfront properties in the area. I can help you to streamline the process and jump through the hoops necessary for a purchase of one of these unique properties. Happy house hunting!