A summer home on the water, for $60K?

08/05/2010 12:00 AM |

A row of summer homes in Woodcliff Park in Baiting Hollow, where at least two cottages can be had for under $70,000 – cash only. Many homeowners there lease their properties from the landowner.

A North Fork summer cottage within spitting distance of Long Island Sound for around $60,000?

Impossible, you might say, but you would be wrong. Nestled in a secluded spot off Oakleigh Avenue in Baiting Hollow is the community of Woodcliff Park, where a 700-square-foot, three-bedroom cottage is on the market for $59,900.

“It does require a little updating,” conceded Century 21 Castle realtor Michele Sanchez. Indeed, just around the corner, an updated cottage with two bedrooms and a full bathtub will set you back all of $69,000.

The community comprises 200 units on small lots, with 25 of them enjoying water views at a very reasonable price.

“A three-bedroom with full bath and Sound views went for $165,000 around 18 months ago,” said Ms. Sanchez.

Woodcliff Park started out as a tent community, according to Ms. Sanchez. “People leased the land from the owners and then around 60 years ago started building small homes,” she said.

The community has a little of the feeling of those iconic upstate cottage enclaves. But where a Catskills cottage usually looks pretty much like its neighbor, Woodcliff Park showcases a wide variety of styles including shingled cottages, Hansel and Gretel-type gingerbread-trimmed homes and houses with brand-new vinyl siding. The homes vary in size, too, ranging from around 500 to 900 square feet.

“And there are no restrictions on the kind of alterations you can carry out as long they conform to the town code,” said Ms. Sanchez.

A few owners now also own the land underneath their homes, which are cash-only purchases. But the majority of owners still sign a yearly lease with landowner Benjamin Karlin, whose family has owned the property for several generations. Water is included in the lease, but property taxes are paid separately.

The lease arrangement is similar to that of a mobile home park where the home is owned but the site is leased. Do any owners worry that not owning the land might be risky because, unlike a mobile home, they can never move the home away from the site?

“I suppose there is always a small risk with this setup, but owners know from the get-go they can never live here year-round,” said Ms. Sanchez. “This has to be a second home. That’s the difference between Woodcliff Park and a mobile home park.” she said.

The entire resort closes each year between Oct. 15, when the water supply is turned off, and April 15.

“But to my knowledge nothing bad has ever happened because of the lease arrangement,” Ms. Sanchez added. “Mr. Karlin draws up a formal lease every year for all the leaseholders in which everyone’s rights and obligations are clearly set out.”

Debbie Gerardi bought her romantic cottage in 2004 and says the winter closing doesn’t bother her because she decamps to Ocala, Fla., for the winter. Ms. Gerardi’s home looks like a fairy tale residence, with a tree growing right through the porch roof.

“The neighbors call it ‘the treehouse,’â” she laughed.

As she gave a tour of her two-bedroom, L-shaped property, Ms. Gerardi described the community’s structures as “mostly Sears catalogue homes.” During the early part of the last century, plans and materials for an entire house could be purchased through Sears.

Ms. Gerardi has remodeled her kitchen, which now boasts granite countertops. “It was an add-on,” she said. “And so was the porch.”

She also enjoys a large deck with an outdoor shower. A lattice fence provides privacy.

The community shares amenities like a laundry room, an arcade with games for the kids, a basketball court and the services of full-time manager Steve Morrow. Just a short walk from every home is a newly rebuilt staircase down to the Sound and a sandy beach.

The delightfully secluded seaside location means that owners who choose to rent out their homes can ask for anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 a month for waterview properties.

On average, six to eight homes go on the market each year. Many owners have handed their property down to the next generation, and for some who’ve left, the separation was not forever.

Said Ms. Sanchez, “It’s common that adults who remember summering here as children come back to buy.”