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Property Taxes
The good news... property taxes will be only a small fraction of what you expect them to be. Lots of under 10 ac tend to cost you from about $300-500 per year and it's a very rare home indeed that is taxed at over $1500 per year. I always post the property taxes on my web pages near the price and will find out the taxes for any property you are interested in. I can pretty much promise you that property taxes are not going to break the deal on any property that appeals to you.
The bad news... in WV, tax bills are always sent to the guy that owned the property LAST year, on July 1. Go figure. This means that when you buy a property, you will probably not get the tax bill from the county the first year you own it. The seller will, and we can bet that he's not going to pay it. Hey, it's not his bill.... it's yours. Worse yet, it's not the Assessor's Office that collects the property taxes, it's the Sheriff (OK, do I have your attention now?). And when those taxes go unpaid, we have what's called the Sheriff's auction, where somebody gets to "buy" your property (they actually buy the lien, but it can escalate to a real estate transfer) for a tiny fraction of it's value. Wow, what a great place! You do have 18 months to get it back before it becomes final, but it can be a heart stopper until you do.
Property tax bills are usually sent out in July or August. You'll need to be somewhat of a mathematician to interpret them but you have almost a year to figure it out and pay and can even pay all, or just half, at a time (hint: pay it all). If you don't get your bill by the end of the summer each year (especially the first year), call the Assessor's Office in your county and get them to send it to you. If you have already purchased through me, I've already given you a local phone book and introduced you to my unlinked parallel web pages that are set up just for buyers and sellers. Get more info there. 

Utilities (running new lines to remote property)
First of all, MOST properties have the utilities close by. But not all. Your cost for a line extension, if any, is a small share of the actual cost to the utility. Phone extensions are not generally an issue as the major phone companies (Frontier & Verizon) allow generous line lengths before they start to charge you for it. Smaller phone companies, of which there are several, may have different guidelines. Call and ask.
Allegheny Power has a formula for how they allow or charge for lengthy extensions. Basically, the first couple hundred feet is free (including 125' of main line along the road and 75' of service line to the house from the road), unless you need it underground.  For all underground installations you must find a contractor and pay the trenching & conduit costs of about $6-8 per foot, depending on the contractor and the ground.
Extensions beyond those limits, whether above or below ground, also require 60 month service contract where the power company will assess you a monthly charge to pay for your share of the extension. The costs are affordable, especially when spread out over 60 months. If you sell your property before 60 months is up, make sure your buyer is willing to take over the remainder of the contract. You can have the power company estimate your costs by placing a work order for that estimate with Allegheny Power. There is no cost, but it will take a couple weeks and you'll need all the info on where to get the power from and where to take it. Call Allegheny at 800-ALLEGHENY and ask for an engineer familiar with your area.

Windmill Farms
Here are some thoughts about the new windmill "farms".

Doomsday Preppers

While we all have our personal theories about "end of the world" predictions, every remote mountain home should have at least some basic planning and preparation for possibly inconvenient and even unsafe events... which seem to be happening more and more often. Can you say "CLIMATE CHANGE"? We've seen entire communities in the "100-year flood plain" flooded year after year. We've had mid-winter ice storms, summer wind storms and early-fall ginormous wet snowfalls bring down trees and power lines in the cities, as well as the mountains. leaving homes, business and gas stations without power for weeks. The last 5-8 years have seen more such events than the last 50 and many of these impacted the mid-Atlantic areas from seashore to mountaintop, affecting city, suburban and rural dwellers alike. But with homes located further apart, with no services or help within walking distance, planning for disaster should be a part of any and every mountain home design! And are we all perfectly complacent about 9/11-style threats targeted at the DC area, now?  Let's just skip the issues of mile-wide asteroids, super-volcanoes and zombie attacks and focus on things we can deal with. Here's some things that will help you through survivable long-term weather-related, or even terrorist events, when staying at your mountain cabin and just make good sense.

A Generator is the most important! The hardwired automatic-start ones, run by propane, are what you want. And you want a propane tank that can outlast any foreseeable disaster... 1000 gallons recommended.  Generators generally are hardwired to just part of the home circuit, such as the well, refrigerator and some outlets, but NOT the water heater or electric stove. Remember, with no power, your well pump won't work, meaning not only no water, but no toilets.  A CB radio can be useful (don't forget batteries). Recent storms that took out major power lines also left cell towers without power, too. Their generators only lasted a day, or less. But since cell service is spotty in the mountains, having a land line (and a CB radio) is really important for safety and those phone lines are remarkably resistant to outages. For emergency planning, you should consider a propane water heater and cooking stove. Generators don't have the power to do heating. I always recommend underground service lines to your home from the poles on the road. Above-ground service lines are the weak link in the system. Having a full tank of gas and a few extra cans is important. We all saw how gas stations were helpless because they didn't have back-up power after super-storm Sandy. Always keep a good stockpile of dried food on hand. A wood-burning and/or propane heating stove (more for heat, not cooking, but it doubles for cooking) that need NO electricity can save your life in winter. If you're a real planner, set up a solar power system that can provide the most-essential electrical needs from the sun and storage batteries. Keep a 30-60 day supply of any essential meds at your WV home and rotate them for freshness.

The above are things to insulate you from disaster events that happen elsewhere, but affect you. You also need to protect yourself from those that will include you. DO NOT tempt mother nature by building where floods are likely, or even possible. Build far above the theoretical flood level. No, even farther than that. Is your driveway or access road safe from washout? And always remove those those trees ahead that can threaten the home in a windstorm or wet snowstorm... not when they're already in your living room. If your driveway crosses a creek, be sure to size the culvert pipes large enough that a freak storm won't wash your driveway away and always keep those pipes free of debris. Run your power and phone lines underground. Site your home to take best advantage of the sun for winter heat. Thinking about solar panels? Then think about southern exposures. Without power your well pump won't work, meaning you not only have no drinking water, but you have no toilets unless you haul water to flush. Small portable generators won't usually power a well pump. Get recommendations from whomever installed your well pump before you connect to a portable generator. The wrong equipment can burn your pump out in hours.

Raising Poultry at Your WV Home
Covenants in the nicer communities often do not permit raising of poultry (or pigs and other farm animals). Before you walk away from the beautiful homes found therein, like the the 3 miles of Cacapon River inside The Crossings, or the 500-acre nature preserve and trails inside The Preserve at New Creek Lake, ask yourself: just how important is it to you to raise chickens? Ever done it before? Here are some reality checks on the subject:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865557162/The-bad-side-of-raising-backyard-chickens.html?pg=all
http://www.my-chicken-house.com/chicken-problems.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/23/dining/23sfdine.html

If the right to raise chickens on your property is essential to you, be certain to tell me before we start looking at homes or land so I can check to see where they're permitted (or not) before planning to see a property. The larger the acreage, the more likely they would be permitted. For example, up to 20 poultry, for personal use, are permitted on a lot within most 20+ ac communities around here. Smaller lots permitting poultry may also permit other things that you might not want around your new home.

Suitability of land for your purposes
Covenants and deed restrictions tell us what you are legally allowed, or not allowed, to do with a piece of land. Do not assume that "anything goes" on any land within a subdivision, as there are always some restrictions, and wisely so, in order to provide some uniformity of use of the land. Buyer "A", seeking a quiet refuge from the pressures of the city for enjoyment of the natural beauty and wildlife, probably would not want to have neighboring landowner "B" running a shooting range and all-terrain vehicle track throughout his property. Buyer "A" should seek a community whose covenants assure that most neighbors would be seeking, or at least respecting, those qualities. Buyer "B" probably needs what we call "unrestricted" property, where his uses are not curtailed. In WV, most property begins as unrestricted, but later acquires restrictions as it is subdivided and the subdivider wishes to guide the future use of those parcels. When seeking property, be sure you understand and convey to your Realtor how you would use the property. Communities may control the type & size of housing you build, hunting issues, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), commercial use, tree cutting, farm animals, fencing, RVs, camping and other issues. Be sure you tell me all your proposed uses of the property so that we don't spend time looking at the wrong properties. Remember that if you buy unrestricted property, your neighbors also probably have no restrictions. The smaller your unrestricted property, the more you will be impacted by how your neighbor uses his property. Unrestricted really means UNRESTRICTED. For better, or for worse, we have very few land use regulations in this state. 

Besides considering the covenants, consider what sort of property features would best suit your needs. Rocky mountaintops are generally suitable for vacation homes and in some cases (but not all), full-time homes, but probably NOT for horses, farm animals and gardens. Cleared land in the valley is far more suitable for those gardens and animals than forested mountainside. Small lots on a major highway will not give you quiet and privacy. Remote parcels on dirt roads are not where your business will thrive if customers and deliveries need to come to you. I always try to specify the best uses for a property on my property pages. If it may be suitable for horses, I will say so. Just because the covenants specifically permit horses, does not mean a particular parcel is suitable. Let me know if you have questions about the suitability of any property for a particular purpose. I can probably answer your questions.

Using Contour Maps
Whenever possible, I try to secure, or even construct, topographic maps of the property for sale (only Hampshire County makes them available). For those that can read them well, they virtually draw you a picture of how the land lays. You can easily estimate the best way to add a driveway, where to build, where the best views would be, where the best well might be drilled, and lots  more. If you don't know how to read a contour map, it would be well worth learning. Here are some basics:
Each wavy line on the map (called contour lines) is a line of equal altitude. Walk along, or parallel, to any line and you'll stay on one level. Walk across the lines and you're changing altitude by 20' for each line (different map scales use different contour intervals, but often for the maps I use, it's 20'). Walk perpendicular to the lines and you're walking up or down as steeply as can be done there. If the lines are closer together, then then the land is steeper there. If those lines are almost on top of each other, there may actually be a cliff or rock slope there. If they're further apart, then the land is "flatter" there. If the lines are sort of uniformly spaced, then the slope is constant. The ground slopes up or down in the direction of a line drawn perpendicular to the contour lines. The trick one needs to learn (the stuff above is the easy part) is to recognize which way the slope goes. Consider that any water features are likely at the bottom of a slope (no rocket science here!), therefore, crossing any contour lines directly from a water feature means going UP hill. The thicker lines are reference lines (like 1000' and 1200') and often have the actual altitude marked on them. The thinner lines represent the various altitudes between the reference lines (like 1020', 1040', 1060' and 1080') and they never have the altitude marked on them. Studying a few maps and seeing the land forms they represent will help you a great deal.
For more on how to understand contour maps, do  Google search for "How to Read a Topographic Map". 

Buying WV land as an "investment"
How often I hear the word "investment" in this business from out-of-town buyers! My personal theory is that about the only investment opportunities you have in purchasing land around here are as an investment in your personal life for the enjoyment that you may personally get from the land, such as the recreational value or the "escape valve" from city life (as a former Northern Virginian I can understand the real value of that). You'll have to be smarter than the average bear to be so sharp as to buy land here and turn it around for a profit faster than, say, Northern Virginia real estate appreciates. The guys who do it successfully here are "locals" who know the other players, they're old hands at it, have big budgets (or know how to use other's money), know all the smart tricks and are fast on their feet. And some still fail. Best not to try to compete with those that know the market, know the land, know the "right" people, know the regulations (and especially how to get around them) and so on. If you have a great idea and a unique twist on it, I may be able to help you find a property you need, but if you're just looking for a place to park some money and turn a quick profit on resale, this is probably the wrong place to try it (with the possible exception of the Sheriff's tax auction, see "Property Taxes"). People buy out here to some extent because it's still affordable. It's still affordable here simply because we do NOT get the regular double digit appreciation that other areas seem to enjoy (or suffer from). Some properties still sell for about what the owners paid for them several years ago, because they seriously overpaid. Sometimes they resell for even less than they paid, if they bought from a developer. Throw in the carrying costs of property taxes and POA fees and there are few properties that "make" money over the years after eventual resale and subtracting the commonly charged 10% real estate commission on rural land. Shouldn't be such a big surprise when you can still buy land for $4-6K per acre. We're NOT running out of land here.    Read on...

Buying land from a developer vs. buying in an established community
Contrary to any offers of "getting in on the ground floor" or watching your "investment" grow, by purchasing in a new WV land subdivision, buying your land parcel in an established community of 3-5 years, almost always gets you the best bang for the buck. Examination of the MLS or courthouse records in this area of WV will reveal that the developers often get the highest prices for the land that can be had for some time after the initial sale. Quick resales after a purchase in a new development tend to be very difficult, or even take a hit in the first few years. Owners trying to resell for a big profit in the first few years often find more failure than success. Increases in real market value tend to come only after numerous quality homes are built, the new roads get needed improvements and stabilize, the Board gets it's feet solidly on the ground and enforces covenant violations, the HOA gets itself into good financial shape, AND the number of FOR SALE signs falls to well under 3% (supply & demand). Reasons for this phenomenon may include unfulfilled promises (underground utilities, good covenants, good roads, state road improvements, lots "guaranteed" to perc, etc.), unfulfilled expectations (possible new ski resort nearby, good well water, soaring land prices, "running out of land", etc.), or simply that the community ends up selling to diverse people with very different ideas about its use (recreational vs. residential), or that it just plain looks bad (trees from road clearing tossed willy-nilly onto adjacent lots). Not all new communities turn out the way you think they will, or are told they will. A rush to sell in the first few years by disillusioned/distressed buyers, bank foreclosures and the "investors" looking to quickly cash out ("flip"), can soften resale prices, causing a resale problem for years to come. Happens all the time. I can give you lots of examples of all of the above. Owners actually seem astonished to discover that they aren't going to make lots of money when they re-sell their mountain land that they just bought. 

3-5 years after a new community is created, there are often oodles of land bargains to be had. Those are the big turnover years and sellers often drop prices to be able to cash out quickly. You don't need to be a great bargainer... the great deals are already there waiting for the buyer. Accept them gracefully. If you think the price is too high for you, find another property. Remember the Golden Rule.
After 10 years, though, you can clearly see what a community will be like. Issues like no well water being found will be established fact by then (there are lots of these). Occasional bargains will still be available even in the most successful places and you'll know what's going to be next door to you because it's probably already there. In that 10 years, the community has established it's character. This is the way you get rock solid value on your land purchase... not by being one of the first to purchase in a brand new development.

West Virginia does not have the land use protections that other states provide in new developments. For example, there are over 400 subdivisions in Hampshire County, maybe 10% of which have the really vital elements for a high quality, upscale community. Many new WV developments (and the vast majority of the new acreage), of late, have been designed to actually skirt the protections that have been provided by new local laws, as developments of lots of over 20 acres do NOT have to conform to the HUD rules or subdivision ordinances in these parts (or over 8-10 acres in some counties). The developer is free to do as he pleases and let the buyers deal with it later. Roads don't always turn out quite the way the buyers envisioned it from the developer's description. For example, if you think you know what an "all-weather shale-surface road" is, then you're way ahead of the County Planning Departments in these parts. It seems to be whatever the developer leaves behind when they leave. And don't think that means a gravel road, because it does NOT!

Here's an idea... ask your new development salesman just why all the lots seem to be about 20.01+ acres and see what he says. There's only one reason. Clue: it's NOT because that's what the public demands... it's so as to NOT have to conform to the HUD regs or the protective ordinances each county has recently enacted, such as THIS one for Hampshire County.  But reports are that responses from those salespeople include "It's because when you have lots of fewer than 20 acres you can place mobile homes on them and there are no protections", (oh, I WISH someone would get that on tape!). Sorry guys, you should get out more often... the ordinances have protections for the buyer (better roads, better drainage, better access, better covenants) and assurances that the developer will actually complete the mandated improvements. And most land use restrictions are  determined by the Covenants, written by the developer, NOT by any state or local public entity! Do be careful around any salespeople... don't let anyone bully you into an on-the-spot purchase of a piece of land that SEEMS overpriced. Check it out by seeing if it's even in the ball park by looking at what's on the MLS market right now on www.homesdatabase.com and www.realtor.com . Don't fall for time-share condo sales tactics and the walkie-talkie tag-team bullying so prevalent in WV. Get them to document, in writing, any and all claims. And always sleep on it before making a purchase. Always. Those "Today Only" deals will still be available tomorrow, if you play your cards right.

Financing Land Purchases

Five things to know about financing land, as contrasted with your primary home:
  1. Interest rates are usually higher (2-3 points higher).
  2. Amortization periods are usually shorter (10-15 years).
  3. Interest rates are usually adjustable (1-3-5 year adjustable periods).
  4. Interest payments are usually not tax deductible.
  5. Property taxes are at twice the tax rate for land alone, vs land with a home.
  6. Only local lenders make loans on land.
Yikes! These all add up to make the carrying costs much higher than for a home, dollar for dollar of value. All the above items change when you have a completed home on the land.

Many buyers take out a home-equity loan, or otherwise borrow money against their primary home to make the land purchase. This can reduce the carrying costs significantly  Others borrow on the land for now, with expectations of building soon or refinancing at some future date.

Local lenders in the Potomac Highlands that make loans on land include:


Farm Credit  Romney  (Trey Keyser)  304-822-4414  lkeyser@agfirst.com (800-919-3276) (Call these folks... they have some VERY good loan products!) http://www.farmcreditofvirginias.com/index.htm

Bank of Romney  Romney,  304-822-3541  http://www.bankofromney.net/

Pendleton Community Bank  Moorefield:  304-538-7900   http://www.yourbank.com/

Building Costs

Sq ft costs for custom new construction seem to run between $125 to $150 per square foot, depending on the area, the builder and the style, size and materials of the home. These numbers apply to heated interior finished areas. Basements, unfinished space, second floors and garages are more like half those numbers. Don't forget to add for decks ($20+ per sq ft), septic ($5,000 and up), wells (you never know, but we can make some guesses based on the neighbor's wells) and other extras. Log and timber-frame homes seem to cost more than your regular cedar sided frame home, but are far more in demand (think resale value). Moderately priced ones tend to sell quickly on resale. When you buy a land parcel through me, I'll try to have a list of local builders and can often show you some of their projects. One good source for that info is to ask the owners of nearby homes that appeal to you. Most homeowners are delighted to share that info to a new neighbor and may offer you a tour.

Building to CODE
As of 2003, WV adopted the International Building Code (IBC), with some minor modifications, however, individual counties may, or may not, have adopted that code.... the choice is theirs to do so or not. None have yet done so in the Potomac Highlands but Hampshire & Hardy Counties may do so soon. Any political subdivisions of WV that do wish to adopt a building code must now adopt the IBC code, as adopted by the State, even if they had previously adopted a different building code. Most rural counties in WV do not do residential building inspections for compliance (other than final electrical connection by the power company and septic by the Health Dept.). That means things may not really get built to code in some cases, either by design, by ignorance, or by negligence. Be sure you have a reputable builder, as all this will likely change before too long. There are ample good reasons to voluntarily observe the building code for now, such as fire, health, safety, insurance, resale and refinancing, to name a few.
On occasion we have resale home inspections by the lender or insurer that turn up a problem for the buyer or seller (usually both). For example, many folks skip the railing on their deck so as not to be in the way of the view. This can cause a problem on resale just days (or hours) before closing, as the buyer may not be able to get insurance when the 5' high deck has no safety railing (or that railing doesn't meet code). Other code issues may be more complicated and far more difficult to repair. Just be aware of the fact that there are rarely code inspections on new residential construction work (other than final electrical connection and septic) unless you specify that in your building contract and make arrangements for it, BUT, certain deficiencies may hold up the resale of the property later. Here's a tip from the Hampshire County Planning Office: "If an owner wishes to have his home built to a certain building code, then he should have that requirement written into his contract with the builder. The contract should also specify by whom, how, and when the inspections will be performed, how discrepancies will be addressed, and how differences will be resolved." Good advice. Hampshire County is one of the counties that have not yet adopted the state building code, but at least the state has told us which one to follow, IF we want to. Best advice: be sure your builder not only knows the IBC building code, but follows it too!  I highly recommend that you hire an independent home inspector to monitor the construction and quite possible save you thousands in required upgrades later on resale.
Need to speak with a county planning office about building or flood plain issues? Contact me for names and numbers.

Wells, Water & Alternatives: How much ground water do you need?
---Average Home Water Requirements
Each person, per day, for all purposes...  at least 50 gal.
---Average Amount of Water Required by Various Home and Yard Fixtures
Each shower... up to 60 gal. (if you have teenagers)
To fill a bathtub... 30 gal.
To flush toilet... 3-6 gal.
To sprinkle 1/4 of water on ea. 1000 sq. ft. of lawn... 160 gal.
Dishwasher - per load... 10-15 gal.
Regeneration of Domestic Water Softener... 50-100 gal.
---Average Flow Rate Requirements by Various Fixtures
(gpm=gallon per minute      gph=gallon per hour)
Shower... 4-6 gpm
Bathtub... 4-8 gpm
Kitchen Sink... 2-3 gpm
hose & nozzle... 200 gph
3/4 hose & nozzle ... 300 gph
Lawn sprinkler... 120 gph (but we don't need lawns here for 2nd-homes, do we?)

Drilled wells are the usual source of water in the country and can usually be depended upon to provide all the water a family normally needs. Water wells run from about 75' to 800' deep. Most well water is fine to drink just the way it is. Some well water will need a filter to remove cloudiness (turbidity) or solids and some may need an ion exchange "conditioner", iron filter, or other device to remove excess minerals from it. Doing so makes the water taste and look better and prevents staining on laundry, sinks and toilets. Figure on about $1500 to $1800 for corrective action if your well has excess minerals.

Well-drilling costs include about $12.00 per foot to drill. Add another $12.00 per foot for casing until you hit solid bedrock, usually no more than 42' on hills but can be much more in flat bottom land due to sand/gravel accumulations there, or in sandstone. The well driller will charge a "setup" fee ($200-300) and maybe a "grouting fee" ($200-250). That's about it for drilling the well. But to make it work, you need a pump, the plumbing, the wiring and a pressure tank. The deeper the well, the more these cost PER FOOT...  the per-foot costs jump in quantum leaps as you pass certain limits of pipe quality, wire gauge and pump horsepower. For the whole package, a fair estimate might be $16 per foot, plus $2000 to $8000 for the hardware, depending on depth. Nobody can promise the final cost, but finding out about your neighbor's wells is a good start. And I always recommend drilling the well before you build the home.

Some areas, including very high-altitude properties, may be unable to reach a water-bearing rock formation. This can be because of an impervious cap-rock formation that prevents penetration into the ground (example: Applefields of Heaven subd. in Romney) or because of limestone caverns that drain the water away and prevent the air-pressure rock drills from operating properly (many properties of 3000-4000' altitude on limestone). Some areas are known to have no water at all and others may have spotty success. I usually know the areas well for my listed properties and can tell you where the neighbors get their water and the details. If you can't get water from a well, there are several good alternatives, most of which actually cost far less than a well!

The first place to look for an alternative water source is a spring on your property. Springs are fairly common in the mountains and the existence of a spring may even be evidence that a well might not work, either because of that impervious cap rock, or due to limestone formations that have caves that drain the water away. Springs can be anything from "gushers" of 10 or more gallons per minute, to "seeps", which are little more than wet spots, that if dug out, have a bit of water flow underground. You don't need much flow, but you do need some flow to develop your spring. The basic idea is to collect your spring water in a spring box or cistern, pipe it to the home and run it through a set of filters and a purifier (chlorinator or UV-sterilizer) to kill any bacteria. Once done, it is handled the same as well water. Lots of info on the web about utilizing springs for home use. Google for more info. 

Another good source of water is called rain harvesting. The basic idea here is to collect rain water from your roof, filter it, store it (usually in an underground tank called a cistern) and treat it just like the spring water before use (filter & sterilize). To learn more, do a Google search for "rain water harvesting".

Another source is to have a storage tank and pay a commercial water hauler or the local fire department to fill it, when needed. This can be surprisingly affordable. Ask me for info on water haulers. Whichever you use, these alternative sources tend to cost far less than a drilled well and pump system, but some will take some regular maintenance to keep them operating properly. You'll be running your own water works. keep in mind that whatever your use, water in the country is not unlimited and needs to be used wisely.

Many nice weekend and full-time homes in our area use one of these methods for water if their wells have failed, or the area is known to have no viable groundwater. Best to research the area and know ahead whether a drilled well will work or whether to apply that expense toward a state-of-the-art alternative water supply. I can usually give you some helpful advice about this. 

Gated Communities
In these parts, gated communities are not meant to be exclusive in any way, but are created primarily for quiet, privacy and property security. They are not about personal safety... WV is already one of the safest places to live in the US. Weekend residents typically need additional security to be assured that their empty homes and personal property are not compromised when away for weeks at a time. Many of these homes cannot be seen from the road. or from any neighboring home, so tend to be easy targets. The community gate prevents the random opportunist from taking advantage of your absence and also protects valuable construction tools and supplies while building your new home. Lacking a gated community, an owner might wisely consider a pair of metal posts and locking chain or gate to keep potential trespassers out of your property. Another big reason for gated communities is to protect the wildlife from illegal hunters so that the residents don't lose the wildlife they intended to be able to visually enjoy, nor have to deal with the hunting issues that generally go on outside the gate. You'll need to love the wildlife in these places as you may have a dozen deer in your yard each evening. Some communities DO allow hunting inside the gates, so don't assume that all gated communities restrict hunting, as only a few do (see list below). Owners and guests typically enter the gates by way of keys, code, combination locks, or automatic key chain opener. Most places (but not all) have established protocol for guests, contractors and deliveries to have convenient entry through the gates, as well. PLEASE, do not ask me to get you into a gated community so you can "just look around" without me. That's part of the reason they're gated... they don't want anyone in there to "just look around". I will never give out gate codes until the buyer has a signed purchase contract. Casual traffic (just lookin' around) is over 2/3 of the traffic in many UN-gated communities. A gate cuts that off cold and thereby reduces traffic, noise and road maintenance costs! You'll appreciate that once you become an owner in one. I'll show these places to you if you have a legitimate interest in seeing a specific property currently on the market, but I cannot do random tours. I have endless photos and maps to show you what these communities are all about inside the gate and Google and Bing maps can show you the aerial views. I also have virtual tours of several communities.

Click here for tours of my favorite communities: Ashton Woods Virtual Tour;  The Preserve Virtual Tour;  The Crossings Virtual Tour;  Ice Mountain Virtual Tour

Gated Communities in the Potomac Highlands include:
Ashton Woods (Hardy & Hampshire Co) 362 lots of 20+ ac ea near Moorefield. Three state-of-the-art electronic gates with phones and cameras. ALWAYS locked!
Cacapon View (Hampshire Co) 32 lots of 3 to 40 acres  atop Noland Ridge near Slanesville. Electronic gate ALWAYS locked!
Ice Mountain* (Hampshire Co) 46 riverfront lots in two huge river bends next to Ice Mtn Preserve. Log homes predominant. Electronic gate ALWAYS locked!
Misty Meadows* (Hampshire Co) 48 lots on 270 acres, some with North River frontage, near Augusta.  Electronic gate.
Mountain Air
(Hampshire Co) 60 lots, all 20+ ac, on 1250 acres. Electronic gate ALWAYS locked!
The Crossing at the Great Cacapon* ("The Crossings") (Hampshire Co)  214 wooded/open/wooded, river & upland lots on 800+ ac in a huge bend in the Cacapon River. Log homes predominant. Electronic gate with phone. ALWAYS locked!
The Preserve at New Creek Lake* (Grant Co)  43 wooded mountain lots on a 1000 ac nature preserve. Electronic gate ALWAYS locked!
Whitetail Mountain (Hampshire Co) 32 lots of over 20 acres each on 700 ac near Romney. Electronic gate ALWAYS locked!

This is a list of some of the gated places where I list and sell property, but many communities may have no properties on the market at all at any particular time. Contact me for availability. I will not give you the access code to any gated community until you are under contract to purchase a property. I'm seeing that the gates with manual locks are being left open more and more in many communities. The electronic gate makes SO much more sense and cannot be left open. Phones are a real plus to call owners from the gate.
*means hunting is NOT permitted in that community

Addresses
So far, we don't have a good addressing system in most rural areas of WV (some say they're working on it, though). Seems most folks live on private roads and the post office rarely delivers directly to your property, so most folks go with a corny looking rural address that's about meaningless to your lender, insurer or those trying to find your home. Worse yet, are the situations where your USPS mailing address is in a different county from your physical location. That one drives the lenders and insurers practically "postal"!

If you have a weekend place and really miss getting the local junk mail and shopping circulars you can sign up for a mailbox or a P.O. box. Most communities have a "cluster box" near the entrance and you get one by asking the HOA or local postal facility to assign you a box. Most communities refer to your land parcel by the lot number. Some get fancy and assign a street number, but that does little good if you have no mailboxes at the road and can't see the home, much less the number on it. The UPS and Fed-Ex fellows are pretty resourceful and always seem to find a way to get your stuff to you (after a while, at least). Just be sure to always have your phone number posted on the delivery box so they can call you. Unlisted numbers (and cell #s) are not a good thing if you want them to get your stuff to you.

Dog Safety
Keep your dog safe by not letting him run without close supervision when in WV and away from home. Make sure he has a good collar and a dog tag with all the needed info. You can get nice plastic tags printed on two sides to cover both addresses and all phone numbers if you're just here weekends (http://www.boomerangtags.com/). VERY important that you do so and have cell and land numbers on it. Keep those tags up to date. Dog pounds around here are short on dog pens, staff and dollars, but not on euthanizing supplies. Don't expect everyone to have a micro-chip reader. Your micro-chip may not be able to save your dog's life here, as it may be attacked by wildlife, hit by a vehicle, or simply never make it out of the woods to be found. A dog chasing a deer may run for an hour and never find his way back home. Keep your dog on a leash during hunting season! You can get orange vests for your dog (and for you) at WalMart, hunting supply stores, or online. Be sure to have your dog immunized for rabies AND Lyme Disease as well as taking Frontline or another tick-repelling product. You do not want to be taking deer ticks home with you.

Noise
The quieter it is, sometimes the noisier it seems. Now that sounds really silly, but its absolutely true. We have some really quiet places around here. While standing on that quiet hill and enjoying the sound of no sound, we may be put off by the sound of a truck a mile or so away. On a hill overlooking a lake at The Preserve I've heard people clearly talking in a normal voice 2000' away and a dog barking over a mile away. That tells you how sound travels and can be heard at great distances when most other sounds are absent. The lesson: no place is perfect in its level of quietness, but we should strive to keep our own noises as low as possible in the country by not bringing lawn mowers to WV, keeping chain saw use to a minimum and being sure our vehicles are as quiet as they can be. ATVs and guns pretty much ruin it for others, so don't be asking me to find you a place in a quiet community if you plan on using them there. We all enjoy the quiet we have here in the mountains. Let's try to keep it that way! And while we're talking rural qualities....

When it's dark in the country, it's REALLY DARK!
We seem to enjoy some of the darkest skies in the USA here in WV! Sky watching from the top of a mountain on a nice night can be a memorable experience. Bring binoculars or telescope for some real fun. Many amateur astronomers end up out here with property on a mountain and a nearly flawless black sky. We can all work to preserve this special experience by wisely selecting our outdoor lighting. Please don't light up your place in the country like a shopping mall. Motion detectors will save you electricity by lighting up your place only when required. Keep those lights at a low wattage and aimed down at the ground so they don't shine into other's eyes, or skies, no matter what distance. Worst offenders are the "dusk to dawn" lights the power company likes to sell and the rectangular high intensity halogen lights that can't easily be aimed. Both of those lights tend to shine in ALL directions and can be seen for many miles, when all you really needed was to light a small area. For lots more info on this topic, PLEASE see the International Dark-Sky Organization at http://www.darksky.org/. Please, leave the street lights in the city. Let's all work to keep it dark in the mountains of WV!

All-Terrain Vehicles
ATVs, as they're called, are either three-wheeled, four-wheeled, even six-wheeled, motorized vehicles created primarily for recreational use, but also very useful for farmers and others working in rough terrain. They are most often used for hunting and recreational "4-wheeling". These vehicles are able to go many places where no other sort of vehicle can go because they usually have all-wheel drive. Therein lies the problem... for those seeking quiet, privacy and security in a "No Hunting" environment, ATVs may defeat all those goals, especially when in the hands of kids. WV leads the nation in raw numbers of deaths and serious injuries, as well as the rate per-person, from ATV use (and abuse). No other state even comes close!

ATVs and quiet, secure, communities do not usually mix well. If you seek a quiet community and value your privacy and security, look for a community that does not permit ATV (or dirt-bike) use, or at least has strict restrictions on them. These communities tend to be gated and to also restrict hunting, enhancing the level of privacy and security. Communities that permit hunting tend to also permit ATVs and may have looser covenants altogether. In this area of WV, there are far more of these more permissive communities than there are the gated restrictive communities. Turns out the more restrictive communities are in much greater demand and usually have few, if any, properties for sale. I keep waiting lists for these places and try to notify buyers when I see a nice property come available. If you prefer a place where ATVs are permitted, make sure you tell me so on first contact, because I'll be looking for a different sort of community for you or even let another agent help you. There are a growing number of places in WV where you can bring your ATV to do trail riding, mostly in the southern part of the state.
ATV Links (will open in a different window):
ATV Safety
http://www.atvsafety.gov/state/westvirginia.html
ATV Issues & Misuse:   http://www.landrights.com/atv.htm
WV ATV Laws: http://www.wvdot.com/6_motorists/DMV/downloads/ATVLaws.pdf
ATV Trails & Tours:   http://www.wvexplorer.com/recreation/atv/default.asp

Distances between these property listings
Many of the properties on my web pages are quite some distance from each other and from my home office (and from your home). This is because these listings are "pre-screened" for you by my policy of seeking only certain types of properties in what I consider to be special communities. I travel great distances to find these for you. I do not accept random property listings from sellers. My listings come primarily from my contacting the owners of properties that I think would have special appeal to you, or my being well-known in those communities (I also usually own a lot in those special places). As a result, it can be as much as a 2 hour drive between some listings. This effectively prohibits casual viewing of properties with me and we will usually work best by targeting two or three properties for which you have read all the available info on the site and even requested additional documentation (covenants, plats, etc) or asked a few more specific questions. For homes, I often have more photos than I post to the web site, such as bathrooms, crawl spaces, neighboring homes, roads, etc. Ask for them if they will help you in defining your level of interest. I'm delighted to show you those properties that we feel may work for you, but will be disappointed if we visit a property and find you reject it due to some feature that was clearly pointed out on the web page, such as room sizes, property size, view, etc., as my reasons for building elaborate web pages are to help you to eliminate the non-starters from your list. As a result of specializing and creating educated buyers, many if not most, of my property listings sell on the first or second showing. I try to reserve weekend appointments for folks about ready to buy property and do the more casual tours, for those not quite ready to buy but needing to see a few communities or properties, on weekdays. Weekends may be filled up many weeks in advance at some times of the year. Your help in reducing our need for imported oil (or ANY oil) by targeting only the most appropriate properties is greatly appreciated!
Before we look at property, it might be best if you take a 1-2 day trip here to see some of the special places we have in the Potomac Highlands area.  If you are interested in fishing, skiing, hiking, canoeing, or any other specific activity, then clearly one place may offer advantages over the others. If you simply seek a quiet getaway for relaxing, then being closer to your home may take priority. Let me know if I can help you in this way.

Winterizing your cabin
Weekend users of WV homes will want a home that is quickly and easily winterized, if possible. This means that all the water can be quickly and easily removed from pipes and appliances. This takes some special design work on the part of your builder so as to run all the plumbing so that it can all be easily drained from just two outlets (hot and cold) when you are departing. Trying to heat your weekend home through the winter can cost you $200-300 per month and for those who do not use it every weekend it just isn't necessary. A tree falling on a power line may still cause all your pipes to burst and, if you didn't turn your water pump off, cause water to run through your home when power is restored until the pump burns out or somebody finds it. Trust me.... you want to winterize it instead of heating it, whenever possible. Yes, it takes a few hours to warm up. You decide.

To do this, after you thoroughly drain the pipes, most appliances (washers, dishwashers, water heaters, etc.) need to be drained or have non-toxic (pink) anti-freeze added to the little water that remains. All sink, toilet and bath drain traps get the anti-freeze too. This process takes under ten minutes in the properly designed home. Then you turn off all the circuit breakers that are not needed (leave breakers on for security lights/system and refrigerator). Upon return, turn on the water, close the faucets while allowing all the air to escape and after all pipes and water heater have fully filled up (water needs to be coming out of an upper-floor hot faucet), THEN you can turn on the water heater circuit breaker. Ten minutes or less for the whole process. Make sure you have this in your weekend home. I can help you to run a simple check on any home we look at, but on some homes it may be impossible to be sure. I, too have enjoyed the use of a weekend home in WV for many years and have dealt with most of the issues.

It's pretty important in a weekend home to protect and simplify all the water lines. Never run a water line in an outside wall. Always use frostless valves for outside faucets and always disconnect the hose between October and May. If you can easily drain almost all the water out of the lines and protect the rest (traps: sink, toilet, bath, washer) with pink antifreeze, then you have 95% of the battle won. Things that are hard or near impossible to protect are dishwasher water lines (I'd just disconnect it for the winter), washing machine lines (makes sure they will drain by gravity and spin some pink antifreeze in the drum to protect the pump) and ice maker water lines (learn to live without them).
Other good ideas:
Keep several digital high-low, inside-outside thermometers running in the house, showing you what happens when you're not there. Keep a record: outside, inside on each floor, basement, north side, south side, etc. These will help you anticipate the severity of the cold and the months to worry, or not.
Put all your plumbing appliances (water heater, pressure tank, water filters & conditioner and laundry if the wife will permit it) in an insulated freeze-proof room in the basement, in the corner most protected by earth. Make sure it has a floor drain and run your hot & cold plumbing low points to that point to drain. Keep a space heater in there with a "freeze setting" and you may not ever need to drain or worry about those items.
ALWAYS turn your well pump and water heater
circuit breakers off when not at the house. ALWAYS.
Also, Google "winterizing your vacation home" and look through some of those pages for more ideas.

One more thing to be aware of... in a home that freezes inside, some canned foods, drinks and other liquids may freeze... even in the refrigerator. Keep sodas and bottled water in the basement freeze-proof room for winter. And, when the house temp is in the 30's, your refrigerator/freezer may not work quite as you expect it to.

Nuisance Lady Beetles in WV
Asian Lady Beetles have been a nuisance in parts of WV for the past 15 years. They begin to cluster in the Fall, swarming over the sunny warm side of homes as the weather turns cold. As they work their way into the nooks and crannies of your home exterior, they then spend the next few months finding their way through the insulation or logs to get into the house, then clustering at windows wanting to get back out. Freezing does not kill them, apparently. It can be a big mess. The best "treatment" is to make your home air-tight so they can't get in in the first place. I solved the problem in my own home 10 years ago by replacing every door and window in the entire place and making sure they were installed as tightly as possible. Presto... no more lady beetles. Cost: about $10K. Worth it to me. If you haven't built your WV home yet, consider writing something into the building contract making the builder more aware and more responsible for the problem, if it occurs (it will). Log homes may, unfortunately, be harder to beetle-proof than other homes because the logs often have spaces and crevices where the little critters can enter... especially at the corner joints. I went to the Log Home Seminar in Chantilly VA, in 2006, for the main purpose of asking the kit-makers and builders what they were doing to make their log homes more resistant to the beetles. The most common answer: "What beetles?". OK, your head in the sand just won't work, guys. Here's some good explanations of them (both pro and con) and specific chemical solutions (if it has to come to that).
WV Article on Lady Beetles   http://www.wvagriculture.org/news_releases/2007/8-30-07-a.html
NY Article on Lady Beetles   http://www.entomology.cornell.edu/Extension/DiagnosticLab/IDLFS/AsianLadyBeetle/AsianLadyBeetle.html
MN Article on Lady Beetles  http://www.extension.umn.edu/yardandgarden/ygbriefs/e615ladybeetles.html

So far, the Stink Bug plague affecting MD and other areas has not yet affected us much in this area of WV.

Full-time vs weekend property
Some properties just work better for some types of uses than others. Think about how you will be using your new property and be sure to share your thoughts with me. Your current home would probably not work well if duplicated in WV for weekend use, simply because it was designed for full-time family use. Most WV homes found outside of a subdivision would have been designed and built for full-time use, rather than recreational weekend use.
Weekend properties have certain characteristics you should carefully consider when buying or building. These would typically include:

Features typical in Purely WEEKEND properties
Wooded, with a small lawn or no lawn at all (do you want to mow, or relax?)
Easily winterized to eliminate heating costs when not occupied
Typically on 4 or more acres for a sense of privacy
Close to outdoor activities such as boating, skiing, hiking, etc.
Often in a community with over 80% recreational weekenders
Designed more for relaxing, entertaining and mixing indoors with outdoors
Wood stoves for the massive heating needs of warming up a cold house
Include electric baseboard for quick zoned heating of only the rooms you will use
Insulation less important than good heat sources since it's used infrequently
Fireplaces strictly for ambiance (they only warm the room they're in, cause others to cool)
Large windows for the views and sliding or French doors for outdoor access
Outdoor decks/patios for views, entertaining and enjoying the mountain elements directly
Extensive wood in the home interior (but too much wood may make it dark)
Rustic low maintenance exterior such as cedar, log and/or stone (not vinyl)
Nearby shopping usually not very important (buy along the way there)
Proximity to primary home/work to reduce weekly drive time
Gated communities for security due to infrequent use
Extra bedrooms and baths for guests
Basement handy for expansion (you'll want it)
Consider proximity to local fire department. Harder to insure over 6 miles.
Log homes seem to resell best
School district & bus location not important
Garage usually not important

Retirement properties may include other considerations as well, or in contrast to the weekend style.

Features that may be important in RETIREMENT Properties
Ranch style for minimal stairs
Best insulation possible due to regular use
Most convenient and efficient heat sources (propane or heat pump) with backup source
Located closer to regular shopping, doctors, hospitals, fire department
Maybe not quite so remote or secluded
South exposure available for satellite TV/Internet service
Within 4 miles of phone company switching center for DSL service (hard to do)
More level land, driveway and roads for safety and convenience
Small lawn, if any (unless you enjoy mowing)
Garage, either attached to home or in a separate building
Zero maintenance exterior such as vinyl, stone or brick
Handicap features such as wide hallways and doors
Nearby neighbors who live there full time

Many folks tell me that they want a home for weekend use now, but that they may well use it for retirement later. Experience bears this out time and time again, as many properties I sold ten or more years ago are now used in retirement by the very same owners, who planned well, or made the needed modifications. If you expect that this may be the case for you, then plan accordingly and purchase or build your home for how you would use it in the next phase of your life, as well as for now.

Other stuff you may need to know....
Sandals & shorts are not appropriate wear for seriously looking at mountain properties. Save them for the beach, because if you're serious about buying, we're going to be doing some hiking in the woods together!

Did I miss anything? If you can think of more topics, please let me know.

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Contact Information:
Charlie Winfree, Realtor
Coldwell Banker / Home Town Realty
HC 84 Box 10, Burlington, WV 26710
E-mail: charlie@mtnhome4u.com
Phone: (304) 289-5424  Home & Office
Click here for my Business Card, then print it.
 web page by Charlie Winfree. Copyright laws applicable. 2009
Information deemed reliable but not guaranteed.