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Honored Advisor

Second home questions

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Well, we have reconciled ourselves to making our daughter's last home into a family second home.  Mike says when the weather cools off a bit, and no hay is pressing to be harvested, he will go up and stay with me there now and then.  It's his chilhood home, about 75 years old in the oldest portion of it, last added onto  in the sixties.  

 

The painter is due there today, and I will then be done with the decorator side of stuff shortly thereafter.  A few more pictures and such to hang, and it's all done.  Jenna's sister has stayed up one weekend with her husband and Winn, and they are planning to use it as a riding crowd launching point.  Several large CIvil War sites and military reservations have riding trails nearby.

 

I plan to put a grill and picnic table to use there, and the house itself is beautifully equipped, as far as kitchen and other accommodations.   Plenty of dining space, plenty of sleeping area, if some want to bed down on air mattresses or in their horse trailers.  

 

We may wire a couple of heavy-duty outlets for the horse trailers with living quarters.  SIL plans to drive some posts and run some electric tape for temporary grazing for the horses.  

 

This house has an oil boiler for radiators  - yes, ancient and expensive to operate - so we won't be using them fulltime in the cold season.  The fireplace has an insert and blower, which is what Jenna used for her main heat, with a small electric heater in her bathroom.  Of course, we won't be there to stoke a wood fire, except when we stay over.  

 

I am sort of torn as to how to handle the house in wintertime.  We can turn off the water by just flipping a breaker, and crack open a faucet, so pipes shouldn't freeze and burst.  We don't stay cold so deep or long that I worry about structural damage to floors and such during deep winter.  We leave the applicances and electricity on, so the refrigerator has some food and drinks for us.  

 

I ordered a neat e-book off of amazon last night, and the author does a great job of discussing the second home, not as an investment or purchase.  Since we already own this one, and don't want to rent it out, most books on the subject were not on point for us.  

 

I just wanted some advice from those of you who maintain a second home - SUEY??? - for family use alone.  Any help is greatly appreciated.  If I've asked this before, and forgotten what I was told, please forgive me...my mind isn't on target a lot these days.  

 

TIA.

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Senior Advisor

Re: Second home questions

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Winterizing a house in a northern climate isn't so bad when you can drain the pipes and antifreeze the drains etc. But water filled radiators would be a big problem even in your area without minimum heat levels.

 

We set our thermostats to the lowest levels in our Iowa home and then shut the water lines off in case of a power outage.

 

I'm getting a bit weary of maintaining heat electric water and sewer bills along with real estate taxes and homeowners insurance on a vacant house. It's been for sale for quite a while and not many nibbles on it.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Second home questions

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WE are getting ready to close on Fil's house which we sold for way too low but it does add up for those monthly utilities. Still have to completely clean out some. Waiting to hear if the kid buying wants the furniture: also for a song but what would low quality furniture minus 30% for auction fee bring?
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Honored Advisor

Re: Second home questions

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I know you will be glad to have that house off of your to-do list, Linda.  I didn't understand how much of an ordeal it has been on you, dealing with cleaning it out, until we started working on Jenna's home. 

 

Not even trying or wanting to 'move out' or sell...just finish a few things she hadn't gotten around to, cleaning up the dust from the drywall her BF had torn out and started refinishing, and making the house a getaway spot.  Now, restoring the wrecked rental houses to useful condition is a horse of another color! 

 

I think letting the furniture go is a really good idea.  Moving heavy wooden, older stuff is no chore for middle-aged backs and knees.  Those pieces are built to fit the space between windows and doors in older homes, too.  I have just realized this as I've worked with Jenna's house lately...everything is scaled differently.  Modern pieces tend to be huge, I guess for McMansions;but, older ones are in proportion with the doors, windows, overall room size, etc. 

 

Daughter and Winn helped me move a vanity to my friend's shop to paint for me today...that one is going in Jenna's lavendar bedroom, to be painted a color called Berry Brown.  We brought home a Victorian one she did for me in shabby white, to finish our bedroom re-do here.  That white stuff really brightens up a dark room. 

 

I hope your deal goes through soon...so you can relax and enjoy the rest of the summer. 

 

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Contributor

Re: Second home questions

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Been yrs since I've been here, glad to see you are still here. We have a 16 x 80 on 6 ac. that is just 4 miles from our village home. Just go there to garden or escape. Keep it at 55 in winter and so far no freezing. Perhaps the Wis. winters have just been mild since we own it.  At times I think the extra cost of power and heat are a waste but then one day there and it is worth it.  No big decorating or redoing for us and lots of space to keep friends/family that need an overnite when coming to see us. We have a vacation phone line so that isn't much cost and the alarm is hooked to it so if the temp drops below 45 * our phone will ring, great peace of mind.

So, no advice for you. Just one of those things, we either have to enjoy what we are doing or make changes and they don't always come easy.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Second home questions

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The whole practice of getting away from it all is probably a lot more important than we like to admit.  When we first bought this place, eighteen years ago, it was our place away from home, and the pressures there. Fixing up the ratty house was an adventure, and fun in many aspects of the process. 

 

Even before Jenna passed in May, we had decided to go for making the small house she was living in into our "cabin" spot, and move her to one of the more modern rentals we have there on that farm.  That would have made it possible for us to spend more time with her, which is something we had all missed since she went off to college twelve years ago. 

 

I am thinking right now that we really need to get an HVAC technician into the house, to investigate the oil boiler and radiator system.  If we can keep the house at 45-50, or maybe even zone and shut off a couple of rooms, by shutting doors to heat only the parts with plumbing, then just boost it while we are there with the wood insert in the fireplace or turning up the thermostat, it may be more manageable, in terms of both cost and comfort. 

 

We had orignially planned to live in VA and run the farm here in NC.  That turned out to be an impractical situation...alarm calls in the middle of the wee hours and such.  In retrospect, how we thought operating the biggest farm of its kind in the state was a parttime job was ridiculous.  Still,  with our daughter (who is the farm manager) and SIL living here, and the hired man living on the place, too, we ought to be able to get away for a night here and there. 

 

We have just never put our minds to the thought of being able to be away from home very much.  Raising livestock is so demanding in terms of time, and such a big responsibility in terms of making sure the animals' welfare is always addressed.  It takes more doing than simply feeding the house cat a double ration for a weekend away....

 

I guess I need to make that call to a serviceman, evaluate the equipment already in place, and make a judgment call.  There is always the possibility of doign some sort of alternative system, at least where there are pipes to protect.  The draining and antifreeze is always a resort, too.  I just want to be able to go up there, without having to do and un-do a lot of that sort of stuff. 

 

It's easy in warm weather....I walk in and turn on the main window AC, flip on a ceiling fan, and by the time i've brought in a few items from the car, it's getting comfortable.  I'd like to be able to toddle in in January, light a fire, and be able to flush the toilet without a major set of management steps in the basement first. 

 

If the boiler isn't really ready to re-start, or the oil bill is too daunting, I guess we could look into one of those window-mounted heat pumps, or motel room type "Zoneline" electric units.  We used one of those for about fifteen years here, on the big bath/laundry room here.  That would be totally troublefree, and I guess they have a freeze prevention setting. 

 

Another possibility is a set of gas logs in the fireplace, or a separate setup in a gas stove, with a thermostat on the wall.  We've used two of those to heat this house in NC, to keep the main living areas more comfortable, before we installed the wood boiler three years ago.  They are still in place, to serve as our backup heat for long power outages. 

 

I've even thought about some passive solar...with another system as a backup.  Whatever we use would have to switch or support each other without need for human attention, though. 

 

I hadn't thought about power outages, which I still need to consider, too.  Ice storms can put that place out of power for a week or two at a time.  We can't just dash up there, a three-hour round trip, when a storm shuts roads down completely...that puts me back at freezeproofing and draining pipes again...ARRGHH!  What do you do about your place and losing power????

 

So, lots of options, and still lots of questions. 

 

Thanks for the thoughts.  It helps to hear from other families how they manage and enjoy a space on a parttime basis. 

 

 

 

 

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Re: Second home questions

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We did dairy farming for 45 yrs and after 3 months of retirement my husband picked up a sweetheart of a job taking care of a Dr.s beef herd so is gone 5 days a week. We didn't want to sit a long time to get to a "retreat" and I wanted to be able to garden there. Our village lot has not much grass left LOL. All the things that need space are now up there  and I do my canning/freezing there, moving stuff home a few things at a time when Ihave time.  We've not yet experienced a big power outage. It is rare here to be out of power more than 2 hrs~~we are so blessed!! We have a granddaughter in Va. so hear about terrible storms.

I gather from your last post that you lost a daughter, so sorry. Life adds a chapter that one isn't needing. We lost a grandson at 19 after a yr of suffering. I learned a lot! Mom/Dad are dairy farmers so I sat with him every other day as we wanted him to know that somone would be there every day.

This last yr we picked up a dairy farm from a bank and now have a son/wife running it and it is going great. We have in our arrangement that we have the right to come and admire once a month. No time to help but did want a connection to it. With it being family we do go oftener.  It is such fun to see what they can do with the place as anything was an improvement!

You have a much bigger complicated place to deal with , have fun!

 

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Senior Contributor

Re: Second home questions

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You have to ask yourself whether it is worth having an automatic generator to the second home or no running water to the house in the winter. Maybe a trusting caretaker would ease your mind. We tend to think of the worst of times when making decisions so using the amount of times you think you'll go into whether it is worth the practice. One alternative is to bring water with you to flush and clean with since the sewers shouldn't be affected by the cold. A smaller toilet should help that department. Maybe you could stay at your son's (if close by) while you're getting the second home water system working.  We don't realize the amount we pay for convenience until we start punching in the numbers.

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Veteran Advisor

Re: Second home questions

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Out here, electricity is cheaper than in most States, no idea about where you are, but many people who have a second property, will have electric heaters installed, just where they are necessary to keep the plumbing from freezing in the winter, and also don't discount the little 'hot wires' that you an wrap directly around pipes.  They are pretty common here in Nebraska, where the wind chills get to -30 or colder most winters.   Set up with a thermostat, they run pretty darn cheap.

I think it all depends on how cold it gets, for how long, for what you need to do, and only you know what your local conditions are.  Out here, a couple winters ago, water pipes that were buried less than 4 feet deep, were freezing pretty regularly.

 

As far as losing power, there are automatic drain valves available, that will open up, and drain the pipes in the case of a power outage.  The ones I am aware of, are set up in such a way, that the water pump cannot be turned back on, until after this valve is reset.  Keep in mind, these were hooked up to a private well, not the municipal water supply, or a system that was pressurized all the time. 

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Re: Second home questions

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Here in Wis. our second home is a 16x80 and we have heat tapes that are under insulation and in the two yrs we've had it has not frozen yet. We get to 20 below or worse but last yr was mild. The worst is a strong wind that could undo some skirting. Electric runs about $50 a month for everything there, so that is one night of eating out per month that we  just don't do <G>

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