So You Want a Cabin in the Woods?

March 15, 2019

Real Estate

So You Want a Cabin in the Woods?

One of the most common requests I get is, “We want a little cabin in the woods.” Many people buying property in Mammoth Lakes have a picture in mind of what their mountain life or vacation home will look like. There’s no doubt a cabin in the woods is a dreamy scene.

But there’s more to a cabin than most people are looking for. Here’s what you need to know about getting a “cabin in the woods” feel in Mammoth Lakes:

Owning a single-family home at 8,000 feet is much more involved – and expensive – than owning one at sea level.

If you buy a single-family home in Mammoth Lakes, you’ll be responsible for figuring out absentee homeowner services, yard maintenance, siding/deck treatments, etc. The whole building is your responsibility, compared to a condo where you’re only responsible for what’s inside.

A cabin in the woods doesn’t come with snow removal.

Added to the regular expenses I listed above for single-family home upkeep, you’ll have to deal with snow removal, which can be a headache. If you live here full-time you can handle it yourself if you’re willing to invest in the right equipment. But if you’re only here part-time, you’ll need to hire a snow removal service. The cost depends on the amount of snowfall, but it’s typically about $1000 for the season and it doesn’t include clearing walkways or entries or shoveling off the roof after big storms, which might be necessary. You’ll need to sign a contract with a snow removal company well before winter.

If you plan to rent out your home, a condo is the way to go.

Most single-family homes in Mammoth Lakes can’t be rented out nightly due to the town’s zoning codes. They can be rented out monthly (30+ days).  Most condo complexes (but not all) allow nightly rentals when you’re not using it. If you plan on renting out your home nightly when you’re away, a condo that allows nightly rentals is a must.

Cabins on U.S. Forest Service land have strict regulations for use.

You may come across listings for adorable cabins that say “U.S. Forest Service lease.” They’re often exactly what you’re picturing when you think “cabin in the woods,” but since they’re on public land, the usage is very specific. Often these cabins don’t allow full-time use (must be a second home), have limited access in the winter, must be purchased with cash and have strict rules for property improvements/remodeling.

In a town of four square miles, many properties feel like they’re “in the woods.”

Since Mammoth Lakes is bordered on all sides by beautiful public land, it’s easy to find a property that has a strong nature feel. The Snowcreek developments are a great example with sweeping views of the Sherwin mountain range. Other condos may boast a creek running behind them, aspen trees right outside your window or a mountain view — maybe even of Mammoth Mountain itself.

To get added amenities like a hot tub, a condo with a good HOA is the best move.

If your mountain dream includes soaking in a hot tub or unwinding in a sauna after a long day of skiing, a condo with amenities included might be perfect. Some condo complexes also have shared common areas where you can gather with large groups of friends or family if the condo you buy can’t fit everyone.


Whether you’re set on a cabin in the woods or considering a condo in Mammoth Lakes, learn more in my Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide. Give me a call if you’d like to talk: (760) 914-4664.

Photos by Josh Wray for Visit Mammoth

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