I receive phone calls and emails often from Lake Tahoe home buyers looking to purchase a cabin in the mountains. The word “cabin” means different things to different people, from those made of logs and in the middle of nowhere, to a chalet next to the ski resorts. Some buyers are intrigued when looking at Lake Tahoe real estate when they see US Forest Service cabins for sale and perhaps you weren’t aware that it was possible to purchase a cabin, so here is some information to consider.
Owning a Forest Service Cabin
Lake Tahoe Forest Service cabins provide owners with unique opportunities. You enjoy undeveloped areas with rustic and natural surroundings and they fit the true meaning of “Getting away from it all.” As you search Lake Tahoe homes for sale, perhaps you’d like to know more about USFS cabin opportunities. Often asked questions and answers:
1) Do you own the land when you purchase a US Forest Service Cabin?
You do not own the land. It sells with a Bill of Sale like personal property. You then lease the property from the Forest Service and you have a special use permit to use the cabin.
2) Can I get a loan to purchase one of these cabins?
Conventional financing is not available to purchase them. Some home buyers will refinance their primary or other properties they own or use a line of credit. It is common for cabin owners to provide seller financing for a new buyer.
3) How does the IRS recognize a Forest Service cabin?
They are a Capital Asset much like a car or boat.
4) How much are property taxes?
Owners pay the county 1.25% of the purchase price.
5) What does the Forest Service get?
They receive the lease income. Depending on the area there may be Homeowner’s Association dues as well.
6) Do I need to have Property Insurance?
Yes. You need to have insurance for the structure, personal property, and personal liability.
7) Can I use my cabin in winter?
Yes, you can, prepare for the elements. It can be an adventure with you snowshoeing or skiing to the cabin! Water is disconnected most of the time to prevent freezing in the winter, and normally the roads are not plowed. Find a safe place to park your vehicle away from Cal Trans plowing areas or your car could be towed, ticketed or even buried!
8) What dates do I have access to the cabin?
The typical season is Mother’s Day in May to Halloween in October. Times are subject to change due to weather and temperatures. Cabins under 4,000 feet elevation may have a longer season, but these aren’t in Lake Tahoe since our lowest elevation is over 6,000 feet.
9) How long does my lease last?
Currently, the Highway 50 corridor cabins have 20-year leases and everyone is on the same schedule. Some cabins have conditional permits until they meet certain criteria.
10) How much does a lease cost?
Annual fees range from $400 to $3,500 or more based on the appraised value. The value appraises about every ten years.
11) How much are the Escrow fees to transfer ownership?
Fees are about $400 for each the Buyer and the Seller plus an additional $50 for each UCC Name Search through the Secretary of State.
12) How can you get more information?
I am always available at 530-541-2465 and the US Forest Service Ranger office at 530-647-5354 (ask for a copy of the Guidelines for Summer Residences Handbook). Or, here is their handbook and other information.
There are a total of 975 cabins in the Eldorado National Forest with over 15,000 in the whole country. There are currently a couple for sale in South Lake Tahoe and others located west of the lake off Hwy 50 in the Strawberry area.
Many of the South Lake Tahoe area cabins are found in Christmas Valley along the historic Hawley Grade as well as around Echo Summit and Echo Lake.
You have plenty of options available to choose from. Some cabins in Lake Tahoe are privately owned and don’t have the same restrictions and rules as US Forest Service cabins.
Ready to Buy a Cabin in Lake Tahoe?
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