Northern Michigan Real Estate: Selling the Family Cottage

Northern Michigan Real Estate: Long time Northern Michigan realtor, Bill Wheadon shares his knowledge about selling family cottages.

Every fall throughout Northern Michigan a ritual as predictable as the southern migration overtakes our landscape — the great cottage lockup begins. Docks and shore stations are removed and secured for the season.  Non-fishing craft are given a last lap around the lake, placed on trailers, shrink wrapped and/or dry docked.  Building perimeters are policed, holes are filled to thwart potential four-footed visitors as wood burners, fireplaces and ancient furnaces get their first work out since early Spring.

Countless northern cottage garden beds are trimmed back, the droppings thrown into makeshift compost piles of leaves, vines, and expired tomato plants.  Spider webs in every eave and corner face their last assault for the next six months. Dog-eared paperbacks are returned to ancient bookshelves, next to the games and playing cards. The threshold of every doorway is broomed clean of sand, puzzle pieces and that missing red checker one last time until Memorial Day.  And for others, just one last time.

I’ve worked with people who have had to face the prospect of closing “the Place Up North” for the very last time.  It’s rarely an easy decision. For many it’s a rite of passage – a practical understanding of what they wish to accomplish with the life remaining them and a reasonable assessment of how the cottage no longer fits into that picture. Weighing heavily on the other side are so many wonderful memories and the unfilled expectations that the cottage would continue to serve as a magnet for a growing extended family.

Those expectations frequently fall short. It’s a reflection of changing times, when families are scattered by employment and marriage. Lives are more programmed, vacations less frequent and harder to synchronize. Suddenly the “family” cottage lacks a family heir and caretaker who can actually use it.  It’s time to let another owner enjoy the seasonal cycle of excited openings and reluctant closings. It’s time to sell.

If you or someone you know faces this reality, remember that it probably took a lot of soul searching to come to the point of even discussing the prospect. Selling may be the most obvious, practical decision. But it’s more than that. It’s an emotional issue tied to some of life’s most cherished memories. Respect that.  Make sure everyone who should be has been consulted. A consensus to sell reinforces the personal decision. Help plan the transition into the new life unfettered by the responsibilities of a second home. Focus on the future as you can help them find a professional who understands just how difficult this last lockup can be. . . someone who can make experience of selling as painless as possible.

If you or someone you know is considering selling “the Place Up North” I’d enjoy the opportunity to join the discussion. Contact me at [email protected] or give me a call at 231-357-2549.

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