Responsible Renting in the Finger Lakes

Vacation rentals are one of the fastest-growing markets for travelers in the United States. In our 27 years of managing vacation homes, we’ve never seen the amount of growth the Finger Lakes market is experiencing. With this growth, comes growing pains, but we believe Responsible Renting is the foundation to resolving short-term rental issues.

Learn more about why our region needs Responsible Renting:

Infographic for Responsible Renting

Our goal is to develop resources that vacation rental owners, neighbors, and local townships can use to educate themselves and their communities about the benefits of short-term rentals and their economic impact on the region. We are also collaborating with advocacy groups, like VRMA and Rent Responsibly to help create a sustainable future for the vacation rental industry.

Contact Owner Services to learn more about current restrictions and to report possible regulations affecting your township.

(855) 947-0336 Ext. 4 | ownerservices@flpplake.com

Financing Your Lake House in 2020

You’ve decided to dive in and buy your dream house on the lake, but how do you finance this life changing decision? From vacation rental income to second home mortgages, you have many options when it comes to affording your lake house in 2020.

Here are some tips to make buying a lake house a sound financial decision.

Finance during a year of stability.

mortgage interest rates to consider when financing your lake house

The real estate market experienced a year of declining interest rates in 2019. With few economic risks and low inflation, borrowing costs are expected to remain low, making 2020 a great year to take on debt for a long-term purchase.

According to Bankrate, the rate on a 30 year note fell from an average of 4.68% at the beginning of January 2019 all the way down to 3.9% by Christmas. This is really good news for homebuyers.

The lakefront real estate market ended on high note in 2019, with average sales price for lakefront homes projected to continue increasing this year. If you haven’t read our analysis of last year’s lakefront market, start hereand learn why 2020 is the year to finance your lake house.

Consider your use and classify appropriately.

how will your lake house be used?

When financing your lake house, you will need to classify your property based on how it will be used. Typically your lake house will fall into one of three categories for financing: primary residence, secondary residence, or investment property. The type of home you buy will affect your interest rate and may require you to have a higher credit score.

Secondary Residence vs. Investment Property

If you plan to use your home as a short-term rental, you can still classify the property as a secondary residence instead of an investment property, taking advantage of lower interest rates and qualifying for mortgage interest tax deductions. This will vary by lender, but typically your lake house can remain a secondary residence if your home is rented no more than 180 days a year and you occupy the home at least 10% of the time you would rent it. You will have to report rental income on your taxes if you rent for 15 or more days. Learn more about mortgage classification here.

Look for niche lending options.

Niche lending options for financing your lake house

With vacation rentals gaining popularity over the last few years, most lenders should have a base level of knowledge when it comes to financing your lake house for short-term rental use. If possible, seek out a finance professional familiar with the vacation rental industry. You lakefront sales specialist may have recommendations for you.

If you don’t intend to rent out your lake house, there are plenty of lending options to meet you where you are financially. Many banks, such as M&T, offer bridge loans to help you purchase a new home before your existing home sells. You can also tap into the equity of your primary home to fund the down payment for your second home (cash-out refinance). Learn more about your lending options here.

Determine your Vacation Rental Income Goals

If your lake house is a second home or investment property, vacation rental income could factor into what kind of lake house you can afford. Your rental rate is determined by the number of bedrooms, bathrooms, amenities, and updates your home has. The larger and more modern the house, the higher the sales price – but also consider that you’ll most likely be able to rent it out more often and for a higher rate.

Our real estate team can provide a vacation rental income analysis for any lakefront home in the Finger Lakes. We provide income projections for the lake houses you’re considering and you can compare side by side how much each will earn, making it easy to determine the level of financing you’ll need.

Consider the extra costs.

Costs to consider when financing your lake house

Your lake house will incur higher costs than a traditional or primary home. Here are a few expenses to budget for when determining how much lake house you can afford:

Flood Insurance

Being so close to the water might warrant purchasing flood insurance. Though not required by New York State, your mortgage lender may mandate that you purchase a policy in addition to homeowners insurance. Flood damage isn’t typically covered by homeowners insurance and less than 50% of flooding incidents are covered by federal disaster assistance.

Maintenance

You’ll likely need a larger maintenance budget for your lake house, especially if it’s a second home or investment property. Lakefront property components, such as docks, decks, boathouses and beachfronts, will need routine maintenance, pressure washing, replacement, clean up, and more.

If your lake house is a secondary residence or investment property, consider hiring a management company to perform these tasks for you. In addition, property managers having a year-round presence at your home can reduce the chances of a break-in and quickly address storm damage or pests to avoid long-term issues and higher costs later on.

Lifestyle

There’s a reason you’re buying a lake house – you want the lake lifestyle! You’ll want to set aside some funds to buy that boat you’ve always wanted, and don’t be surprised when the family asks for a couple kayaks and a jet ski! Prioritize which gear you’ll need once the house is yours – and plan for more fun purchases later on.


What’s the best thing you can do when purchasing your lake house? Work with a professional that specializes in lakefront real estate. With 95% of our sales being on the water, our team is ready and excited to answer your questions and find the right lake house for you! Call us today (855) 683-8429.

2019 Lakefront Real Estate Report

Each quarter, our sales specialists analyze real estate trends across the region’s lakefront market. We compile our findings into a complimentary report to make your decision to buy or sell an easy and informed one.

Here is our analysis of the 2019 lakefront real estate market:


Analysis of lakefront homes sold on 7 of the Finger Lakes in 2019.
Statistics aggregated from MLS.

Overview

The lakefront market experienced smaller gains in 2019, compared to 2018. This can be attributed to the average sale price for lakefront homes continuing to tick up, while the number of sales decrease.

Lakefront homeowners are holding onto properties longer, riding the wave of YOY value increases and the popularity of operating short-term rentals. Investors continue to enter the market, looking for homes not only for personal use, but for profit. Our region has seen a 25% increase in vacation rentals over the last few years.

Challenges

On lakes where the number of homes sold dropped 50%, we saw a correlating drop in total sales volume. Honeoye and Owasco Lakes were challenged by algal blooms and low inventory this year, but homes on both lakes continue to sell faster. Lower price points could transition these lakes deeper into a market that favors buyers in 2020.

HAB’s and Red Tide continue to challenge the nation’s lake and oceanfront real estate markets. Educating new homeowners on lake friendly living practices will be a focus in 2020, to ensure the health and safety of our waters for years to come.

lakefront market real estate agent

Successes

Seneca and Canandaigua Lakes saw the greatest increase in overall sales volume last year. High-end buyers are attracted to Canandaigua Lake for its luxury amenities and close proximity to the cities of Rochester and Buffalo. We expect the upward trend to continue in 2020, as transportation options, like seaplane routes, lakefront development, and amenities continue to expand.

Seneca Lake enjoyed a 33% boost in sales volume last year, with the highest overall gain in average sale price and greatest overall drop in days on market. Seneca is the largest of the Finger Lakes, and arguably the lake with the most opportunity. While Geneva revitalizes its downtown and gains national attention for its dining and tourism, Watkins Glen continues to yield some of the region’s largest events. Seneca Lake home prices still come in below the regional average, but with an 18% price gain last year, don’t expect the lakefront bargains to last. 2020 is the year to buy on Seneca!

Seneca Lake Real Estate

Market Trends to Watch

Mortgage rates are projected to continue trending downward in 2020. This is particularly great news for those looking to purchase a vacation home or income property. With low inventory and no pressure from the fed, lakefront buyers have the luxury of waiting for the right house to come on the market.

In general, the heat is off, with bidding wars at a 10 year low across the nation, but a limited inventory of starter homes is pushing first-time buyers into new territory. Rather than pour their assets into a primary residence, first-time buyers are investing in vacation homes in less expensive destinations, like the Finger Lakes. These homes have the potential to pay for themselves with vacation rental income or allow buyers to save up for their next investment.

Family saving for real estate

Focused on Lakefront in 2020

While the lakefront market flattened out in 2019, the Finger Lakes Premier Properties team experienced a 58% increase in lakefront sales. Our team led purchasing sales on Cayuga and Seneca Lakes and continues to be the leading real estate team servicing the entire region. Lakefront sales accounted for 95% of our 2019 sales, higher than any other real estate team in the Finger Lakes.

Our 2020 focus is lakefront real estate. If yours is too, call us today (888) 441-0079.

Best Homes for the Big Game

We saved you a seat for the Big Game right here in the Finger Lakes! Celebrate 2/2/20 with a weekend getaway for you and your fellow football fans to one of our lakeside vacation rentals. Our homes have fully-stocked kitchens, pool tables, hot tubs, and the space you need to pull off the best game day party of the new decade.

Here are our top picks for your Big Game getaway:

Seneca Shores

Big House for the Big Game. 4 photos of Seneca Shores.

This home is a sports fan’s paradise! 5 bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, and an entertainer’s kitchen take up the top floors, but you’ll want to take the party downstairs. The finished basement features a pool table, shuffleboard, and full-size bar. Screen some football on the flat screen over the fireplace and enjoy!

We recommend guests stop into nearby Climbing Bines Brewery for a growler fill or check out any of the stops on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail.

Sweet Serenity

Big House for the Big Game. 4 photos of Sweet Serenity.

Escape to Keuka Lake for the weekend! This home is just outside Penn Yan, making it easy to stock up on groceries or order pizza and wings. Sweet Serenity sleeps up to 16 and boasts must-have amenities, like a hot tub, rec room, and a second fridge for all your extra snacks and beverages.

Extend your stay to attend the Penn Yan Wing Walk!

Good Vibe Getaway

Big House for the Big Game. 4 photos of Good Vibe Getaway.

This home has all the right vibes for your Big Game getaway. The custom built kitchen has everything you need to prep a game day feast. Plus, you’re only steps from the action in the spacious great room. Light a fire, turn on the flat screen, and spread out – there’s plenty of room for up to 18 guests in this Honeoye Lake home. An added bonus: the huge yard is perfect for a pick up game!


We have several homes available for your February getaway! Browse our Finger Lakes vacation rentals now to see off-season rates or call our reservation agents to find the right house for your group – (855) 233-9506.

Why List Your Lakefront Home in Winter

The weather outside is frightful, so no one’s buying a home this time of the year, right? Think again. In the last 60 days, 35 lakefront homes went under contract in the region, including 33% of our available inventory. The market is trying to stay warm just like the rest of us, but lakefront homes are in short supply.

While winter may seem like a more challenging time to sell, the same rules don’t always apply for homes in a vacation destination. There are plenty of reasons to buy in winter, but here are some of the pros to selling your lakefront home in the off-season:

Higher priced homes see more action.

According to our listing agent, Cynthia Emerling, homes priced above $500,000 are seeing more interest. “The higher priced market starts to pick up in November, when people start evaluating their finances from the year and are motivated to take advantage of tax breaks.” Listing ahead of or during this surge of high-end buyer activity that your home sits on the market less time. “I tell high-end listings to hold out for this time of year, regardless of when they listed. This is when their buyer is in the market,” says Emerling.

Your home stays ready-to-show.

Selling in the summertime has its drawbacks. While it may be the time of year when your lakefront and landscaping look their best, it’s also the time when your lake house sees the most use. With family, friends, and guests in and out all summer, it can be difficult to ensure your home is ready-to-show when it needs to be. To maintain a staged, clean appearance, list your lakefront home in winter. As an added bonus, a light blanket of snow will cover any less-desirable features outside the home.

You’ll get the most out of your last summer on the lake.

There’s only a short window of summer weather here in the Finger Lakes. Showings can make it more difficult to schedule and enjoy your time at the lake. If your home is a vacation rental, constant showings can interfere with the guest experience. Guests who book in the peak season pay a premium for their stay and would prefer not to be interrupted by your agent.

Investment buyers have extra motivation.

On the vacation rental side, we see higher volumes of booking activity around the holidays. It makes sense – the whole family is gathered in one area, making it easy to plan their next vacation. Investment buyers don’t want to miss out on an opportunity to fill their calendars ahead of the new year. This is a huge motivator for short-term rental owners to buy ahead of the new year.


Even if you decide to hold off on listing until after the holidays, don’t wait too long. We see the spring market ramp up long before winter’s end. Lakefront buyers want to close have plenty of time to get their new home ready for summer.

Ready to list your lakefront home this winter? Start here!

Our real estate team will provide an assessment of your lakefront home and a rental analysis, free of charge, to attract buyers to the income potential of your listing. Call our lakefront listing experts today (888) 976-4981

Plan the Perfect Finger Lakes Proposal

Planning a proposal in 2020? Arrange a romantic getaway to the Finger Lakes and make it an engagement to remember! Our lakeside vacation rentals have hosted hundreds of bridal parties, bachelorettes, and wedding guests, but there’s nothing quite as special as hosting the beginning of it all.

We especially love when our brides-and-grooms-to-be share photos of the big moment with us! Here are some of the happy couples we hosted this year and the homes where they popped the question:

Stowaway

Love is in the air at this secluded chalet! Drive right through a vineyard on your way down to the Seneca Lake shoreline where this cottage sits. Modern updates blend with old world charm to make Stowaway the ultimate setting for your Finger Lakes proposal!

Finger Lakes Proposal

We couldn’t ask for a better photo!

This home has 300 ft. of lake frontage and a newly rebuilt dock to ensure everything goes according to plan!

This home is perfectly situated for a romantic hike in Finger Lakes National Forrest or nearby Watkins Glen State Park. Plus, you’re surrounded by award-winning wineries and breweries!

The Boat House

Located midway between historical Seneca Falls, and “gorges” Ithaca, The Boat House is the ideal couple’s retreat. Here, comfort meets minimalist, millennial design, from the chic open concept kitchen to the airy loft bedroom. Even the dock was made for two, with Adirondack chairs and plenty of space to get down on one knee.

Finger Lakes Proposal

This is the kind of place you’ll want to return to for anniversaries and honeymoons for years to come.

We imagine this will be the first of many proposals at this modern retreat!

Enjoy an evening of live music and dancing within walking distance at The Boathouse Beer Garden!

Paradise Found

This beautifully remodeled lake house looks like it was taken from the pages of a magazine. Clean, cozy, and comfortable, you’ll love cooking together in the gourmet kitchen and snuggling up next to fireplace.

Finger Lakes Proposal

A light snow made this proposal picture perfect!

For a more intimate experience, stay in the off-season. You’ll take advantage of lower rates, 3 for 2 specials, and fewer crowds at area attractions.

This home is right on the Keuka Lake Wine Trail and only a short drive from the charming village of Hammondsport.

Seneca Shores

This luxurious Seneca Lake home is the perfect spot to celebrate your engagement with family and friends! Enjoy over 4,000 sq. ft. of living space, including a finished basement with a bar, game room, and gas fireplace. The lake view deck spans the entire backside of the home, offering front row seats and a hot tub to enjoy to sunset from.

Finger Lakes Proposal

The lawn at Seneca Shores offers so many different locations to pop the question. We love that this group captured beautiful, blue Seneca Lake in the background of this special moment. Plus, they had plenty of room to celebrate!

To earmark the special occasion, we suggest a champagne toast at nearby Glenora Wine Cellars.

Stone Crest

The perfect escape for your engagement! This sizable rental offers two master suites, one with its own entry separate from the rest of the home, so you can include the whole family, while still having a little privacy.

Finger Lakes Proposal

Cheers to the newly engaged couple!

Stone Crest offers multiple decks overlooking the water and a 30 ft. dock with rolling hills in the background. Why not schedule an engagement photo shoot during your stay?

This upscale home sits on the shores of Keuka Lake, only minutes from downtown Penn Yan. Break bread at nearby Union Block Bistro to celebrate your engagement!

Our Picks For Your Proposal

Here are some of our favorite romantic retreats to book for your Finger Lakes proposal:

Sunset Point

Sunset Point let’s you truly get away from it all! This serene location features an extra large lot with 175 ft. of Keuka Lake frontage and a completely updated look, inside and out. Light a fire by the water at sunset for the perfect lakefront proposal.

Lakeside Getaway

This adorable cottage stays true to the lake house theme, from the wall decor to the rugs on the floor. This home has ample dock and deck space for the big moment, but for a more creative proposal, consider a snowy evening in festive Seneca Falls.

Glen Hollow Guest Cottage

Glen Hollow offers the privacy of a vacation rental with the amenities of a wine country inn. This historic landmark features naturally beautiful grounds, a waterfall, and one-of-a-kind rustic charm. The guest cottage is an old carriage house full of modern amenities and original features, like sliding barn doors and a bedroom in the hayloft!


Plan your Finger Lakes proposal with our local reservation agents! We can help you choose the best house and coordinate all of the little touches to make your engagement extra special. Call us today! (877) 269-7621

Protect Your Lake House This Winter

When it comes to winter, there are two types of lakefront homeowners – those who weather the storms and those who head for warmer water. If you own or are considering buying a lake house, but not interested in sticking around for the Finger Lakes snowfall, you’ll need to winterize your home.

Winterization protects your lakefront asset and forces you to understand your home, inside and out. Plus, you’ll return to fewer maintenance issues, so you can jump right into summer.

Properly prepare for winter and check these items off your to-do list:

Continue reading Protect Your Lake House This Winter

How the Finger Lakes Benefit from Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals may feel like a new trend, but the short-term rental industry has been around for decades in destinations worldwide, including the Finger Lakes. With third party booking sites, like VRBO and AirBnb making vacation rentals more popular and plentiful than ever before, its important to explore what responsible renting looks like and how short-term rentals can continue to add value to our region.

Here are just a few of the ways that the Finger Lakes benefit from vacation rentals:

Vacation rentals uphold the lake culture of our communities.

The Finger Lakes are a traditional summer vacation destination. Our shorelines are lined with seasonal homes and cottages, where families have experienced lake life together for generations. Short-term rentals support the culture of our lake communities, extended stays in the region, and the need for more property tax revenue.

Vacation rentals supplement hotel room supply.

Local hotels book up fast for peak season. Short-term rentals not only supplement hotel room supply, but can better accommodate larger groups and niche travelers. Finger Lakes Premier Properties has hosted over 80,000 guests since 2015. The more tourists our region can lodge, the more we encourage economic growth for local businesses and communities.

Booking and packing for a vacation

Vacation rentals keep family homes in the family.

Short-term rental income makes it possible for families to afford the increasing costs associated with owning a lake house. This allows the tradition of gathering at the lake to continue for years to come.

Vacation rentals support property values.

In 2018, 32% of investment property owners planned on renting their home as a short-term rental, up 24% from 2017. The demand for lakefront homes is growing because of increased demand for short-term rentals.

keys to a house

Vacation rentals create opportunity.

Short-term rentals make the lakefront experience affordable and accessible to everyone. Families have private, recreational access to the water, regardless of whether they have the means to live on the lake. In addition, the vacation rental industry creates a variety of skilled and unskilled jobs throughout the region.

Family by the lake at a vacation rental

What does Responsible Renting look like?

Vacation rentals managed by professional property managers add significant value to the community by expanding the tax base and attracting direct and indirect spending in our area. Unfortunately, popular listing sites have portrayed the ease of owning a vacation rental without highlighting the importance of managing the experience for the guest, owner, and local community. Read more about what responsible renting looks like here.

To learn more about professional property management services for your short-term rental, visit our website.

5 Key Takeaways from the Seneca Lake Water Quality Forum

On Wednesday, October 23, our team attended the Water Quality Forum at Hobart and William Smith Colleges to review research collected in 2019 and discuss water quality issues important to Seneca Lake. While harmful algae blooms (HAB’s) continue to be a serious issue facing the region, there are a number of state and local organizations collecting valuable data and funding projects to fight HAB’s in the Finger Lakes.

Each year, more is understood about blue green algae and what we can do to reduce bloom frequency and toxicity. Here are 5 takeaways from the forum and the research conducted during the 2019 HAB season: :

Suspected Blue Green Algae Bloom in Seneca Lake

85% of HAB’s sent out for testing this year came back positive for high toxin levels.

Over 100 samples from suspicious algae blooms were collected this year, and of those samples, 40 were budgeted to be sent out for toxin level measurement.  34 were positive for high toxins, driving home the point that if you see or suspect a bloom, stay out of the water.

HAB’s are most toxic at 20⁰ C, the water temperature we see most often in September. In 2018, the last algae bloom was reported toward the end of September, but this year, blooms have been confirmed late into October, a result of extra sunshine and warmer water temps. Generally, HAB’s are not an issue until late August on the majority of the lakes.

It cannot be determined if HAB’s are increasing year over year.

While the data presented since 2012 indicates that HAB’s are not only increasing in frequency, but also in toxicity, the DEC cannot conclude that this is the case. In 2018, there were 120 shoreline volunteers photographing blooms and collecting samples. Just 5 years earlier, a hotline was the only public initiative and no training was conducted to identify blue green algae. Aimee Clinkhammer, researcher with NYS DEC, concluded that the trend could be heavily influenced by the increase in education and conversation surrounding HAB’s.

There’s something in the soil on Seneca.

In an experiment performed by John Halfman, researcher for the Finger Lakes Institute, mud was collected in various locations along the Seneca Lake shoreline. Geneva tap water was added to the samples. They were left undisturbed and received daily sun, replicating favorable HAB conditions. Over time, every sample developed a blue green algae bloom.

John Halfman’s soil experiment presentation slide

It’s known that HAB’s need nitrogen and phosphorus to proliferate. These nutrients enter the lake in greater quantities after storms through stream runoff. Another nutrient source could be decaying macrophytes along the shore, like dried up seaweed and tree branches. To reduce the amount of shoreline debris settling in the water, Halfman urged attendees to perform routine beach clean up, especially after storms.

The uniqueness of each lake may impact how and when HAB’s form.

While the forum focused on Seneca Lake, the other Finger Lakes were not ignored. In comparing trends found on Seneca to the other 10 lakes, there were few parallels. Some lakes had higher levels of phosphorus with some bloom activity, like Seneca. Other lakes had very low levels of phosphorus and high bloom activity, like Skaneateles Lake. This indicates that different Finger Lakes may be able to handle different nutrient levels and, therefore, be impacted by HAB’s in unique ways.

New York is a leader in the national effort to address HAB’s.

HAB’s are not exclusive to the Finger Lakes, and are an even greater issue downstate and across the country. We are not alone, but we are the model. Clinkhammer commented that other state agencies have looked to the NYS DEC for guidance in forming their own HAB’s initiatives and programs.


While more research is needed to fully understand and address HAB’s in our region, the Water Quality Forum provided insight into the fight and hope for the future of our lakes.

A huge thank you to the Seneca Pure Waters Association for holding this important and well attended event! We look forward strengthening our partnership and keeping our homeowners and guests informed.

For more information about harmful algae blooms, please visit the NYHABS website.

Lakefront Real Estate Report: Q3 Highlights

How did the lakefront real estate market perform in the third quarter of 2019? Our team of highly knowledgeable lakefront sales specialists have compiled a complimentary analysis of market trends for the Finger Lakes to explain.

Lakefront Real Estate Report for Q3 2019
Analysis of lakefront homes sold on 7 of the Finger Lakes in Q3 2019.
Statistics aggregated from MLS.
  • Average days on market continue to drop on all lakes as the region transitions into a strong buyers market.
  • Lakefront inventory is still low, leading to a decrease in homes sold and total sales volume overall.
  • Low interest rates are feeding more buyers into the lakefront market.
  • Interest in short-term renting and investment homes is fueling demand for lakefront property.

What Our Agents See in the Lakefront Market

“We’ve seen an increase in out-of-state clients looking for lakefront homes in the area, many from PA. This is a great time of year to buy, especially for investors. Close on your home by 2020 and make updates to see a higher ROI in time to open your calendar for peak season.”

Dave Lucchesi, Buyer Specialist

“It’s a good time to list because of the number of buyers in the lakefront market. With interest rates continuing to drop, more buyers are comfortable with investing in a second or third home, staying in the market longer.”

Cynthia Emerling, Director of Listing Services

Top Performing Lakefront Markets

Canandaigua Lake

Total sales volume on Canandaigua Lake jumped almost 50% year over year. Lakefront property is in demand, with average sale price up 11% and homes spending an average of 10 days less on market. Our agents note that appropriately priced Canandaigua Lake homes have moved quickly this quarter.

Seneca Lake

We continue to see opportunity in the Seneca Lakefront market! With a near 50% increase in total sales volume, led by the FLPP team, and consistent growth in the number of homes for sale and average sales price, the largest Finger Lake shows no signs of slowing down going into Q4.


Download your copy of the full Q3 Lakefront Real Estate Report here.


For more information about buying or selling lakefront property in the Finger Lakes, call our real estate team today! 833-915-1259