Buying Articles
- by Nick Mendola -
I would like to share some information regarding purchasing lake property that I have learned from my experience in buying a lake home and participating in countless lake transactions as a broker:
[Published in Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Rochester Business Journal, The Daily Record, 
Canandaigua Daily Messenger, Brighton-Pittsford Post and Wolfe Publication, R-News Television, Toronto Globe and Mail Newspaper)]

"Home Away from Home" - by Nick Mendola 
So you decided to buy a second home!! A decision that will be most rewarding. 
Isn’t it exciting -- a new place to go, new things to do, new people to meet (or not to meet), the thrills of doing the things you always wanted to do or the recollection of your wonderful childhood days at the lake.  The excitement and the satisfaction are all within your control. 
Yes, you can create or recreate that dream; and now is the time to do it.  The prices are right, there is a diverse inventory of all types of second homes available, interest rates are still low; and when you consider how brief life is, why not do it now and not be numbered among those who are now saying "I wish I had purchased 10 years ago." 
How to buy a second home?
Try to determine exactly what type of second home appeals to you and to your family.  Is it: waterfront property? a cottage? a cabin? in the woods or in the mountains? or perhaps a time share condo in any part of the world? 
Consider your present life style.  If you like traveling and visiting different places each year, a time-share may be an appropriate concept to consider. 
If your family or job circumstances are such that you cannot travel far from home for extended periods of time, perhaps a cottage or summer home on a nearby lake, waterway or in the woods is the right choice for you.  Take into consideration the travel time.  Travel time is the single most important factor which will determine your usage and enjoyment of resort property. 
Do you like going where you can just relax, read a book, sit by a campfire, take naps, enjoy a view, shop or go to summer cultural events?  Then perhaps a second home with no or only minimal maintenance can be most ideal for you. 
If you like hiking, skiing, camping, hunting...perhaps a place in the woods or in the mountains is right for you. 
If you like fishing, boating, water-skiing or just sitting by the shore and listening to the waves wash in and out on the sand as you savor the evening sunsets, a large or small lake cottage or other type of waterfront property, such as a recreational lot, is for you. 
Yes, there is a maintenance factor to ownership of many second homes.  I have often said that "a change is as good as a rest."  Believe it or not, you may enjoy the personal satisfaction of doing some "puttering around the cottage."  We all take great personal pride in our accomplishments.  You never know just where your talent lies. 
Once you have decided on what type of second home is in the future for you, you must determine how much you would like to spend on its acquisition.  Some individuals prefer to pay all cash; others, most likely, will have to go to a bank or other financial institution.  The financing for most second homes is pretty much the same as you will find with the purchase of your primary residence, with the exception that most lending institutions will require a downpayment of 20 percent (yes-some may do it for 10 percent down).  In most cases, if the lending institutions are selling their mortgages on the secondary market, they will want the property winterized for year-round use. 
If the property is of a seasonal nature and does not have central heat, then it may be difficult to obtain a bank loan.  At that time, you may seek a property where the owner will hold the mortgage. This is called a "purchase money bond and mortgage."  Instead of making monthly payments to a bank, you will make the payments directly to the owner.  You may also want to explore with your own accountants and with the seller if there are any tax advantages to the seller in entering into an installment sale.  You as the buyer, if this is your only second home, will still have the tax benefit of deducting interest and real estate property taxes on your April 15th tax return.  Think about it... in effect your monthly payment of $700 may in reality be only $400 more or less depending on your tax bracket. 
Once you have been qualified for a loan by your Real Estate Broker or by a lending institution and have a pretty good idea of where you would like to be and what type of property you would like to purchase, find a local broker in that area who is actively listing and selling properties.  Ask around for who specializes in that type of property, look for signs and choose someone with whom you feel comfortable.  Product knowledge and familiarity with a specific area are of extreme importance.  You may be dealing in areas and situations quite unfamiliar to brokers and real estate agents who normally deal in city or suburban properties.  You may encounter such issues as: various forms of right-of-ways, uniform dock and waterfront codes, accessibility to various utilities, varying water quality for swimming, specific types of septic systems required in particular areas, access to drinking water and various purification systems, town building codes, setback requirements, percolation and water testing, use and ownership of access roads, grandfathered situations of pre-existing, non-conforming uses, dealing with the DEC and even more red tape to be encountered after a sale is made.  Furthermore, brokers who specialize in that market can provide answers to some of your more intangible questions, such as where does the sun set, which way does the wind usually blow (important for sailor, and skiers) and where are the good fishing spots.  The more knowledgeable the broker, the more comfortable you will be in making your final selection. 
It is also important to choose a good real estate attorney, one with knowledge of resort properties, local customs and experience in reviewing surveys, abstracts and deeds.  This is especially true with resort property, where property ownership issues in the past were handled in a more unconventional, informal manner than is done today. 
Finally it is important to focus on what you are really buying when you decide to purchase a seasonal second home.  First, you are creating a lifestyle for you and your family.  Some or most of your treasured lifetime memories and experiences will take place there.  Resort living can have a profound influence on family bonding whether your family consists of your young or adult children and/or your grandchildren. Secondly you are building equity in a limited, highly valued and useable investment.  Therefore, a second home can be considered as "a sound investment that yields a dividend of pleasure."  Thirdly, you are buying a structure which may be incidental as it is the only portion of the purchase that can be modified, demolished, used as is or rebuilt. 

"Lakefront Always a Good Investment" - by Nick Mendola 
For a number of reasons, the property along Canandaigua Lake will always be valuable Canandaigua is an Indian word meaning "The Chosen Place."  Centuries later, it remains the choice of discreet buyers.  Its sparkling waters, views of the Bristle hills, great fishing, proximity to Rochester, home of the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center, accessibility to the fine City of Canandaigua, golf courses, tennis, fine restaurants, plenty of shopping, public utilities and much more, make it what call the "Jewel of the Finger Lakes."  Each of its private properties is a limited edition item for investment. 

    Will Rogers' words about property still hold true today--"they aren't making any more of it!"  Think about it: the population is growing, leisure times is increasing but the shoreline remains the same. Canandaigua Lake is not like Florida where additional waterfront can be created by building new canals.  At Canandaigua, level lakefront vacant lots can only be made by demolishing existing structures. 
    Lake Property, similar to other sound investments in limited editions, will always be a good investment-- especially if held in the long run.  Owners cannot afford to buy today, sell a year from now and make a big profit.  However, many owners are today selling at a handsome profit depending on when they purchased.  Furthermore, secondary homes continue to be used as one of the safest tax shelters.  Mortgage interest and real estate taxes are still deductible.  When April 15 rolls around buyers will find a substantial reduction in their income taxes.  Unlike standard residential property, there are intangible returns buyers should take into consideration when contemplating investing on the lake. 
    I have always considered lake property a "fun investment with a dividend of pleasure, " contrasted with other types of investments where one needs a badge to enter the front door.  Buyers can immediately enjoy their lake investments.  Today, families with grown and/or married children procure lakefront properties because the resort atmosphere and nature of the property adds to the cohesion of multi-generational families. 
    As the Baby Boom generation, with and without families, plans for retirement, many are opting for a summer lake house here and a winter retreat in Florida or elsewhere.  The lake lifestyle takes people out of the fast lane, perhaps adding years to the lifetimes. 
    The sad news is that someday lake home owners may want or need to sell their lake homes and, if so, two important questions must be answered.  Do you absolutely want to sell your property? And are you willing to price it at today's market? 
    Once an owner is committed to selling lake property the factors of locations "showability" and price apply.  The location features of lake level, lot width and depth, accessibility to utilities and privacy are the most favored.  If the house is in move-in condition, well maintained and easy to care for, selling chances are greatly improved.  Finally, they key is to price it properly. 
    The broad inventory of lake homes and cottages is driving the current "buyer's market."  As a result, realistic buyers are often able to find the property of their dream in a location of their choice at a price they can afford.  However, be aware that this cyclical buyer's market (like any other market) will eventually come to an end.  The well-priced and showable properties consistently are being sold. Potential buyers, willing to come out to take a serious look and to negotiate fairly, will be the beneficiaries of these fun investments. 

"This Particular Kind of Living Offers Homeowners a Different Lifestyle" 
By Jill Miller of the Daily Record:Prestigious Properties
Imagine waking up every morning to the sound of waves crashing into the shore and going to bed at night with the moonlight dancing across the water.  Does this sound like an ideal place to live? 
Rochester is centrally located for anyone who dreams of living on the lake.  Homeowners have their choice between Lake Ontario, Sodus Bay, Canandaigua Lake or Conesus Lake. 
Nick Mendola, owner of Edelweiss Properties, said lake front property offers homeowners a variety of choices one may not have living on a regular property lot in the suburbs.  For example, the lake offers the opportunity to sail, water ski or fish.
"No two homes on the lake are a like," Mendola said.
Anyone interested in moving to the lake front must first decide what type of home they are searching for.  A few questions they may want to ask themselves are: "what type of water conditions am I interested." "what type of water access would I like in an area with a sandy beach" and if a boat owner, " do I want the option to dock my boat in front of my house?"
The key to finding a home on the lake is to work with a broker who specializes in selling lake front property, Mendola explained.
Potential homeowners who have a specific design of a house in mind must remember, the home can be modified, the location and lot can't.
"It's not hard to find something on the lake," Mendola said. "Anyone who wants to live on the lake can."
On Canandaigua Lake, such properties range from under $100,000 to over $1 million dollars. Condominiums, lake access homes and summer cottages as well as homes fall into this price range.

"What's in a (Cottage) Name?" - Finger Lakes cottage dwellers explain the traditions behind the names given to their lakeside home. 
By Jennifer Jordan of The Daily Messenger
Canandaigua Lake and the lush green valleys that stretch up around it remind Nick Mendola of the classic triumphant musical set in Austria.
So he and his wife, Marcia Mendola, named their eastside cottage "Edelweiss." 
"It's kind of a name that's sentimental to us - out of the "Sound of Music," Mendola said. His real estate business, "Edelweiss Properties," was given the same name for the same reason. 
"It relates to the mountains and music and lakes," Mendola said of the name and the Alps-inspired theme, " You can picture Julie Andrews singing over Canandaigua Lake."
Some, like Mendola and the Youngs, pick names meaningful to them. Others maintain tradition and keep the name given by previous owners.
Beth Kendall who stays in a cottage called "Edgemere" is one of the traditionalists when it comes to cottage naming.
"It's been the name ever since boats used to deliver the mail," she said of "Edgemere," adding, "It means , 'By the sea, By the water.' "
Yet for awhile the name was not really used, Beth Kendall said.
Hugh Kendall bought the late-19th century cottage in 1961, during his first marriage, Beth said. She said that perhaps his first wife did not like the name.
Then, when Beth was looking for something in the barn about ten years ago, she came across a sign with the name. 
"I was very pleased," she said of finding the sign.  "It's very attractive.  It has a white background and green lettering.  It must have been from in the old days when every cottage had a name."
The Kendalls had a friend make a larger replica of the sign, which they now display toward the lake. Beth also has a home called "Bonnie View" on the west side.
"I think it was very quaint just because Bonnie means beautiful." Beth said. "I love that cottages have names... Some people think it's corny but I like it."

"1998 A Banner Year for Lakefront Sales" 
by Nick Mendola     (Daily Messenger July 18, 1999)

From beginning to end, 1998 was a banner year for our lake sales.  Supported by a strong economy, low interest rates, greater job stability and a pent-up demand, we succeeded in getting our buyers to come out in full force.  These serious qualified buyers recognized attractive buying opportunities of properties at fair prices.  They also were able to conclude their negotiations so they could enjoy the 1999 season on the lake.
The buying trend of 1998 considerably reduced the lake inventory of homes, cottages, condos, townhouses and lots.  Unfortunately for buyers, as of this writing date, the inventory has been only slightly replenished.  Even the new 1999 offerings that were well located, priced right and in showable condition have already enjoyed quicker sales.
We expect that the trend in lake property availability will be that sellers continuously place properties for sale at scattered intervals throughout the year.  Market data from the last 5-10 years reveals that the usual Spring and Fall increase in properties entering the market is now more spread over the entire year.   Sellers are realizing that the serious, qualified buyers are constantly looking; and as soon as a buyer becomes aware of the right property, they attempt to buy it regardless of the season.
As the inventory is further diminished, the market slowly reverts to a sellers’ market and property values can appreciate at an accelerated rate.  To paraphrase Will Rogers: “They aren’t making anymore of it.”   Meanwhile, demographic data confirms the increase in demand for lakefront living throughout the nation and this demand is expected to continue growing.

Sellers’ Perspective in the Dynamic Lake Market
If you are a seller with a property that has not sold, it is important to review its condition and ask yourself if it is properly priced.  If you are considering selling, an experienced lake broker can provide critical information necessary for a quicker sale at the best price for your property.  Keep in mind that today buyers will be reviewing the same information while assessing a purchase of your property.  Information which ranges from: the intangible motivation of sellers to tangible comparable data and the sellers’ costs in the property including capital improvements, to extraneous factors such as accessibility to the property and any changes in the overall neighborhood environment.  Any variables that could potentially affect the future value of the subject property are increasingly being taken into consideration. 
Remember to choose an agent who has experience in selling Canandaigua Lake properties and has an established relationship to the community.  An agent, specializing in city properties or properties located on other lakes, may not have intimate knowledge of this specific area and certainly does not have a mature list of serious qualified buyers continually looking for property on Canandaigua Lake.   When you are interviewing an agent for the sale of your lake property, you have the right to know just how many listings and lake sales he/she has consummated over the past year, 10 years, 20 years.  References are a traditional way to learn more about a particular agent’s reputation and work ethic.  You may also observe the number of “For Sale” and “Sold” signs by that particular agent.  Most importantly, be aware that it is the agent who will be representing you in the sale of your property.  That agent should be knowledgeable from experience honed from an excellent history of lake sales and relationships built over time with other professionals in the area, such as attorneys, contractors and government professionals.  All of which are essential to facilitating a smooth and successful sale in the wake of an increasingly complex process of transferring title. 
Why should you ask if the agent has a broad inventory of lake listing?  Statistics show that only about 3% of the potential buyers that call on a listing will ever buy that particular property; 97% will buy something else.  Therefore, an agent with an inventory of similar listings can direct potential buyers to all suitable properties at as early as their first contact.  The economies of scale available to this agent benefit sellers by significantly increasing the exposure of their property in a given marketplace. 
In many ways, the agent is more important than the company representing you.  Although the company name may have gotten the agent to your door, your ongoing relationship with that individual will be most important.  Sellers can learn more about an agent’s strengths and weaknesses by asking the following questions.
1. How long have you been fulltime in the Real Estate business?  In which areas and types of properties do you specialize?
2. How many properties have you sold?  Where?  When?  Type?
3. How many lake properties are you currently marketing?
4. How knowledgeable are you of this area?
5. How available are you to be reached by me, potential buyers and by other agents who may want to show and sell the property?  Are your phone numbers easily available to all, especially for weekend and evening showings?
6. Do you possess tools necessary to succeed in today’s evolving real estate industry: specialized Internet site for Canandaigua Lake property, computer software, cellular phone, fax machine, voice mail, email, digital camera and equipment, etc.?
7. Do you have a centrally located office in a highly visible location to attract walk-in business seeking property in the area?
8. Do you receive continuous calls from buyers looking for certain types of property?
9. What will be done to market the property?  (Open Houses, Advertising, etc)
10.  To what value-added resources do you have access to in order to facilitate an enjoyable, thorough and successful sale, i.e. financing, resources for moving, school data, utilities, other professional services?
Please keep in mind that you will not only be interviewing the agent, the agent will also be interviewing you.  The agent will be asking himself/herself:
1. Is this the kind of property I would like in my selling inventory?
2. Are the sellers serious about selling or are they just testing the market? – and what happens if it passes the test?
3. Are the sellers objective?  Do they value straightforward honest answers that are necessary to successfully sell their property in a specific market at a specific period in time? 
4. Are the sellers willing to price their property at a level supported by today’s corresponding market values? 
5. Is the property showable?  Will they make it showable or offer it at a substantially lower price to compensate for its present condition?

Buyers’ Perspective in the Dynamic Lake Market
Although the trend may be edging towards a sellers’ market, sellers should heed a caveat.  Buyers in the 1990s are considerably more discerning than those of the 1980s.
The current market of buyers is much more analytical.  They scrutinize the comparative market analyses much more thoroughly and review data more easily available at municipal databases and even provided on the Internet.  They do not want to be caught up in the 1980’s frenzy to purchase lake properties at almost any cost when buyers occasionally out-bid each other with offers that were in some cases over the asking price.  Today, some buyers consider the future viability of selling a specific property, concerned that they will be able to sell their 1990 properties for as much or more than their current purchase price.
In most instances, today’s buyers are seeking Engineer and Property Inspections including radon tests, chimney inspections, pest infestation inspections, lead testing, etc.  Where applicable, (properties that do not have access to all public utilities), buyers and most lending institutions are requiring septic system inspections, water potability and/or flow tests.  In instances where there are old septic systems, their future use capability may not be adequate nor up to today’s watershed standards and buyers along with the help of contractors and the watershed inspector are researching new and more efficient systems so as not to pollute the lake.  Unfortunately, the zebra mussel situation is also causing buyers to proceed with caution and take prospective measures to deal with this problem.  Water purification is an important requirement for many buyers in order to be able to drink lake or well water; and their investigation into such purification systems can be complex.  The aforementioned items have a monetary cost and buyers are aware that their costs do not end with the purchase price.  Additional discretionary costs for personalizing, remodeling, redecoration and possibly an addition to the structure further lead 1990 buyers to become in most cases extremely cautious.  Ultimately, buyers know that their efforts to make an investment in lake property will be rewarded with immeasurable dividends of pleasure. 

The market factors and psychological insight into the buying and selling of properties in the lake market touched on in this article only partially characterize the true dynamic nature of the lake market.  However, with appropriate information and competent professional guidance, sellers who offer their properties in showable condition and at fair market values will continue to enjoy sales in a reasonably short period of time by receiving more offers, quicker and closer to their price.  Similarly, buyers who decide to work with professionals who have an excellent history of specializing in a specific market will be able to leverage their property searching and analysis resources.  Thus, this type of relationship guarantees an enjoyable buying experience while securing a property that meets their needs, wants and investment objectives.